Sergey Kovalev-Vyacheslav Shabranskyy: Pre-Fight Report Card

By Cliff Rold

One year ago at this time, Sergey Kovalev was a week from his first loss, convinced he was really still undefeated.

Saturday night (HBO, 10 PM EST), Kovalev enters knowing he was defeated for the first time. This is life after Andre Ward, the debated decision loss and the stoppage suffered in pursuit of revenge.

This is also a fight for boxing life. A loss for Kovalev would be as devastating as it would be life changing for Vyachelsav Shabranskyy. This battle between Russia and the Ukraine will decide who snags the WBO light heavyweight belt left vacant upon Ward’s retirement.

It will also decide who gets to matter as the immediate future of the 175 lb. division is determined.

kovalev-shabranskyy-weights (10)

Let’s go the report card.

The Ledgers

Sergey Kovalev
Age: 34
?Current Titles: None
Previous Titles: WBO Light Heavyweight (2013-16, 8 Defenses); WBA Super Light Heavyweight (2014-16, 4 Defenses); IBF Light Heavyweight (2014-16, 4 Defenses)
Height: 6’0
Weight: 174 ¾ lbs.
?Hails from: Fort Lauderdale, Florida (Hails from Russia)
Record: 30-2-1, 26 KO, 1 KOBY
Record in Major Title Fights: 9-2, 7 KO, 1 KOBY
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Gabriel Campillo TKO3; Nathan Cleverly TKO4; Bernard Hopkins UD12; Jean Pascal TKO8, RTD7; Andre Ward L12, TKO by 8


Vyacheslav Shabranskyy
Age: 30
?Current Titles/Previous Titles: None
Height: 6’3 ½
Weight: 174 lbs.
?Hails from: Los Angeles, California (Hails from Ukraine)
Record: 19-1, 16 KO
Record in Major Title Fights: First Title Opportunity
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: None


Pre-Fight: Speed – Kovalev B+; Shabranskyy B-
Pre-Fight: Power – Kovalev A; Shabranskyy B+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Kovalev B; Shabranskyy C-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Kovalev A-; Shabranskyy B

If there’s one thing both fans and Kovalev can like about this one, its Shabranskyy always showing up to fight. It’s what allowed him to pull off what was an upset at the time of Yunieski Gonzalez in 2015. It’s what got him drummed by Sullivan Barrera three fights ago.

Shabranskyy can employ some head movement on occasion but he’s an offensive minded fighter who often forgets to duck. It’s meant a quick accumulation of miles. While younger and less experienced than Kovalev, his body may already be more worn. Look at footage of him a couple of years ago versus against Barrera or even his last fight with Todd May.

Shabranskyy looks slower, less reflexive, and increasingly easy to hit. If he has a saving grace, it’s that he still packs a wallop. He had Barrera down between his own multiple trips to the floor. Since June 2014, only one of his wins has gone the distance. Also assume he will be hungry and could be even more fired up about the perception of vulnerability.

Kovalev could still tell himself he was really undefeated before the Ward rematch. Fans and pundits could debate the point; he didn’t have to. Now, despite fighting well again for much of the rematch (ahead on one card and only a point behind on the others before the end), he knows what his limits are. The mental effect of that loss could be a factor here.

If there is a hangover, a rugged battler willing to take a shot to land one might be the wrong cure for it. He could also be the perfect rehab assignment. On paper, it shouldn’t be the case. Kovalev is better technically, possessing a superior jab, better defense, better sense of space, and what must be assume to still be a nasty right hand.     

The Pick

If one was going to script a way to being Kovalev back, this looks more like smart rehab. It’s an opponent who should make a good show without derailing the intended outcome. Shabranskyy is a fun television fighter but he’s also a too willing target. Kovalev may yet have ghosts lingering from the Ward rivalry but if they surface it will probably be in another fight. His jab will establish the range early and Kovalev should begin to feel confident after a round or two that he’s still himself. When he does, the right hand is going to punish Shabranskyy. The pick here is Kovalev by stoppage inside eight rounds or so. 

Report Card Picks 2017: 42-17

Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America.  He can be reached at [email protected]

User Comments and Feedback (Register For Free To Comment) Post a Comment - View More User Comments (0)
Top Headlines Usyk, Gassiev Promise High Drama, Fireworks in WBSS Final Usyk vs. Gassiev - CompuBox Historical Review Usyk-Gassiev LIVE Results: Ponomarev Shocked, Shafikov Wins Srisaket Sor Rungvisai Crushes Young Gil Bae in One Oleksandr Usyk-Murat Gassiev: Stats & Stakes Frank Warren: Liam Smith, At His Best, Will Beat Jaime Munguia Freddie Roach Focuses on Footwork For Alberto Machado Usyk: I'm Not Worried About Fighting Gassiev in Moscow Joshua: My Side is Signed, I Need To Get Wilder To Sign Daily Bread Mailbag: Mayweather, Canelo-GGG, Pacquiao, More Coldwell Confident Gavin McDonnell Will Shock Danny Roman Cecilia Braekhus: I Know This Will Be a Very Tough Fight Hearn on Bellew's Options: Fury, Adonis Stevenson, Andre Ward Usyk-Gassiev: Muhammad Ali's Wife To Present The Trophy Ryan Garcia: I Don't Care About Sparring, I Want Gervonta Davis Michael Dutchover Blasts Out Sergio Ramirez in Two Rounds Jean Pascal Dominates, Stops Steve Bosse in The Eight Manny Pacquiao Should Think Carefully About Next Opponent Jaron Ennis Drops Alvarez Four Times, Scores 3rd-Round TKO Crawford: Arum Has Tried To Get Me Pacquiao, It Hasn't Worked Mattice Wins Suspicious Split Nod Over Hamazaryan on ShoBox Montana Love, Kenneth Sims Jr. Battle to Eight-Round Draw Pacquiao: Nobody is Authorized To Speak on My Behalf Luis Ortiz: Deontay Wilder Would Knock Joshua Out in 3 Rounds! Lamont Roach Stops Deivi Julio Bassa in Cancun Photos: World Boxing Super Series - Season 2 Fighters Face Off Photos: Alberto Machado, Rafael Mensah - Ready For Battle Alexey Egorov Will Look To Make a Statement With Lateef Kayode Jarrell Miller Joins Broadcast Team For Whyte vs. Parker Lamont Roach Aims To Follow in Hurd's Footsteps, Win Title Photos: Jaime Munguia, Liam Smith - Ready For War in Las Vegas Burnett-Donaire, Inoue-Payano For WBSS Bantamweight Tourney Prograis-Flanagan, Taylor-Martin Set For WBSS Quarterfinals Whyte vs. Parker: Referee Selected is Ian John-Lewis Photos: Christopher Diaz Putting in Work For Ito Title Fight Video: Freddie Roach Talks Pacquiao, Canelo-Golovkin, More Sergey Lipinets vs. Erick Bone Set For Berto-Alexander Card Video: Oscar De La Hoya Breaks Down Munguia vs. Smith Liam Smith: Munguia Never Faced a Fully-Fledged 154-Pounder Jaron Ennis: I Want To Make a Statement in This Fight

Latest Active Forum Threads