By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Sergey Kovalev wants light heavyweight title unification fights against Artur Beterbiev, Dmitry Bivol and Adonis Stevenson.
Boxing Beterbiev or Bivol are long-range plans, however, and Kovalev doesn’t think an elusive showdown with Stevenson will ever happen. The most realistic option for his next fight, according to Kovalev, is Sullivan Barrera.
Kathy Duva, Kovalev’s promoter, confirmed early Sunday morning that Kovalev tentatively is scheduled to return to The Theater at Madison Square Garden for a title defense March 3. Barrera (21-1, 14 KOs) is a sensible potential opponent because he also is promoted by Duva’s Main Events and he defeated Felix Valera (15-2, 13 KOs) by unanimous decision in a 10-round bout HBO broadcast on the Kovalev-Vyacheslav Shabranskyy undercard.
Russia’s Kovalev (31-2-1, 27 KOs) dropped Ukraine’s Shabranskyy (19-2, 16 KOs) three times and stopped him in the second round to win the vacant WBO light heavyweight title in the main event Saturday night at The Theater. Barrera knocked out Shabranskyy in the seventh round last December 16 in Indio, California.
“I would like more right now fighting with Barrera, because we called him for this fight,” Kovalev said during a post-fight press conference. “But he didn’t approve this fight, but he got a fight on this card. Right now, we fought on the same card and it is a reason to make a fight with him. And next, make unification fights in the middle of [next] year.”
Barrera turned down a chance to fight Kovalev on Saturday night because he wasn’t satisfied with the purse that he was offered. The Cuban contender told BoxingScene.com recently that he would’ve accepted the Kovalev fight for that undisclosed sum if at that point it had been sanctioned as a fight for the WBO 175-pound championship Andre Ward gave up when he retired two months ago.
The 35-year-old Barrera already has agreed to a purse for a fight against WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol (12-0, 10 KOs). Barrera is Bivol’s mandatory challenger and the WBA has ordered that their fight take place prior to April 30.
Barrera also informed BoxingScene.com recently that his purse for the Bivol bout would be half of what he turned down to face Kovalev on Saturday night. The Miami resident accepted that purse because he said his ultimate goal is to become a world champion.
Now that fighting Kovalev also would offer Barrera that championship chance, probably for more money, it likely will be an appealing option for him. Duva told BoxingScene.com that despite the purse agreement for the Bivol bout, Barrera still has option of facing Kovalev next.
“Negotiations will take place starting next week,” Duva said, “and we’ll figure it out pretty quickly, I think.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.