It’s damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t when it comes to Sergey Kovalev and his weight-making travails.

Earlier this month, the former longtime Russian light heavyweight titlist made his debut at the cruiserweight limit (200lbs) against Tervel Pulev at the Kia Forum in Inglewood, California in the headliner of a Triller Fight Club card. This was Kovalev’s first fight in nearly two-and-a-half years. The last time he fought he was in November 2019, when he was stopped by Canelo Alvarez in the 11th round of their 175-pound title bout.

Kovalev handily outpointed Pulev in their 10-round bout by relying largely on his pinpoint jab to win a unanimous decision. Yet while Kovalev was never truly threatened by the Bulgarian, he did not look terribly impressive either. His vaunted right hand seldom landed with the kind of crippling power that formed his reputation as a light heavyweight. Moreover, some of the power shots that Pulev himself landed seemed to bother Kovalev at times.

In fact, Kovalev, who weighed in at 196 1/2 pounds, admitted after the fight that he felt sluggish inside the ring and that he felt he needed to come in lighter for his next bout to operate at his best.

“I felt my body [had an] additional 10 pounds,” Kovalev said. “I need to lose five, six pounds [for my next fight].”

For the longest time, Kovalev – as well as his team, including promoter Kathy Duva – had insisted that he was hampered in the ring by his increasing inability to make the 175-pound limit, and that a fresh start at cruiserweight would shore up some of the physical disadvantages he experienced as a light heavyweight.

But both Kovalev (35-4-1, 29 KOs) as well as his trainer, Buddy McGirt, agreed that the culprit this time around was that Kovalev put on too much weight. According to McGirt, Kovalev entered the ring at 206 pounds, nearly 10 more pounds than what he weighed at the official weigh-in the day before. McGirt believes Kovalev needs to shed a few pounds to perform more smoothly.

“I wanted him to come in at 190 [pounds],” McGirt told “You gotta understand, when you come in at 195, you’re not used to carrying that weight for 10 rounds. You’re used to coming in at 190.

“Now we know we gotta be lighter for the next fight. We can’t be concerned about the other guy's weight.”

Kovalev’s hope is to win a title in the cruiserweight division. Currently the titlists are South Africa’s Ilunga Makabu (WBC), France’s Arsen Goulamirian (WBA), Latvia’s Mairis Briedis (IBF), or England’s Lawrence Okoli (WBO).

“He came in at 206 pounds, that’s a lot of weight,” McGirt said of Kovalev. “That’s a lot of weight to be carrying for 10 rounds when you’re used to fighting 175. To put on 20 more pounds, that’s a lot. I’m glad he saw that.”

Overall, McGirt was pleased with Kovalev’s performance. He hopes, however, that his charge will be able to fight more frequently than he has in the recent past.

“I thought it was a good fight for him after being off for two and a half years,” McGirt said. “Now we just gotta keep him busy. Two and a half years is a long time.”