Sergey Kovalev stood in a tunnel after he'd done his thing, separating Ismayl Sillakh from his senses in Quebec on Saturday night, and assessed the man he'd like to next give some separation anxiety, Adonis Stevenson.
Holding onto his WBO light heavyweight belt, which he held tightly, indicating with his body language to any that came close that he'd not soon be relinquishing the strap, Kovalev watched as Stevenson did his thing against foe Tony Bellew. Adonis fought smart, scouted his foe, looked for holes to exploit, and after letting the Brit dodge and dance and potshot him a few times, got down to the hurt business. He sent Bellew to the mat, and finished him off soon after, in round six. And what did Kovalev think of the showing by the WBC 175 pound champion?"He's easy," the 30-year-old Ukrainian native stated.
Not so sure about that, but I am quite certain I'd like to see if Kovalev (23-0 with 21 KOs) is right, or if the lefty Stevenson can be the man to squash the Kovalev momentum, which picked up heavy steam in Quebec.
So, Kovalev promoter Kathy Duva, can you make it happen? Could we see Kovalev fight Adonis in their next bouts? "We want Stevenson, we wanted for this Nov. 30, I said put us in with Stevenson, and HBO said not yet," Duva told me. "We want to make it very much, but we will fight whoever we can, the Bute-Pascal winner if Stevenson wants Froch or Hopkins. I told (HBO executive) Peter (Nelson) and Yvon (Michel, Adonis' promoter), 'Let's make this fight.' Stevenson said he was game if the money is right. It's up to HBO."
Duva admitted that hearing Adonis talking about "if the money is right" post-fight gave her a recognition shiver; she knows that if a guy doesn't want a bout, a sure way to insure it doesn't happen is asking for too much moolah. So yes, she thinks Adonis might be trying a squirming tactic. Duva said she expects to touch base with HBO and hopefully figure out this situation in the next "week or so."
If the Kovalev-Stevenson thing doesn't happen right away, and she mentioned March as a nice target time, an offer from Russia is a possibility, she said.
For those curious, no, Kovalev peeling down to make light heavy, and trying to do his steamroll thing on Andre Ward isn't an option, according to Duva. "Ward can go to light heavy," she said. "But we want Stevenson. I think HBO wants it very much. We're not the impediment."
Duva told me she's feeling a certain levity during this holiday season. No, she hadn't dipped into the spiked egg nog when we were chatting; rather that Kovalev is such a bright spot, and someone who leaped onto boxing fans' radar in short order. Kovalev actually shared in the positive vibes of the season during a Thanksgiving feast Team Main Events and Team Kovalev had at the hotel restaurant in Quebec on Thursday evening. PR ace Ellen Haley sprang into action and hustled together a holiday feast, with all the trimmings. All indulged, expect for Kovalev. "There was 20 people, my daughters were with us," Duva told me. "Sergey was not able to partake. He had a salad," she said, chuckling. "But he didn't seem to care, he was laughing."
And that's a telling indication of what makes Kovalev a person that Duva feels comfortable with touting as 2013 Fighter of the Year, because he beat four top ten guys, one of whom was a current champ, the other being a former titlist. He's not even the slightest bit the reluctant warrior. He's happy to not be working at a gas station, like he did when he was 12, happy be nearing the pound for pound mix, happy to hold the belt, happy to be getting to a place where his purses will build a fat nest egg for him and his family, happy to fight whoever is placed in front of him, happy to get down to the business of inflicting himself on a foe, feel-em-out period be damned.
"He loves to fight," said Duva simply. "I thought Sergey stole the show. I thought he pulled away from Adonis."
This isn't to say that Kovalev is an automaton, a robot for hire who simply goes with the flow and only shows a surly side when he's fighting. He does chafe when he isn't meshing with someone; Duva said he and ex trainer Abel Sanchez didn't get along all that well when they worked together two years ago, and minor sparks flew before manager Egis Klimas hooked Kovalev up with John David Jackson. Kovalev took awhile to find common ground with the current trainer, too, she said. That might stem from a slight chip on his shoulder, which came from being passed over in the amateur ranks in Russia, and feeling like he was the red-headed step child to Golovkin's fair-haired boy in Cali. You saw some of that side when he was yapping at Sillakh on Saturday. "He wants people to recognize that he's better than all these guys," Duva said. Duva does too; she thinks Kovalev has fought better foes to this point than Golovkin has, and while she makes sure to mention she's a Golovkin fan, and that she actually thinks Golovkin and Kovalev are of equal status overall, she says that the Russian and the Kazakh are similar in their approach to getting it done in the ring. Maybe, she allows, Kovalev exhibits less patience, in a good way, than Golovkin does. "Both are tremendously fun to watch," she said. "But Kovalev is just a ball of excitement, he's coming at right you from the beginning, there's no getting comfortable, he's not taking his time.
"It's wonderful having a guy I can go with to HBO who will fight anyone," she said, "it's a wonderful position, which we haven't seen maybe since Pernell Whitaker, and maybe Lennox Lewis. And he loves his position, he loves to fight."
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