Sergey Kovalev Returns to Action on March 29

Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland

Sergey Kovalev will enter the ring for the first time this year when he takes on Cedric Agnew on Saturday, March 29, at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall. Kovalev will pit his 23-0-1 (21 KOs) record against the similarly undefeated Cedric Agnew (26-0-0, 13 KOs), who will be making his HBO debut on Boxing After Dark at 10:00 PM ET/PT.

Fresh off four victories in 2014 -- including his HBO debut and title-winning bout against Nathan Cleverly in August -- Kovalev boasts an average knock-out rate of less than four rounds going back to December 2011.  He’ll aim to defend his light heavyweight title for a second time when he faces off against Agnew.

Watch Kovalev’s win over Cleverly here.

Follow HBO Boxing on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for more.

For a full list of upcoming fights, visit HBO.com.

Before 2014, the Best of 2013

By Kieran Mulvaney

Photo Credit: Will Hart

Households across the country have had the opportunity to exchange gifts and wear garish sweaters. But for boxing fans, the most wonderful time of the year presents a special challenge. Granted, you're grateful for that tie, and who doesn't need more socks, but where's the sanctioned, televised violence? Sure, Uncle Ernie and Cousin Jerome might square up after too much eggnog, but it's hardly the same, is it? And it may very well be a wonderful life, but I think we can all agree that James Stewart is no Ruslan Provodnikov.

Never fear, HBO Boxing is here. To help bridge the gap until our first live fight card of 2014 on January 18, we're bringing you the best of 2013. If you missed any of these 10 fights the first time around, you can watch them now on HBO.com:

Carl Froch vs. Mikkel Kessler II

Three years after Kessler scored a narrow decision win over Froch in his native Denmark, the Englishman extended an invite for a rematch in London, and the result was another 12 rounds of first-rate action.

Round to Watch: In round 5, Kessler landed a hard left-right combination that buckled Froch, only for the Brit to shake it off and take it to the Dane for the rest of the round.

 

Sergey Kovalev vs. Nathan Cleverly

Kovalev's reputation as a fearsome puncher preceded his HBO debut against Cleverly, and it was only enhanced after he blew away Cleverly and took his light-heavyweight belt in the process.

Round to Watch: Although it wasn't the final frame of the contest, round 3 was the one in which the fight was effectively knocked out of the Welshman, courtesy of a pair of heavy knockdowns.

 

Timothy Bradley Jr. vs. Ruslan Provodnikov

Bradley's first outing since his highly controversial 2013 win over Manny Pacquiao was nearly a disastrous one, as he (and the world) was introduced to the relentless punching power of Siberia's Provodnikov.

Round to Watch: Round 12 was the most dramatic final three minutes of professional prizefighting since Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. nearly pulled victory from the jaws of defeat against Sergio Martinez last fall.

 

Miguel Cotto vs. Delvin Rodriguez

Fan favorite Cotto returned to HBO after back-to-back losses in 2013, and rebounded in style, with arguably his most emphatic victory in years.

Round to Watch: Officially, the contest ended in the second, but it was all but over before that, as Cotto came bouncing out of his corner on his toes and spent the first three minutes tearing into Rodriguez with his long-vaunted but much-missed left hook.

 

Brandon Rios vs. Mike Alvarado II

In a rematch of their hellacious first encounter, Rios and Alvarado once again thrilled fans with a bruising battle in which neither man gave any quarter, both ended the night battered, but only one man was beaten.

Round to Watch: Just try and watch the second round without your jaw dropping. Go ahead. Try it.

 

Gennady Golovkin vs. Matthew Macklin

After rolling to two stoppage wins on HBO, Golovkin took on the sternest challenge of his professional career in the form of former title challenger Macklin. The aftermath saw a lot more passengers clambering aboard the Golovkin bandwagon.

Round to Watch: The third-round ending is a study in violent artistry, as Golovkin maneuvers Macklin into position before dropping the hammer blow.

 

Timothy Bradley Jr. vs. Juan Manuel Marquez

Bradley's reward for escaping Provodnikov was a pay-per-view bout against Mexican veteran Marquez, and the result was two men putting on one of the year's best displays of skilful boxing-punching.

Round to Watch: For the second Bradley fight in the row, the final round had the most drama, the result of the contest seemingly hinging on the final three minutes – and even the very last punch of the fight.

 

Adonis Stevenson vs. Chad Dawson

Dawson was returning to light-heavyweight after an unsuccessful attempt to wrest the super-middleweight crown from Andre Ward. Few had heard of Stevenson before the opening bell; it only took 79 seconds for that to change dramatically.

Round to Watch: Let's put it this way. Once the fight begins, try not to go to the bathroom or the kitchen, or even to sneeze.

 

Manny Pacquiao vs. Brandon Rios

Eleven months after the sudden and disastrous end to his fourth fight with Juan Manuel Marquez, Pacquiao returned to action against Rios, in the first pay-per-view boxing card to be broadcast from China.

Round to Watch: Bit by bit, round by round, Pacquiao's speed proved too much for Rios; the final frame, when Rios made one last effort to turn the tide, was the best of the bunch.

 

James Kirkland vs. Glen Tapia

There are boxing bouts, and there are fights. This was a fight.

Round to Watch: All of them. Seriously. All of them.

 

HBO Boxing's Best For 2013

Gennady Golovkin, Matthew Macklin - Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland

The schedule is set for HBO Boxing's Best for 2013. 

Over the course of five consecutive nights in December, HBO2 will present 10 of the year's biggest fights, featuring the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto, Timother Bradley Jr., Gennady Golovkin, Sergey Kovalev, and more.

The Best Of series kicks off on Monday, December 23 at 11:00 PM ET/PT, with a back-to-back feature of Carl Froch vs. Mikkel Kessler II and Sergey Kovalev vs. Nathan Cleverly. 

Revisit the most memorable fights of 2013 with the full schedule below.

(Winners names in italics)

 

Monday, December 23 at 11:00 p.m.

Carl Froch vs. Mikkel Kessler II

Sergey Kovalev vs. Nathan Cleverly

Tuesday, December 24 at 11:00 p.m.

Timothy Bradley Jr. vs. Ruslan Provodnikov

Miguel Cotto vs. Delvin Rodriguez

Wednesday, December 25 at 11:00 p.m.

Brandon Rios vs. Mike Alvarado II

Gennady Golovkin vs. Matthew Macklin

Thursday, December 26 at 11:00 p.m.

Timothy Bradley Jr. vs. Juan Manuel Marquez

Adonis Stevenson vs. Chad Dawson

Friday, December 27 at 11:00 p.m.

Manny Pacquiao vs. Brandon Rios

James Kirkland vs. Glen Tapia

 

Which fight was your favorite? Let us know in the comments or at @HBOBoxing on Twitter.

 

Stevenson, Kovalev Annihilate Challengers, Remain on Collision Course

by Kieran Mulvaney

Tony Bellew (left), Adonis Stevenson (right) - Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland

Before Saturday night's light-heavyweight double feature, the talk was of the prospect that the two favorites, Sergey Kovalev and Adonis Stevenson, could be on a collision course in a mouth-watering light heavyweight clash for the ages. After both men disposed of their foes with consummate and concussive ease, the talk turned to shouting.

Kovalev's turn was first, and it was the briefer of the two outings. Whether for reasons personal or geopolitical, Ismayl Sillakh, the Ukrainian challenger for the Russian's world title belt, seemed from a distance to have gotten under Kovalev's skin, as evidenced by the way the defending champion taunted him verbally in the first round as he stalked him around the ring. The rangier Sillakh sought to keep his opponent at a distance -- a fine strategy in principle against a knockout artist who goes by "Krusher," but difficult to pull off for long. Indeed, shortly after hearing the bell to begin the second round, Sillakh was likely hearing a lot more of them, courtesy of Kovalev's right hand.

The first right made its mark about 30 seconds into the second frame, and looked to have landed somewhere around Sillakh's left ear, scrambling his equilibrium and depositing him on his back. Sillakh was swiftly to his feet, but even as referee Marlon Wright completed the mandatory eight count, Kovalev was like a pit bull straining on an invisible leash, snorting and growling and desperate for an opportunity to rip apart his prey. As soon as Wright waved them back together, Kovalev flew across the ring, landed another right hand that effectively ended the fight and nearly decapitated Sillakh in the process, and somehow found time to land two straight follow-up lefts to help his falling opponent to the canvas, where he then lay, under the ropes and wondering where he was for a while.

Wright didn't even bother to count; he could have started reading "Moby Dick" and Sillakh wouldn't have been vertical before Ahab disappeared beneath the waves. It was a frighteningly impressive performance for the Chelyabinsk-born Floridian, who moves to 23-0-1 with 21 knockouts. Asked by HBO's Max Kellerman whom he would like to fight next, Kovalev initially proffered the "whoever my promoter wants me to fight" stock answer until, after Kellerman gently pressed, he smiled and said, "Adonis."

Read More

CompuBox Analysis: Sergey Kovalev vs. Ismayl Sillakh

by CompuBox

What a year 2013 has been for Sergey Kovalev. In January, the “Krusher” crushed former light heavyweight titlist Gabriel Campillo in seven-and-a-half minutes while in June he did the same to the 21-1 Cornelius White in a little less than eight minutes. Just two months after that he traveled to Cardiff, Wales to take on Welshman Nathan Cleverly, who also happened to be the defending WBO light heavyweight titlist. Many thought Cleverly’s volume-punching and home ring advantage would prevail, but in the end it was Kovalev’s aggression, accuracy and power that prevailed in scoring a fourth-round TKO.

On Saturday, the globe-trotting Kovalev will again travel to hostile territory to make his first defense against Ismayl Sillakh in Quebec City. The mission: Score an eye-catching KO before the home fans of his next potential rival, WBC titlist Adonis Stevenson, in the hopes of generating interest in a Kovalev-Stevenson unification fight. The Ukrainian challenger has other ideas, however, and he believes his long-armed style and superior mobility will “Krush” Kovalev’s aspirations.

Factors that may influence the outcome include:

Read More

Get to Know Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev

Boxing fans are becoming increasingly familiar with light heavyweights Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev. The two fighters are quickly making a name for themselves with their superior boxing ability and knockout power. Earlier this year, HBO.com caught up with both of these fighters on the rise.

Adonis Stevenson:

My first fight as an amateur, I fought in a place just outside New York. I fought a guy with like eight fights, but my trainer didn't tell me that. I asked him how many fights my opponent had had, and my trainer said, "He's starting out just like you. He hasn't had any fights.

So the fight started, and I saw the way he moved and I thought, "Shit. This isn't his first fight." I saw him come toward me and I threw my left hand. Bang! I caught him on the chin. I had my eyes closed, and I had my head down, and I threw my left hook. I opened my eyes and I saw him lying there and he wasn't moving. I was like, "Hey, what happened?" I went to check up on him and his trainer pushed me, saying "Stay away! Stay away!" I felt bad because I saw him on the floor and he couldn't move. Then he got up and everything was OK, and after the fight my trainer came to me and said, "You know he had eight fights?" I said, "What? Why didn't you tell me?" And he said, "If I had, you wouldn't have taken the fight."

Read the rest of Quick Hits: Adonis Stevenson.

Sergey Kovalev's Trainer David Jackson:

He knocks people out because he sets them up a certain way. He has a great boxing style because his foot is always right, and he plants it really well before he throws punches. That doesn't happen because he's lucky.

He's a really intelligent fighter. He just hasn't had the chance to show the public how intelligent he is, because he's been knocking people out by the third round, and honestly I wouldn't care if he never got the chance to show his true boxing skill. But one day he will. He'll face a guy who can take his punch pretty well, and he'll have to rely on his boxing skills to win the fight.

Read the Rest of "Streaking Meteor Kovalev Looks to Become Shining Star."

Can Stevenson and Kovalev Take the Next Step on Their Collision Path?

by Tim Smith

Adonis Stevenson - Credit: Will Hart

Rarely does a boxer announce his arrival onto the scene and state his intent to capture an entire division with the kind of loud, concussive flourish light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson did this year.

Stevenson smashed Chad Dawson, the lineal light heavyweight champion, with a devastating first round knockout in June. To demonstrate that the victory wasn't a fluke, he vanquished a worthy successor in beating Tavoris Cloud into submission, forcing him to retire in his corner in the seventh round in September.

"He was the one who was supposed to get knocked out by Chad,'' said Javon "Sugar'' Hill, Stevenson's trainer. "Chad was supposed to be superior and the comment that they had about Adonis was they had to Google him to find out who he was. People thought he was a fluke. So he had to come back and outbox Tavoris Cloud. Those were great accomplishments. It showed his maturity and his confidence.''

Not many doubt Stevenson's credentials anymore. He has fought his way into the conversation for 2013 Fighter of the Year. He has the supreme confidence that comes with being a reigning champion. Now that he has reached the top it's all about staying there.

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Barker Comes Back from the Brink to Capture Split Decision Victory

by Eric Raskin

Photo: Will Hart

It only takes one punch to end a fight. And it only takes one punch that nearly ends a fight to define a man's character.

British middleweight Darren Barker, who came up achingly short against lineal champion Sergio Martinez in his previous trip to Atlantic City, came through by the slimmest of margins in his return to the Jersey shore, winning a split decision over Daniel Geale by a single point. And halfway to the finish line, in a stirring sixth round, he was less than one second from defeat. Geale capped a mid-ring exchange with a single, crushing left hook to the liver, and Barker collapsed the canvas, his legs kicking in agony. It looked like he wasn't going to get up. But he willed himself to a standing position just barely on the bright side of referee Eddie Cotton's 10-count.

"He caught me right on the solar plexus, took my breath away from me," said Barker (26-1, 16 KOs). "When I was down on the ground, it was all going through my head—my wife, my family, my daughter. And it all made me get up."

Read the Complete Geale vs. Barker Fight Recap on HBO.com.

CompuBox Analysis: Geale vs. Barker

by CompuBox

Like most other sports, boxing boasts a global presence. Three of the four "major" sanctioning bodies are based beyond U.S. shores, as have many of its greatest practitioners. But it's only in recent years that international fighters have come to our shores to be featured on U.S. premium networks and it's rarer still when both participants arrive here without considerable American fan bases.

Such is the case Saturday when IBF middleweight titlist Daniel Geale, an Australian, defends his belt against Briton Darren Barker, whose only defeat occurred the only other time he fought on American soil. Of course, anyone who fights Sergio Martinez anywhere would likely have an "L" -- or in Barker's case a "KO by" -- added to his record. The fact that Geale and Barker would eschew hometown money to fight on neutral ground is a welcome display of ambition and confidence in an era where boxing's marketplace is pockmarked by extreme caution.

Statistical factors that may shape the outcome include:

Read the Complete CompuBox Analysis of the Daniel Geale vs. Darren Barker fight on HBO.com.

Read the Complete CompuBox Analysis of the Nathan Cleverly vs. Segey Kovalev fight on HBO.com.

Read the Complete CompuBox Analysis of the Jonathan Romero vs. Kiko Martinez fight on HBO.com.

Streaking Meteor Kovalev Looks to Become Shining Star

by Kieran Mulvaney

Earlier this year, the morning skies above Chelyabinsk lit up as a meteor streaked across the sky, detonating in the atmosphere with a concussive explosion that shook buildings, set off car alarms, and shattered windows.

In January, a month before the meteor loudly announced its entry in Earth's atmosphere above the Ural Mountains, Chelyabinsk's native son Sergey Kovalev underlined his emergence as a major contender in the light-heavyweight division with a three-knockdown, third-round stoppage of former beltholder Gabriel Campillo. Prior to that, Campillo had not been stopped in almost six years. But Kovalev, who makes his HBO debut on Saturday against Britain's Nathan Cleverly, left no doubt.

It was, the Russian tells HBO.com, the fight that "brought me the most attention and notoriety" among boxing fans. But it was merely the culmination of a boxing career that began in December 1994 when, as an 11 year old, he walked into a boxing gym next to a cinema behind the Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant. That led to an amateur career that brought gold, silver and bronze medals at national championships, gold medals at World Military Games and a reported amateur record of 193-22. In 2009, not enamored of his opportunities in his home land, he moved to the United States to pursue a professional career.

After an unhappy spell in North Carolina ("I had a feeling of being alone in a strange country," he says), he moved to Los Angeles, hooking up for a while with Abel Sanchez – formerly chief second for Hall-of-Famer Terry Norris and now  for Gennady Golovkin – before ultimately settling with middleweight champ-turned-trainer John David Jackson.

The four fights to date that he has worked with Jackson have coincided with perhaps the most impressive run of his career, with none of his opponents in that time lasting past three rounds. Part of that, says Kovalev, is that as the level of opposition has increased, "I can show my boxing skills." Part of it also is the evident comfort level he enjoys with Jackson.

"The beauty with Sergey is, the first day he gets to camp, I tell him what I'm thinking and he tells me what he's thinking, and he comes up with a plan," Jackson says. "From that point on, I don't really mess with him, because as the weeks progress, he's working on it. I might just add small things to his game, because he knows how to fight. We work real well together, because I let him do what he likes to do best."

Discussion of Kovalev's record inevitably focuses on the fact that his 21-0-1 record includes 19 KO's. But, says Kovalev, he doesn't enter the ring with the intent to knock out his opponents: it just happens. "I never felt like I was a Superman in boxing," he shrugs. "I don't even know how to describe it."

Jackson, however, does.

"He knocks people out because he sets them up a certain way," he says. "He has a great boxing style because his foot is always right, and he plants it really well before he throws punches. That doesn't happen because he's lucky."

Indeed, Jackson insists, Kovalev's knockout percentage disguises his boxing abilities:

"He's a really intelligent fighter. He just hasn't had the chance to show the public how intelligent he is, because he's been knocking people out by the third round, and honestly I wouldn't care if he never got the chance to show his true boxing skill. But one day he will. He'll face a guy who can take his punch pretty well, and he'll have to rely on his boxing skills to win the fight."

That day may come on Saturday against Cleverly, a skilled boxer with a high punch output who holds a world title belt, and who, like Kovalev, is undefeated. It stands to be by far the toughest test of his career, and Cleverly's backers are confident of upsetting the apple cart.

But Kovalev, while recognizing the magnitude of the task in front of him, sees it as an important bridge to the next phase of his career, one that he hopes results in him not only moving to another level but also staying there long enough to make his mark. It is, after all, one thing to be a meteor that streaks across the sky, leaving an impression but soon disappearing forever; it is another entirely to be a star that shines for years to come.