Saturday night in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, WBO, WBA and IBF light-heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev (27-0-1, 24 KOs) will defend his belts against Nadjib Mohammedi (37-3, 24 KOs) of France in the headline bout.
Kovalev has catapulted himself into the world’s top 10 pound-for-pound fighters after knocking out 10 of his last 11 opponents, and in that time only the legendary Bernard Hopkins (55-7-2, 32 KOs) managed to last 12 rounds with “The Crusher”.
Kovalev has become the spectacle that boxing fans tune in to watch.
The HBO program starts at 9am Sunday morning Cambodian time.
Kovalev comes into the bout having a significant power and reach advantage, but Mohammedi has had 23 career knockouts, making him a dangerous opponent.
Kovalev exploded onto the scene in 2013 when he captured the WBO light-heavyweight belt from Wales’s Nathan Cleverly (29-2, 15 KOs). In 2014, he beat Hopkins to unify the WBO title with the IBF and WBA belts.
But so far this year, he has failed to negotiate the chance to become a true undisputed champion, a deal for a unification bout with WBC and Lineal champion Adonis Stevenson (26-1, 21 KOs) not coming to fruition.
He did travel to Stevenson’s hometown of Montreal earlier this year to knock out top contender Jean Pascal (29-3-1, 17 KOs) in a highly entertaining bout that showcased Kovalev’s power punching.
Nadjib Mohammedi only has three losses in 40 professional fights, has fought around the world in top-level bouts and could be a stern test.
However, the IBF do have him ranked considerably higher than the other governing bodies, and RingTV.com have him ranked only as a number nine contender, reflecting a perceived gap in quality between the two men come Saturday night.
Kovalev is a feared hitter who is known for punching with intent, having knocked out Cedric Agnew (27-2 14 KOs) last year with a simple jab to the body.
Mohammedi lost a one-sided decision to Nathan Cleverly for the vacant WBO light-heavyweight world title in 2010 in a fight that he fought with his hands very low throughout the bout, a tactic that would appear foolish against Kovalev, who comprehensively beat Cleverley, ending the bout in Cardiff in 2013 by technical knockout in round four.
Mohammedi has a tendency to move straight backwards away from punches, and with the way Kovalev has marched through everybody he has faced, discounting one technical draw when his opponent was unable to continue after an accidental foul, the expectations are that he should prevail in this contest and make it difficult for Stevenson not to make a unification bout happen towards the end of this year.
That would be one of the biggest fights out there, as both men are powerhouse light-heavyweights who could move up in weight.
If, however, they again fail to reach an agreement, Kovalev is still in line for an alternative mega-fight with recently returned super middleweight pound-for-pound king Andre Ward, (30-0, 15 KOs). Ward has stated he would go up in weight to make the fight happen.
Kovalev’s promoter, Kathy Duva, has had preliminary discussions Ward’s promoters Roc Nation Sports. David Itskowitch of Roc Nation Sports told ESPN.com: “We have had some very preliminary conversations.
We’re interested in that fight at some point. It’s only a matter of when.”
For Kovalev, a fight with Ward would present the biggest contest out there for him apart from a Stevenson matchup.
As with all fights, he would be foolish to look past his opponent this weekend, but much bigger nights await this impressive, big punching fighter. --Jason Jones