Knockout king Sergey Kovalev has labelled Adonis Stevenson as “not a real champion” and dreams of capturing his WBC belt. The unified WBA, WBO and IBF light-heavyweight world champion has conquered all before him, including wins over the legendary Bernard Hopkins and Jean Pascal, but a showdown with 175-pound rival and current WBC champion Stevenson has eluded him.
A clash has been much talked about over the past year but 32-year-old Kovalev is now set to do battle this Saturday night, live and exclusive on BoxNation, against Frenchman Nadjib Mohammedi but his ambition is still to complete his title haul by adding the WBC belt.
“I don’t want to speak about him [Stevenson] at all because he’s not a real champion. He got lucky once against Chad Dawson when Dawson dropped his title against Andre Ward.
“Andre Ward destroyed him and he didn’t recover for the fight against Stevenson. He got lucky and right now is still “champion”. It’s smart for the business but it’s not good for boxing,” said Kovalev.
“I’m ready for any fight but I keep in my mind to win the WBC title first of all but I’m open for any fight. I think I’m a regular world champion but I have three world titles, the WBO, WBA and IBF, but my dream is to get a fourth.
“We’ll see what happens in the future. I hope somebody beats Stevenson and gets the WBC title and then we can make the fight. Even if it is a harder or tougher boxer, it’s no problem. I just need an agreement for a fight for the WBC and a unification,” he said.
The formidable Russian, who is undefeated in 28 bouts with 24 knockouts, is well aware however that a tough task lies ahead this weekend against Mohammedi.
The 30-year-old, a ten year professional, knows his way around the ring with 37 wins and only 3 losses, goes into the fight on a four-year winning streak with a chance of hitting the big-time should he upset the odds, something which Kovalev is well aware of.
“Mohammedi is not a puncher but he knows how to box. He’s smart, sets traps and improvises a lot in the ring. He doesn’t just come forward but has good movement and angles,” said Kovalev.
“He’s also ready for 12 rounds and has good stamina and conditioning. He’s a very good opponent and is dangerous because he’s very motivated.
“I know what motivation can do for a fighter and when a man is motivated he can do a lot of things and is very dangerous. I’m prepared for 12 rounds because you never know what is going to happen in boxing,” he said.
The man who Kovalev overcame in his last fight, Canadian ace Pascal, will also be on the card when he takes on unbeaten Cuban Yunieski Gonzalez in a ten-round contest at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
“There is no place like home. I have been fighting at home my whole career. I am glad to be in Vegas, it is my first time fighting here. Every fighter on my level wants to fight at least one time in Vegas,” said Pascal.
“This is my chance to make a statement on Saturday night. I know I am still among the best in the world and best in my division. I know Yunieski Gonzalez is hungry and he wants to make a statement. I want to give a great show on Saturday night,” he said.
Prior to Saturday’s big Las Vegas show, BoxNation will also have some thrilling live domestic action tonight from 7pm when super-middleweight star Frank Buglioni takes on Fernando Castaneda.
The Enfield boxer was set to face WBA world champion Fedor Chudinov but the Russian was forced to delay the fight due to a broken nose sustained in training.
26-year-old Buglioni, however, will be looking to stay busy and get a win under his belt against the tough Mexican before eyeing up his shot at world title glory in the Autumn.
Another top name will feature on the Wembley Arena show with Billy Joe Saunders, who will fight Andy Lee for the WBO middleweight world title on September 19 in a major showdown in Limerick, facing France’s Yoann Bloyer in a crucial must win fight.
Undefeated super-featherweight Mitchell Smith is also back in action this evening against Dennis Tubieron for the WBO Intercontinental title.
Kovalev v Mohammedi is live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky 437/490HD, Virgin 525, TalkTalk 415 and online) this Saturday night. Visit boxnation.com to subscribe.
Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev – WBO, WBA and IBF Light Heavyweight World Champion
“Hello everybody. Thank you for comes here. What I can say? I already said enough for my side. I am sure it is going to be very interesting fight. Why? Because Nadjib has very good and big motivation to be champion and my desire is to get my four titles. I think that will happen this year, that I fight a unified fight. Fight against Nadjib is for me next step. I am not going to say that I will, I will and I will, is words of trash talkers. I am going to show what I can in the ring.
“Everyone welcome to Vegas July 25 to Mandalay Bay and have a nice time. Thank you very much for your attention, for my promoter, Kathy Duva, and manager [Egis Klimas] that they turn their attention to me, sign me and now my career is in their hands. I like it. Everything I have right now is good.
“Also I am very happy that my fight is on HBO. I am happy and I am going to be best in my division. I am not finished of my collection of all of my belts. I shoot and I must to get one more, WBC title. Just give me opportunity to fight against WBC Champion. I don’t care whether it be Adonis Stevenson or another guy. I don’t care.
“Right now I am not even thinking about this because my next fight will be big fight and not an easy fight against Nadjib Mohammedi. I think so enough to say. Thank you very much again.”
Nadjib “Iron Djib” Mohammedi – IBF Mandatory Challenger
“For me is big opportunity. My first time in USA just one years now. I respect Sergey Kovalev now is champion of light heavyweight but I don’t come here for joke or for play or for game. I want be world champion. I work with Abel Sanchez in Big Bear for this. I am not stupid. I know what you think about me. I am not naïve. This fight is very, very difficult for me but I say it is very difficult for Sergey. It is not difficult just for me because I am very smarter, I am faster.
“On 25 of July I am ready with my team, I am ready for this fight. I am ready for Sergey. I am the new generation of light heavyweight because I don’t want the same fight of another opponent. Thank you very much to Kathy Duva, my promoter. Thank you very much my team. Thank you very much my co-managers, Vince Caruso and Jon Ali. Thank you, Abel Sanchez. I will see you 25 of July for the big fight. I promise you this is a big, big fight. Thank you very much.”
Kathy Duva – CEO of Main Events
“Less than two years ago Sergey Kovalev was a struggling fighter trying to make a name for himself. Since then he has fought on HBO six times. He is about to go into his seventh fight on HBO. He has become, not just the light heavyweight champion of the world, but he has unified three of the light heavyweight titles. Last year he was named the fighter of the year by Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report, The New York Post, USA Today, SherDog and UCN Live. Some of you are here today and thank you so much. It I a hell of an accomplishment to be the Fighter of the Year, you can’t do that every year, no matter who you are. To go from being completely unknown to being the man in the light heavyweight division in less than two years is a remarkable accomplishment.
“I don’t think any of us would be here without the support of the fine people at HBO. Today I get to proudly announce that Sergey Kovalev gets to remain with HBO, the company that has taken him this far. It is his intention and our intention to remain with HBO for the rest of his career, if that is possible. This is the company that has led boxing for the last 30 odd years in this country. It is unquestionably the #1 boxing network in the world. It is the place to be if you want to have a high-profile career in this sport and maintain it for a long time.
“About a year ago Nadjib Mohammedi came to the United States for the first time. He earned his shot at a title by becoming the #1 contender. He has worked hard over the last year to maintain that position and prepare himself for the opportunity to fight for the world title. Now he gets the privilege of fighting for all three of those belts.
“Now that Sergey has moved to the west coast and has made a home for himself and his family here in Los Angeles we are moving his home base. I had a lovely meeting with Richard Sturm at MGM a few weeks ago and he confirmed to me that MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay want to be in the Sergey Kovalev business. As I see a vacuum opening up in Vegas for big names I think Sergey Kovalev is the kind of guy who can step in there and fill that vacuum. His fights are electrifying and exciting and thrilling. That is what boxing fans should expect when they put their money down to come and see a fight.
“Main Events has a great history with Mandalay Bay which is one of the best facilities in the country, in the world. On a personal note it is great to be going back there. We brought Fernando Vargas there years ago and had some great, great nights there and some great, great memories there. We are going to make some new ones now. It is a new beginning. It is a new beginning with HBO. It is a new beginning with Mandalay Bay. Yet it all feels very familiar because this was the same team that was making Fernando one of the biggest box office attractions in the country.
“Peter Nelson from HBO is not here because of your famous LA traffic but if he were here he would tell you that the event will start at 10:00 PM on July 25 on HBO. There will be a co-feature and we are still working on what that is going to be and we will announce that when we know. The tickets will be going on sale next week and will be priced very affordably for the fans from $25 up to $300. We want to fill up the room. We want to encourage the true boxing fans. Something that I noticed when I went to the big fight a few weeks ago at MGM that the crowd was missing the true fight fans but I want to see those people come out for this fight. Those fans will be very pleased. I have had the great pleasure to be ringside a number of times for Sergey’s fights and it is thrilling.
“This will be a 12-round fight for the WBO, WBA and IBF Light Heavyweight World Championships. It is an IBF mandatory bout. Sergey is 27-0-1 with 24 knockouts from Russia and Nadjib is 37-3, with 23 knockouts from France.
“To Vince’s point, that is one of the things that is great about boxing, everybody has a story. Everybody has been through adversity. If not for miracles I think everyone standing on this dais, myself included, would not be standing here right now. I think that is part of what keeps this sport alive and is what makes it so compelling is the stories behind everybody. The truth is Nadjib came here last June as an opponent basically. He came here and won a fight he wasn’t expected to win; he earned his place and has worked for a long time with Abel Sanchez. He has taken advantage of this time to work with a great trainer in Abel Sanchez and believe me we are very well aware of it. With an awkward style and a great trainer, his great heart and drive that this is not going to be an easy night for anybody.
“Having said that, Sergey Kovalev is something very special, we all know that. To me he is exactly what boxing is supposed to be, somebody who goes out there and gives their all gives 1,000% every time. He keeps the crowd entertained. He keeps the fight exciting. He makes it fun to be there. That is why we tend to focus on him and his future. We don’t mean it as an insult to anybody. That is what we have, it is called a star.”
Egis Klimas – Manager of Sergey Kovalev
“Good afternoon everybody. Thanks for coming for this press conference in the beautiful city of Los Angeles. Thank you Kathy [Duva]. She is doing a very good job. When I brought Sergey to Kathy a couple of years ago at that point nobody knew him. Some people knew Kovalev in boxing but not much and not like he is known today.
“Vince [Caruso] was talking about how we have not seen bad days in Sergey’s career but I would say it is completely the opposite. I brought Sergey in 2009 from Russia I put him in Don Turner training camp in North Carolina which is in the middle of nowhere. The closest store is about five miles away. All around there are corn fields, bugs, bears, snakes and he stayed where Don had built his boxing gym. At that time I had many fighters going to that camp and besides Sergey and Gradovich I would say the longest somebody was there was like three months before they would call me and tell me they were done. They would go to New York or Chicago and today they are nobody and I have not even heard about them. Some are taxi drivers now but this gentleman stayed there and didn’t complain a single word for a year and a half.
“I used to go to Don’s camp, me and Don would jump in a van and drive around the country just to get the fights. I saw big talent and Don Turner saw big talent in him but I could not convince any of the promoters. I talked to Top Rank. I talked to Golden Boy. I talked to Lou DiBella. I talked to everybody about giving him a chance until one day Don Turner introduced me to Kathy see said she would try and see what is going to happen.
“The biggest fight that we had in our career was Darnell Boone. Sergey wasn’t ready for it so it went all eight rounds and was not a good fight. Main Events asked me how I felt about fighting Darnell Boone again. I thought Sergey was no going to like that. I called Sergey and I told him, he said he it was great and he wanted to do that. He said, ‘I want to see how I improved from almost two years past. That’s a fight I want.’ That was when I realized I really had a good fighter here with a good heart. Of course the second time he did a great job with Darnell Boone. It was two rounds. He was a completely different guy. He was on TV. He was on the big stage. He has had hard times.
“I want to thank HBO for giving us this very good opportunity for the rest of his career. I wanted to thank again Kathy and Mandalay Bay for having us there. Don’t miss fight on July 25.”
Vince Caruso – Co-Manager of Nadjib Mohammedi
“There is not much to say when you fight the #1 guy. Whether I like him or not Sergey Kovalev is the #1 guy in boxing today, especially after what we saw two weeks ago I would say he is undoubtedly #1. He is the top tier. He is a very bad dude and we are going in there with that in mind.
“I am not going to get up here and say that Nadjib is going to come in there and do this or we are guaranteeing a win. You can’t guarantee anything in this business. The only thing I can guarantee you is that on the 25th of July Nadjib Mohammedi is going to make the 175 pound contracted weight limit, that will be a guarantee. #2 he is going to come in there with a game plan that if he does execute and he does listen to Abel Sanchez, his trainer, he has a very good shot at winning this fight. Because even though Sergey might be stronger, and he might be bigger, and he might have been on the big stage a lot more than Nadjib has, there is one thing that I believe we have the edge in, and that is desire.
“When you have been held down your whole life, your whole career, a career that started in 2005, and you have to fight in rooms that are smaller than this, with no TV coverage, no press, that is hard times. I don’t think Sergey Kovalev goes through hard times. Nadjib Mohammedi has gone through hard times. He came to Big Bear before his fight on the Hopkins-Kovalev undercard back in November. His trainer that he has been with for 14 years got detained at the airport and could not get in for that fight. So me and his co-manager, Jon Ali, had to figure out who was going to work the corner. Sullivan Barrera, our friend who is also here today, was on that card already and he was working with Abel Sanchez. I have always said after I watched Nadjib on June 21st of last year, that he is the perfect style fighter for Abel Sanchez’s training methods. He fights that Mexican style. He is a straight-ahead blood and guts fighter. There is nothing really special about him. His strength is his heart. Show me a guy with heart who is sick and tired of being broke and sick and tired of getting the short end of the deal and I am going to show you a winner. Nothing ever lifts adrenaline more than the desire to change your life. That is what we need to look at going in against this guy because he is a killer. He is #1, the big cheese. That is what we want. We want high risk because we want high reward.
“With all due respect to Kathy, she talks about all these great future plans she has with Kovalev but I would have waited until this Mohammedi fight was in the books before you made any long term plans. I know nobody gives us a chance and he is probably a 15-1 underdog. We are the dog but everybody on this team has overcome something. This guy has overcome the temptations of the mafia-ridden streets of France. He went into the food business and took care of his mother and his brothers and his sister. He worked hard. He wanted to become a professional fighter. He is here. Jon Ali, my co-manager, is a professional singer. He is a great pop singer and that is why he is not here today. 11 years ago I was a junkie and I was in a Las Vegas rehab. I never thought I would be on the big stage again but I am. This team has a lot of desire. We are going to win this fight and we are going to win it with heart.”
photo by David Spagnolo/Main Events