As former light heavyweight title contender Isaac “Golden Boy” Chilemba (24-4-2, 10 KOs) gears up to face Ukrainian prospect Oleksandr Gvozdyk (11-0, 9 KOs) on the Kovalev-Ward HBO Pay-Per-View undercard, he will be training with former four-division world champion Roy Jones Jr.
Chilemba, 29, originally from Malawi, but now residing in South Africa, is coming off the toughest fight of his career. On July 11, this road-warrior travelled to WBO, WBA and IBF Light Heavyweight World Champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev’s home country of Russia to face the champion in front of a sold-out crowd in his own backyard. Despite the unanimous decision loss, Chilemba’s performance against Kovalev raised a lot of eyebrows in the boxing community. Chilemba managed to go the distance against the “Krusher” a distinction held only by one other fighter, future Hall of Famer Bernard “The Alien” Hopkins.
For a number of years, Chilemba had worked with trainer James “Buddy” McGirt but when McGirt was unable to make the trip to South Africa to train Chilemba for Kovalev, he needed to find another trainer. For his stunning performance against Kovalev, Chilemba trained with his manager, Jodi Solomon. The Kovalev fight gained the attention of former four-division world champion and Chilemba’s childhood hero, Roy Jones Jr., who contacted cut man Russ Anber and suggested the two work together going forward. Roy invited Chilemba and Solomon to his gym in Pensacola, Florida to discuss the opportunity of training together.
When asked about that initial meeting Solomon replied, “It was a very big deal for Chilemba because Jones was his childhood hero. The trip to Florida was a huge eye-opener. It was awesome to be in Jones’ gym and for Chilemba to see why he does the things he does and to understand his thought process. Chilemba loved every minute of it. Jones is very passionate about boxing. They connected and got along very well.”
Chilemba grew up watching Jones fight on television in Malawi and has tried to mirror Jones’ style throughout his own career. Chilemba is excited to work with his hero one-on-one now. He said, “For years I have been watching him and trying to learn some of his moves to make them to my own. Now I am very happy that I get to work with him. Jones is my favorite fighter of all time. Working with him is like a dream come true. When I was a kid growing up in Malawi, I used to watch him and try to fight like him. Now working with him is amazing. It is even better than what I expected. Roy Jones Jr. is a master and now I get to work with him and understand why he does what he does. I have always watched him fight and tried to copy him from watching him on the screen. Now I get to work with him in person. It is amazing!”
Roy Jones Jr. added, “It wasn’t just that fight against Kovalev that made me want to work with him. I have been watching Chilemba for some time. After that fight I said I would love to work with him. I saw Chilemba the first time he came to the United States and I realized he was emulating my exact style but he has never had a person who could fully explain it to him. Now he is shocked and amazed that he is able to integrate the nuances of my style. His opponent, Gvozdyk is a very good fighter. It is never easy to beat a fighter like him because he is a very smart guy. He was such a great amateur fighter. We do have our hands full but I am looking forward to seeing how Isaac takes the things that I teach him and uses them to break him down.”
Kovalev vs. Ward “Pound For Pound”, a 12-round mega-fight for the WBO/IBF/WBA Light Heavyweight World Titles, takes place Saturday, Nov. 19, at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nev. The event will be produced and distributed live by HBO Pay-Per-View beginning at 9:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. PT.
“Pound for Pound” is presented by Main Events, Roc Nation Sports, Krusher Promotions and Andre Ward Promotions and is sponsored by MGM Grand Hotel & Casino, Rosneft and Corona Extra. Tickets are on sale now at AXS.com and the T-Mobile Arena Box Office.