QUEBEC CITY - Thanksgiving may have been yesterday but WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev and his first title challenger, Ismayl Sillakh, need one more day to determine which of them has more to be thankful for this year. The two 175-pounders face off Saturday night on HBO, from the Colisee Pepsi, in a 12-round title clash that will have one of them closing out 2013 in style.
Both fighters have built their reputations on punching power and are expected to once again let their fists fly, come Saturday night. The question is, which of these knockout artists will go home a champion and cap off the best year of their respective careers?
Sergey "Krusher" Kovalev, 22-0-1, 20 KOs, originally from Chelyabinsk, Russia and now fighting out of Ft. Lauderdale, FL, has had an outstanding 2013. So far he's scored three high-profile knockouts, including his title-winning effort against Nathan Cleverly, in his most recent bout. Kovalev is riding a 6-bout knockout streak and would like nothing more than to add Sillakh's name to that list. Another short night for the champion would further reinforce his reputation as one of the top light heavyweights in a crowded and talent-rich division.
Kovalev said, "Sillakh is a dangerous fighter, one of the strongest punchers that I have fought so far. I know that he wants to take my title, but I will not let him. I will win on Saturday. I waited a long time to get title and I intend to keep it a long, long time."
For Ismayl Sillakh, 21-1, 17 KOs, a native of Zaporozhye, Ukraine who now resides in Canoga Park, CA, his first crack at a world championship is by far his biggest opportunity thus far. However, he too has been on a roll this year, winning all four of his 2013 fights, three of them by KO. An upset win over Kovalev would be the perfect introduction to boxing fans for Sillakh, simultaneously making his name and vaulting him into the mix of the star-studded division.
"As soon as I was offered to fight Kovalev for the WBO World title, I jumped at the opportunity," said Sillakh, "I believe that everything happens for a reason." He added, "I am ready for this fight 100%. I will come out victorious. I will be the newly crowned light heavyweight champion."
Each fighter has an astronomical knockout percentage, and can legitimately claim that they are the hardest puncher that the other has faced to date. This should make for an exciting encounter with plenty of action. However only one man can go home as the WBO champion and cap off a truly excellent year. And only then will we know for sure which boxer, Kovalev or Sillakh, will be celebrating Thanksgiving late Saturday night.
The HBO broadcast begins at 10:15PM ET/PT with a replay of the Pacquiao - Rios fight, followed by the Kovalev - Sillakh battle and culminatinating with Stevenson - Bellew. A must-see show for boxing fans.