It looks like Dmitry Bivol's U.S. tour will extend a little longer after all.
The unbeaten, prodigious light heavyweight from Russia will make his second consecutive stateside appearance as he next defends his interim title versus Cedric Agnew. The scheduled 12-round bout will serve as a pay-per-view preliminary bout in support of the June 17 rematch between unified titlist Andre Ward and former champ Sergey Kovalev, which takes place at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Confirmation of the title fight came from Main Events, Kovalev's promotional outfit and instrumental in securing the services of the rising light heavyweight star for this show.
"Working with World of Boxing (Bivol's promoter), Andrei (Ryabinsky), Vadim (Kornilov, Bivol's manager) and Dmitry has been a delight," Main Events CEO Kathy Duva said in a statement released through Main Events' press office. "We were originally talking to them about facing Sullivan Barrera on the Ward-Kovalev 2 undercard, which would have been a huge step up for Dmitry Bivol, and he and his team did not hesitate in taking that fight.
"When Sullivan was offered a bigger opportunity against Joe Smith Jr. on HBO on July 15, it just made sense to stick with Bivol, who is a rising talent in the light heavyweight division, and find him an opponent. That part was not easy! All credit to Cedric Agnew who was willing to take on this undefeated prospect."
Bivol's placement on the card completes a four-bout PPV telecast that also includes World super bantamweight champ Guillermo Rigondeaux versus Moises Flores in a 122-pound WBA title consolidation clash and Luis Arias risking his unbeaten record versus Arif Magomedov in a 10-round middleweight crossroads bout.
Interestingly enough, the addition of the 28-year old Kyrgyzstan-born, Russia-based boxer comes with a bit of a twist as he initially agreed to - on paper - a far more dangerous assignment but gladly accepts the available alternate.
"Cedric Agnew is the opponent with the biggest name in my career so far," said Bivol (10-0, 8KOs), who is coming off of a 4th round knockout of Samuel Clarkson this past April in Oxon Hill, Maryland. "He is an experienced fighter and is well-skilled defensively. The Kovalev and Ward rematch is the most important fight in the light heavyweight division right now and I am, honored to be part of such an event.
"I am very motivated and excited about this fight and I am anxious to showcase my skills in the mecca of boxing of Las Vegas, USA live on one of the top boxing networks of HBO Pay-Per-View."
Given his steady rise in the division and the matchup that tops the event, moving forward with the proposed battle was a no-brainer, especially considering the ease in which business was conducted.
"Initially Kathy Duva reached out to us about fighting Barrera on the Ward-Kovalev II card and we had to make a decision quickly," acknowledges Kornilov. "Even though Barrera chose to take another fight, Kathy came forward with another opponent to stick to her offer and keep Bivol on the card. It has been a pleasing experience in putting this fight together with Kathy and the rest of the Main Events team.
"In his last fight against Samuel Clarkson in April, Dmitry Bivol has proven that he is one of the major forces in his division and started building a US fan base for his aggressive and exciting style. On June 17, he will face Cedric Agnew on HBO Pay-Per-View in a fight where not only will he have to perform up to his reputation, but also be at his best on the biggest stage of his professional career. Bivol is in the third week of camp in Los Angeles with his trainer Genndaii Mashyanov and will be ready to shine come June 17."
Of course, it takes two to make a prizefight. Agnew (29-2, 15KOs) is well aware that he is perceived as a huge underdog in this matchup.
It doesn't mean he won't do everything in his power to veer off-script.
"This is my destiny and I won't let anything or anyone stop me from conquering it," claims Agnew, who is best known in boxing circles for his 7th round knockout loss to Kovalev in their March '14 HBO-televised title fight. "I will show everyone on fight night how serious I am."
Agnew has managed three wins in four subsequent fights following the Kovalev loss, the lone setback among that stretch a split decision loss to Clarkson last February. He's emerged victorious in his past two ring appearances and expectations from his team are to leave Las Vegas with the biggest win of his career.
"We're aware that Bivol is considered the next big thing," notes Lou DiBella, President of DiBella Entertainment. "Cedric Agnew is a true professional and a quality boxer. He was not an easy out for Kovalev. I don't expect that he will be an easy out for Bivol. Agnew will show up to win."