Nearly three months removed from a devastating eighth-round technical knockout loss in a rematch against unified light-heavyweight champion Andre Ward in, Sergey Kovalev is looking forward to the next chapter as he prepares to take on Vyacheslav Shabranskyy in a 10-round bout on Nob. 25 (HBO, 10 p.m. ET/PT) at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York.
But has he truly recovered from back-to-back defeats to his bitter rival?
“I learned a lot from my fights with Andre Ward,” Kovalev said. “When you don’t win, and when you suffer adversity, it makes you stronger. It also shows you who your real friends are. I feel like I cleaned out my life and now I’m ready to start fresh. I’m very excited to get back in the ring and fight at Madison Square Garden for the first time, and I’m focused on the future. I’m not looking back.”
Although the rematch was billed as ‘No Excuses,’ Kovalev and his team made plenty of them following the fight.
“He’s really lucky, ‘Son of Judges,’” Kovalev said of Ward after the bout, poking fun at Ward’s nickname, “Son of God.” “He didn’t hurt me. I got tired, but I still wanted to fight. It’s boxing. I could have continued fighting, but I don’t understand what happened. Why did Tony Weeks stop the fight? [Ward] punched me low blow already a few times during the fight. He didn’t let me continue to fight. It was an illegal stop. I believed and trusted Tony Weeks, but he did a wrong decision in stopping the fight.”
Kovalev went as far as filing a protest letter to the Nevada State Athletic Commission and requested to have his loss reversed to a no contest roughly one month after the fact. It appears that effort went nowhere, and now he has supposedly moved on?
That loss dented his ego. Kovalev never talked where he could potentially improve as a fighter. For instance, his lack of endurance in his last couple of fights proved to be a factor in both losses to Ward. Had Kovalev not gassed in the first bout, he probably would have won a decision. Of course, in the rematch, it exemplified his need for improvement, once again, in endurance, and defense.
Instead, Kovalev took a jab at ex-trainer John David Jackson, who claimed his fighter quit in a fiery segment with ATG Radio’s Michael Doss.
The first step for Kovalev is to be honest with himself. He needs to stop blaming others for his shortcomings and take responsibility for what happens in the ring. His trainer didn’t lose to Ward twice, he did.
Kovalev had an opportunity to fight Sullivan Barrera, but instead he’s fighting a man that the Cuban knocked out a year ago. To be fair, it was a huge risk coming off a loss.
Since dropping a unanimous decision to Ward, Barrera has been on a roll as of late, going 3-0 with 2 KO’s including a decisive victory over the hard-punching Joe Smith Jr., despite suffering a knockdown early in the fight.
Many of the greats have gone down and got back up. Kovalev is capable of doing the same thing; he just needs to take responsibility and get it done.