Kovalev faces Chilemba homecoming bout before awaited showdown with Ward
Lee Gormley | July 8, 2016
Sergey Kovalev v Isaac Chilemba
- WBA, IBF and WBO light-heavyweight title fight
- Monday, July 11th
- Scheduled for: 18:00 BST
- DIVS Sports Palace, Yekaterinburg, Russia
- Live on BoxNation
Kovalev faces Chilemba in home defence
Dominant light-heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev returns to Russia on Monday night to defend his WBA, IBF and WBO titles against Malawian challenger Isaac Chilemba, as he looks to impress ahead of his awaited unification showdown with Andre Ward.
The 175lbs unified champion is finally set to square off with former super-middleweight kingpin Ward on November 19th, with the latter American star moving up divisions in search of light-heavyweight supremacy in what is one of the most anticipated bouts in recent years.
Before then, Kovalev (29-0-1, 26 KOs) must first overcome the threat of 29-year-old contender Chilemba (24-3-2, 10 KOs) in his homecoming match-up in Yekaterinburg, but the hard-hitting Russian is odds-on 1/66 favourite with Coral to triumph.
Champion aims to send message to Ward
For the reigning champion, this homecoming encounter represents an emotional outing, as the 33-year-old returns to the DIVS Sports Palace, the scene of his fatal 2011 fight with Roman Simakov, who tragically passed away following a stoppage defeat to Kovalev.
The unbeaten knockout specialist will have to overcome his emotions, having previously came close to ending his career in the aftermath of such a terrible incident, and he is hoping to send out a message to future opponent Ward in Monday night.
“Nobody has ever knocked Chilemba out. I want to become the first,” said Kovalev. “Chilemba is a very awkward opponent. He likes to work as a counter puncher.
“He does not like to get aggressive during the course of a fight and never steps into the fire. That makes him dangerous. I don’t want to overlook Chilemba, because I have to maintain that mental focus of properly dealing with him in order to earn the right to box with Andre Ward.
“Any time that I step into the ring, it’s always a huge responsibility – and this time especially, because right in front of me I have another big fight waiting for me.”
Chilemba looks to punish foe for disrespect
Malawi-born challenger Chilemba is aiming to punish Kovalev in their title bout, with the African fighter having outlined his annoyance at the champion’s disrespect in looking ahead and scheduling the Ward clash.
“Clearly they see me as a stepping stone and that’s total disrespect,” said Chilemba, who is 12/1 to cause an upset. “They are looking past me when we have not fought which means they see me as just a sparring partner. I am now going out there with more reason to beat this guy.
“I am going to teach him some manners and in the process make history by becoming the first African fighter to win three titles in one night.”
Chilemba comes into the clash on the back of a points defeat at the hands of Colombian Eleider Alvarez, and has previously been involved in a 12-round draw with Britain’s current WBC cruiserweight champion Tony Bellew, before losing to the Merseysider in their rematch.
Kovalev’s imminent showdown with Ward is one of the biggest bouts of the year, with the latter hoping to begin dominating the light-heavyweight division after cleaning up at super-middleweight, though the Russian champion is evens to hand the 2004 Olympic Gold medallist his maiden professional defeat.