SAN DIEGO, July 11, 2016 – Sergey Kovalev had to fight all 12 rounds in Russia on Monday for only the fourth time in his professional career, winning a unanimous decision on judges’ scorecards over Isaac Chilemba of Malawi. Scores were 116-111, 117-110, and 118-109.
The fight will air in its entirety Monday night on HBO Championship Boxing at 10:15 p.m. ET/7:15 p.m. PT.
Boxing in front of his Russian fans at the DIVS Palace of Sports in Ekaterinaburg, Kovalev (30-0-1, 26 KOs) wasn’t his krisp “Krusher” self. Chilemba (24-4-2, 10 KOs) employed an awkward style which made it difficult to land cleanly against him. Chilemba came into the fight in excellent condition, and he stood up to most of Kovalev’s effort with the exception of a seventh round knockdown. Chilemba has never been stopped in his professional career; he is a legitimate light heavyweight talent.
Kovalev retains his WBA, WBO, and IBF titles and fulfills his promise to fight in Russia. The so-called “tune up” fight is in the books, and he will turn seriously to training for his November 19 bout with Andre Ward in Las Vegas.
No one enjoyed Monday’s fight more than Ward. Chilemba did him a huge favor by handing him a blueprint for success against Kovalev. Chilemba worked with jabs all night, sneaking in body shots when he had the opportunity. They were enough to keep Kovalev off him much of the night. When they weren’t, he clenched and defused any attack.
The lone exception was the knockdown with 30 seconds left in the seventh round. Set up by a left jab which snapped Chilemba’s head, finished with the straight right flush to the face Kovalev delivered with full force, Chilemba staggered and went down hard. He beat the count, and got to the end of the round. With Kovalev unable to finish off the touch Chilemba, he recovered nicely to finish the fight.
It’s hard to say what was off about Kovalev. He seemed to be fighting underwater. It may have been a mental sluggishness rather than physical, due to the memory of his last fight in the same building in which his opponent Roman Simakov died of injuries suffered during the bout. In the post-fight interview, Kovalev announced he would donate his purse to Simakov’s family.
Chilemba was merely the accomplished student of the style; Ward is a Jedi Master. Ward can do everything we saw from Chilemba far better, and with much greater speed. Kovalev will need to push his game and be far more aggressive and crisp with his punches. He will need to figure out how to hit someone moving in ways he won’t expect with Ward, or he’ll have his power effectively taken away from him.
In less than a month, Ward (29-0, 15 KOs) faces lightly regarded Alexander Brand of Ohio (25-1, 19 KOs) on August 6 at Oakland’s Oracle Arena. Ward and Brand were scheduled for a bout last November, but Ward suffered a knee injury during training and was forced to call off the bout. Brand now gets his chance, and fewer people think Brand has more chance than Chilemba did against Kovalev. Assuming no surprises, the build up to November can then start in earnest.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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