WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev will face off against mandatory challenger, Anthony Yarde, on Saturday, Aug. 24 from Traktor Arena in Kovalev’s hometown of Chelyabinsk, Russia. Outwardly, Kovalev looked in good form, not too drained or tight. He smiled..
..and took queries from media as he awaits the count-down to fight night to play its course.
Kovalev-Yarde will stream live and exclusively in the United States on ESPN+, beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET/9:30 a.m. PT. The stream will also showcase the co-feature bout between unbeaten cruiserweight contender Aleksei Papin (11-0, 10 KOs) and former world title challenger Ilunga Makabu (25-2, 24 KOs). Fans in the U.S. can sign up at www.ESPNplus.com or on the ESPN App. Kovalev will do ring walk at maybe 1:30-2 PM ET.
I asked Jolene Mizzone, matchmaker at Main Events, Kovalev's promoter, her thoughts on the tango. Does she see Sergey a maybe 75-25 favorite?
“I don’t pick a percentage on fights, here is my feeling on the fight. Sergey has been in with the top guys and has been through the adversity, which only makes him stronger. Yarde is a hungry up and coming guy who has never been tested so kudos to him to steeping up and doing this fight, a young and hungry guy is always dangerous!”
The champ is 36, the ‘dog 28…and the dog hasn't been in with anyone at the level of Sergey. His best win is hard to find and I suspect that the vet will show him about levels Saturday. Prep work against against Travis Reeves and Walter Sequeira will not have been enough for him to get a sense of what a skilled pugilist can do, is my sense. That hyper musculature, looks good in the mirror, and draws ohs and ahhh, from folks who dig that sort of sculpture. But in a ring, such bulkiness can prove a deficiency. We shall see, Saturday.
I've seen no shortage of sharp analysts thinking Yarde could and will get the W in this one. Young, presumably hungry…looks like this is a risky outing for the Russian, who will perhaps fights Canelo Alvarez if he downs Yarde. Yes, a heavy-duty paycheck perhaps lays in the balance here…
“I am thrilled to fight for the first time in my hometown of Chelyabinsk,” Kovalev said at the presser. “It is a dream to defend my WBO title in front of all my friends and family back home. I am also thankful ESPN+ will show the fight to my fans in the U.S. Thank you to Igor Altushkin, Egis Klimas, Main Events and Top Rank for making this dream a reality, and thank you to Anthony Yarde for agreeing to fight in my home.”
“Sergey has done just about everything a professional fighter can do, other than fight in his own hometown,” said promoter Kathy Duva, CEO of Main Events. “One of the sport’s greatest road warriors, Sergey will finally get the chance to salute his legion of fans in Chelyabinsk, where he grew up. It will be an exciting, long overdue homecoming for Sergey. And I am so happy to confirm that Sergey’s many fans in the U.S. will be able to watch this great event only on ESPN+. I wish to thank Igor Altushkin, German Titov and everyone at RCC for making this all possible. I also wish to thank Bob Arum and Top Rank for their continued support.”
Kovalev and Main Events are contractually tied to Top Rank for a spell, for the record.
Also, Buddy McGirt, the trainer, will be cornering Kovalev.
Kovalev (33-3-1, 28 KOs) is a veteran of 15 world title bouts and has won the light heavyweight world title on three occasions. A former unified champion, he revived his career in February by scoring a wide points win over Eleider Alvarez, the man who’d knocked him out less than six months prior. One of this generation’s most decorated champions, Kovalev holds victories over Jean Pascal, Nathan Cleverly and living legend Bernard Hopkins. In Yarde (18-0, 17 KOs), he faces a London native with a giant hand who is taking a giant step up in competition. Yarde…
..has won his last 16 bouts by knockout, most recently stopping Travis Reeves in five rounds in a bout that streamed on ESPN+.
This will be only his second pro bout outside of England.
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