One interested spectator of HBO World Championship Boxing After Dark (LIVE, Saturday night @10PM from Hard Rock Cafe & Casino in a new look Atlantic City, NJ) will be WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis “Superman” Stevenson. As high rollers make waves on the boardwalk for high stakes, the world's best at 175 will roll the dice in the grand opening at Etess Arena.
WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (32-2-1, 28KOs) makes the second defense of his title against Eleider “Storm” Alvarez (23-0, 11KOs). In the co-feature, rising star and WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol (13-0, 11KOs) defends his belt against the crafty Isaac Chilemba (25-5-2, 10KOs). Both match-ups will offer intrigue and suspense, with all signs pointing to Kovalev V Bivol.
This is, however, a Main Events promotion in conjunction with Group Yvon Michel, who has interest in a “Superman” last seen being caught with kryptonite by Badou Jack. If Alvarez wins, a Stevenson bout will beckon. But if Kovalev prevails, as expected, perhaps Kovalev V Stevenson finally happens on the boardwalk, with powerful new star Bivol opening against another premier challenger beyond Chilemba.
“Thank you to my team. It is very important to me, because it gives me motivation moving forward. And all that I do right now and continue to do after my two crazy losses. It was a kick from life to awaken me and put my mind on the right trail. I lost my mind when I started to get famous. And I also didn't have a coach in my training camp.”
—Sergey Kovalev, WBO light heavyweight champion
Kovalev is, of course, referring to a tumultuous and controversial parting with ousted trainer John David Jackson. A narrow loss to Andre Ward is one thing, but a ball-breaking KO loss to Ward because of Jackson (at least in the eyes of Kovalev) is unfathomable. “Krusher” seems very happy with his new team of coaches, but he is 35 and has shown attrition.
A 2nd round floor wiping of Vyacheslav Shabranskyy last November at MSG to reclaim the WBO strap provided more questions than answers, just as a return to Da Gahden and a so-so 7th round March mugging of a bloody and limited Igor Mikhalkin raised more doubts. Eleider Alvarez is a much tougher opponent than Mikhalkin, capable of solving Kovalev's rhythmic in and out power attack. If the aggressive fighter who showed up for Lucian Bute arrives on Saturday night– Kovalev could be in trouble. The guess here is that his conditioning and overall striking ability will be enough to overcome “The Storm” and a few rough seas. Kovalev TKO 10.
“I'm glad to be fighting in Atlantic City, because I know there were many great fights, like Arturo Gatti against Micky Ward. I'm glad to be part of boxing's return here. This is another chance to prove who I am and I'm not giving my belt to Isaac Chilemba. I'm going to keep it a long time. I will try to do my best for boxing fans, for people who watch our fight. I hope it will be an enjoyable fight for you.”
—Dmitry Bivol, WBA light heavyweight champion
We think it will be, Dmitry. The 27 year-old former Olympian and new world champion comes off of a gripping, 12th round KO of Sullivan Barrera on the undercard of Kovalev V Mikhalkin and has the look of a generational star. Behind a punishing jab, a very athletic form of effective aggression and combination punching, Bivol should gradually overwhelm a Chilemba who gave both Kovalev and Alvarez fits in about 8 rounds. Overall, it should be a great night of action on HBO boxing and for fans around the world.