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Thursday, December 12, 2013
Kovalev: 'I want to fight Stevenson'

By Brian Campbell


There's only so much that unbeaten light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev can say about division champion Adonis Stevenson until the two fighters one day (hopefully) meet in the ring.

The anticipated showdown between two of the sport's most devastating punchers seemed like a slam dunk when HBO featured both fighters in showcase bouts on the same Nov. 30 card. It's a fight just about everyone in the boxing world is salivating over, from the fans and promoters to the network.

But that doesn't mean we'll see it right away. Stevenson, 36, who came out of nowhere in 2013 to make a case for fighter of the year consideration, with four knockout wins, is hoping to be handsomely rewarded for his efforts, seeking either more money from HBO or an opportunity for financially friendly options elsewhere.

Kovalev (23-0, 21 KOs), 30, typically deflects most questions about future opponents to the capable hands of promoter Main Events and manager Egis Klimas. But the Russian-born fighter makes no bones about the fact that he wants to stay active, with the goal being four more fights in 2014, including at least one against Stevenson.

"I hope he wants the fight [with] me, but maybe [he wants more] money. Maybe not yet, maybe later," Kovalev told ESPN.com. "Maybe he don't want [to fight] -- I don't know. You need to ask him. But what I'm thinking is that it will be a good fight and a very interesting fight for [boxing] fans.

"I want to fight Stevenson. I'm still waiting."

Kovalev clearly has respect for Stevenson (23-1, 20 KOs) as a fighter, calling him a dangerous puncher with both hands, especially from distance with his left. But he doesn't have the same admiration as others for the quality of Stevenson's biggest wins, including a first-round knockout of lineal champion Chad Dawson in June.

"You know, when I saw Chad Dawson go into the ring, I understood that he will lose because he [had] not recovered after he fought Andre Ward," said Kovalev, in reference to Ward's knockout of a weight-drained Dawson in September 2012. "[It was] the same look Mike Alvarado had against [Ruslan] Provodnikov. Alvarado already [went] into the ring [looking] like he is going to die. [Meanwhile,] Provodnikov just went into it. Alvarado had lost already before the fight."

Kovalev isn't necessarily speaking from a place of bravado or trash talk, although he did his fair share of the latter when provoked in his recent knockout of Ismayl Sillakh. He comes across as simply an honest fighter sharing his thoughts, which continued when he was asked about Stevenson's one-sided drubbing of Tavoris Cloud in September.

"Tavoris Cloud, he's a dangerous fighter, but he can only punch," Kovalev said. "If you will be boxing with him in the ring, you saw what [Cloud] can do. It was same fight like against [Gabriel] Campillo. He's only like a bull, like a fighter. There's no boxing. [Cloud] is ready for one punch and only that. At least that is my opinion."

Kovalev's notion that Stevenson's biggest wins need to be put into perspective isn't a great stretch considering both Dawson and Cloud were one fight removed from devastating losses against top-end fighters when Stevenson picked them off. Still, Stevenson did look spectacular in those wins -- both of which, it deserves to be mentioned, were bigger than any on Kovalev's résumé.

The timing for the light heavyweight showdown couldn't be any more perfect than now, with the slugger Kovalev having come into his own as a boxer through six fights with trainer and former two-division titlist John David Jackson.

"It's like [Jackson] is polishing a diamond," Kovalev said. "He is making me into a diamond and polishing out the little mistakes. He has improved my skills. He is keeping [me prepared] with hard work for any fight."

Kovalev, and just about everyone else in boxing, is hoping "any fight" turns out to be one with Stevenson. But does the fighter who instills fear in the hearts of opponents carry his own misgivings about the possibility of seeing such a must-see bout potentially marinate for too long?

"Maybe, you know? Maybe," Kovalev said. "But if he is not crazy and I am not crazy, this fight will [happen]."

Unfortunately for the rest of us, crazier things have happened.