Kovalev will make mandatory next


Unified light heavyweight titleholder Sergey Kovalev and his team will waste no time getting his next fight set.

On Saturday night at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Kovalev stopped former world champion Jean Pascal in the eighth round of a tremendous action fight. By Tuesday, Kovalev’s next fight was in the works.

The plan is for Kovalev (27-0-1, 24 KOs) to next face mandatory challenger Nadjib Mohammedi (37-3, 23 KOs), 30, of France, who stopped the unknown Lee Campbell in the sixth round of a stay-busy fight Saturday’s undercard.

Mohammedi had agreed to step aside in order to allow Kovalev to face Pascal before the mandatory defense, mainly because he wanted more time to work with new trainer Abel Sanchez before going into such a tough fight with Kovalev.

“Sergey is going to fight Mohammedi next,” Main Events promoter Kathy Duva, who promotes Kovalev and Mohammedi, told ESPN.com on Tuesday. “The IBF sent us letter [Monday] telling us to negotiate the fight. So I have to talk to both fighters, but that is what we are planning.”

Making a deal should not be a hassle since Duva promotes both fighters. The main thing is for Duva and HBO to figure out the date and location of the fight, which is slated to take place in June or July. HBO has already approved Mohammedi as an opponent for Kovalev, who is under contract to the network.

“They’ve been very good about it with us,” Duva said of HBO’s executives. “They understand how important it is for Sergey to keep the belts.”

Kovalev lives in Los Angeles, but Duva said it is possible that the fight could take place in his native Russia.

“We are exploring it,” she said. “It’s not out of the realm of possibility. It could be in another country, it could be in the U.S. I’ve been approached by a site in South Africa.”

If Kovalev defeats Mohammedi this summer his next target for his third fight of the year will be in the fall against champion Adonis Stevenson, whom Kovalev has wanted to fight. Kovalev, Main Events and HBO all thought they had a deal for the fight to take place last fall but Stevenson walked away from it to go to Showtime, supposedly to fight then-titleholder Bernard Hopkins. But Stevenson’s camp did not make that deal either and Kovalev faced Hopkins instead, beating him easily in November.

In an unusual move, the WBC, which sanctions the belt Stevenson holds, has made Kovalev his mandatory challenger -- even though he holds three other sanctioning body titles. That is highly unusual, but the WBC says it wants to do what it can to force the unification fight.

“The WBC will let Sergey fight his mandatory defense against Mohammedi and then after that fight they’re going to call for their champion to fight his mandatory right after Sergey’s fight in June or July,” Duva said.

Stevenson (25-1, 21 KOs) is scheduled to defend the title against former super middleweight titlist Sakio Bika (32-6-3, 21 KOs) on April 4 (CBS) in Quebec City.

“The plan is for Sergey to fight Mohammedi next and then Stevenson, or whoever holds the WBC title,” Duva said. “Sergey wants all the belts.”