This Saturday, one of boxing's most dangerous KO artists is in action when Sergey Kovalev (30-2-1; 26 KO) faces Vyacheslav Shabranskyy (19-1; 16 KO). The winner will claim the vacant WBO Light Heavyweight title. The fight will air live on HBO this Saturday, November 25 with a fight time of 10:00 p.m. ET. Kovalev vs. Shabranskyy headlines a triple-header that also includes Sullivan Barrera vs. Felix Valera in another good Light Heavyweight match-up, plus Jason Sosa vs. Robinson Castellanos.
How do these two stack up?
Kovalev: 34 years old | 6'0” | 72" reach | orthodox stance
Shabranskyy: 30 years old | 6'3" | 75" reach | orthodox stance
What have these two done recently?
Kovalev: L - Andre Ward (TKO) | L - Andre Ward (UD) | W - Isaac Chilemba (UD)
Shabranskyy: W - Todd Unthank May (RTD) | W - Larry Pryor (KO) | L - Sullivan Barrera (KO)
How did these two get here?
Sergey Krusher Kovalev cut a fearsome path through the Light Heavyweight division, using his strong hands and mean streak to dominate opponents and becomes the clear king at 175 pounds. (Clear to anyone that is not Adonis Stevenson at least.) Then he met Andre Ward. Ward took a decision win over Kovalev last November in a fight most felt Kovalev should have won, then stopped the Russian in a rematch in June, though again, many felt it was unjustified due to possible low blows in the finish. Either way, Kovalev now comes in off the first losses of his career. Since the Ward loss, he has let go of his longtime trainer John David Jackson, claiming at one point that he would not have a lead trainer for this fight. He's also talked about moving up in weight to Cruiserweight. It's uncertain where Kovalev's head is at this point.
Shabranskyy is a Ukranian boxer with 5 years of pro experience. He started his career going 17-0 with his best win coming over Cuba's Yunieski Gonzalez. That run built up a reputation as a prospect worth watching. That prospect tag seems to have vanished for him. In 2016, he suffered his first loss to the skilled Sullivan Barrera, and has had two easy rebound wins since. He hasn't faced out and out terrible competition much, but he also doesn't have much in the way of impressive scalps on his resume, and his most notable step up ended with him KO'd in 7 rounds. He's a pretty dubious fighter to be competing for a world title frankly.
What can fans expect?
I don't trust Sergey Kovalev at this stage in his career, at all. He's a bully style fighter, and often when you get someone who stands up to that bully, as Ward did, the bully folds. His comments since that fight, and particularly the idea that he's blaming the losses on Jackson, only further my concern. I think the chances of us seeing Kovalev back at the top level form we saw before the Ward fights are slim. But is Shabranskyy the man to reveal those holes and upset him? Probably not - even a diminished Kovalev should be able to take this. An upset wouldn't blow my mind, but I think we see Kovalev win here and the big story Monday morning being how he did not look particularly good in victory.
Prediction: Sergey Kovalev, UD
Who should watch?
There's no UFC Saturday night, so this should be an interesting fight, just to get a read on Kovalev.