Sergey "Krusher" Kovalev (29-0-1, 26 KOs), the WBO, WBA, and IBF Light Heavyweight World Champion, held a press conference Saturday in Los Angeles to announce that he will return to his home country of Russia to defend all three of his belts against Isaac Chilemba (24-3-2, 10 KOs) on Monday, July 11, in Ekaterinburg.
"I am so excited to fight in my home country of Russia," said Kovalev. "It gives me great pride to bring my titles home at last. Chilemba is a tough opponent and I will be ready for him on July 11."
The fight will take place on the opening night of the International Industry Trade Fair "INNOPROM-2016" at the DIVS Palace of Sports. Thus far, no television deal is in place to broadcast the fight to viewers in the United States.
"Broadcasting sports events live from certain regions of Russia can be a challenge," said Kathy Duva, CEO of Main Events and promoter of both Kovalev and Chilemba. "HBO Sports is exploring carrying the event in the U.S. It's too early to be definitive. We know they love Sergey."
Ranked as one of the top three pound-for-pound fighters in the world, Kovalev, 33, a native of Chelyabinsk, Russia, has not fought in his home country since 2011.
Sergey earned his WBO belt in 2013 when he knocked out then-undefeated champion, Nathan Cleverly, in Cleverly's backyard of Cardiff, Wales. After three consecutive successful title defenses, all knockouts, Sergey faced the legendary Bernard Hopkins in 2014 and unified his WBO belt with the WBA and IBF belts.
After his unanimous decision win over Hopkins, Krusher had three more successful title defenses, all knockouts, of his three unified belts, including two knockouts of former WBC Light Heavyweight World Champion Jean Pascal. This will be his first title defense in Russia.
The challenger, 28, Isaac Chilemba, is originally from Blantyre, Malawi, but now resides in Johannesburg, South Africa.
"I have met a lot of obstacles and every time I think I've got it right, I fall again, but I know my goals and I never stop following my dreams," said Chilemba. "When I received a call from Jodi regarding this opportunity, I was over the moon. I thank Sergey and his team for putting their titles on the line to face me, all I want to say to them is they are in for a surprise, they gave the wrong guy an opportunity."
Chilemba has quietly worked his way through the light heavyweight ranks, and in 2015 he faced Eleider Alvarez, in Alvarez's backyard, for a shot at the WBC title. Chilemba suffered a controversial majority decision loss to Alvarez in November. This fight with Kovalev offers Chilemba a chance at the other three belts, and an opportunity to vindicate that controversial loss.
"Sergey wanted a challenging opponent for his return to Russia and someone who would help him prepare for Andre Ward in November, assuming he emerges with a win," said Duva. "Isaac Chilemba has the right style and came 'this close' to becoming the WBC mandatory contender."
By Staff of TheDailySportsHerald.com and news services