Kovalev opens up about ring fatality
Yahoo! Sports released an exclusive short form documentary titled "Life after Death" and accompanying feature story chronicling the tragic turning point in the career of Sergey "Krusher" Kovalev, the unified WBO, WBA and IBF Light Heavyweight Champion.
On December 5, 2011, at the DIVS Sports Palace in Ekaterinburg, Russia, a then-unknown Kovalev, fighting close to his hometown Chelyabinsk, defeated Roman Simakov by technical knockout in the seventh round. Simakov fell into a coma shortly after the bout and succumbed to his injuries a few days later.
For the first (and likely last) time ever, Kovalev addresses that night, its aftermath and its impact on his career in an exclusive interview with Yahoo! Sports' Chris Mannix. The documentary and feature also include interviews with Kovalev's wife, Natalia, his manager, Egis Klimas and his former trainer, Abel Sanchez.
On Monday night, Kovalev will fight in Russia for the first time since that fateful night, and for the first time as a world champion. He will return to the DIVS Sports Palace in Ekaterinburg to defend his titles against top ten light heavyweight Isaac Chilemba of Malawi and South Africa.
Chilemba ready for showdown with Kovalev
Isaac "Golden Boy" Chilemba (24-3-2, 10 KOs) is in for the fight of his life against the world's fiercest light heavyweight Sergey Kovalev (29-0-1, 26 KOs) on July 11 in Ekaterinburg, Russia, but the 29-year old from Malawi is no stranger to fighting in enemy territory.
Chilemba grew up in Malawi, one of the world's poorest countries, but in order to make it as a professional fighter he left Malawi for South Africa.
According to Isaac, "As a professional I have never fought at home in Malawi. I have fought mostly here in South Africa which is a foreign land for me. I have also fought in the UK, Canada and the US. That has made me who I am."
This road warrior attitude has contributed to Chilemba's confidence as he prepares to fight in Kovalev's backyard.
"I love fighting in someone's home," said Chilemba. "That is where I can prove to the world that I am not just a fighter in the ring but I am fighter in my spirit and my soul. I can go to someone else's hometown and defeat them in their backyard."
For the past several years, Chilemba has trained in the United States. However, for this training camp he decided to stay in South Africa.
Isaac explained, "This is a new chapter for me. This is turning a new page. We have been chasing this dream for a long time. I came up short three times. This is not an eliminator fight. I am going straight for three world tiles. In order to win this fight, I believe I needed to be here. I needed to train here. I have all of the spirit right here. This is where it all started. I have got everything I need at my fingertips."
Chilemba is coming off a controversial majority decision loss to Eleider Alvarez in Quebec late in 2015. Many believed it could have gone either way and one judge scored the contest a draw. After the tough decision Isaac believed he would need to start over again so he was surprised when he was offered this opportunity.
"This is something that I didn't even dream of especially coming off a loss in Canada," said Chilemba. "I thought after that I was going to have to start at the bottom again and instead God blessed me with the opportunity to fight for three world championships. I thank God and my team for always believing in me and making this happen. I thank Main Events for standing up for me and never giving up on me even after a loss and still offer me such a big opportunity."
Kovalev-Chilemba Scouting Report
Puncher vs. Boxer
"The Krusher" Kovalev
"Golden Boy" Chilemba
29-0-1 (26 KOs)
24-3-2 (10 KOs)
Kovalev has solidified his position in the sport as one of its most devastating punchers. He possesses knockout power in both hands.
Chilemba is a crafty fighter with good technical skills. He is an effective counter-puncher with great endurance and strong defense. He is also very accurate and uses his jab well.
Sergey tends to leave openings in his guard allowing himself to be hit. He has been knocked down before but not hurt. He will have to pick his shots wisely in this bout when facing a good counter-striker in Chilemba.
"The Golden Boy" does not possess much punching power in either hand; he has only recorded one knockout victory since 2011. He also has a tendency to be a slow-starter in the ring, which can cost him immensely if The Krusher is able to land one early.
While Isaac has plenty of experience, Kovalev has been just as active and has been in the bigger fights throughout his career.
Isaac is very experienced and has been steadily active throughout his career.
"The Krusher" has tremendous power in both hands; he throws every punch with bad intentions and puts together very effective combinations.
Isaac is a technically skilled boxer, but lacks the initial pop that could change the momentum of the fight.
Kovalev has average speed that picks up once he smells blood and goes for the finish.
Isaac is quick on his feet. He moves around the ring well making it difficult for his opponents to connect at times.
Sergey showed the world that he can go a full 12-rounds when he earned a unanimous decision win over former titleholder and future Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins, but he has only been past 8 rounds once.
Chilemba has excellent endurance; he has gone a full 12-rounds on nine separate occasions throughout his career.
Sergey shows great accuracy with the long-range aggressive style that he utilizes. He throws very accurate and powerful body shots as well.
Isaac is a very accurate puncher who chooses his spots wisely and times his punches well. His accuracy and timing have been effective in taking his opponents out of their rhythm.
Sergey's strength is his offense, which he has established as his best defense thus far. However, his aggressive style has allowed past opposition opportunities to land shots as well.
Chilemba is a good defensive fighter who utilizes effective counter-punching skills. He exhibits impressive foot work and moves around the ring well.
Kovalev has been knocked down twice in his career, but he has risen to the occasion both times to finish the fight and earn the victory.
Isaac has never been stopped, and was able to get off the canvas to earn a win over previously unbeaten Maxim Vlasov after overcoming two knockdowns in the fight.
Sergey is an offensive fighter who likes to walk his opponents down and go for the finish. He utilizes a long-range aggressive style and does not take his foot off the gas throughout the match.
Isaac is an effective technical fighter with good counter-boxing skills. He likes to utilize his defense and a sharp jab to take his opponents out of their comfort zone.
Kovalev will compete in his backyard for only the third time in his professional career. Rather than provide his fans with a tune-up bout to improve his chances of earning a victory at home, he will instead face a fighter in Isaac Chilemba who can pose a problem for anyone in his division, and who has never been stopped.
Chilemba is coming off a controversial loss in a title-eliminator bout against current top contender Eleider Alvarez. Rather than request a tune-up bout to get back on track and polish up any mistakes from his last bout, he opted to seize an opportunity to take "The Krusher's" titles in his own backyard.
Sergey is fighting in his homeland of Russia and grew up not too far from the site of the bout. Expect a packed house all rooting for their hero.
He is in his opponent's backyard and has never competed in Russia thus far in his professional career. However, Isaac has proven he can be a road-warrior.
Check out the latest chatter in the sweet science:
Isaac "Golden Boy" Chilemba
"Now I have a shot at three world titles. I really believe God works in mysterious ways. This is my time. This is my destiny. I believe I was destined to be WBO, WBA and IBF World Champion. I want to thank the Russian people for the support and warm welcome. In my life I have been through a lot of obstacles. I stumble and fall and I know how to pick myself up. I have been through hell and made it back. Nothing can stop me."
“I think my fight with Bracero is an interesting clash of styles. We have similar styles in that we like to box and counter punch but we’re also both very familiar with each other. I’m sure he’ll have something up his sleeve for me.
Jodi Solomon - Manager of Isaac Chilemba
"Isaac and I started working together eight years ago and I was the only woman working in boxing in South Africa. As a result, most people in boxing decided I would never make it and neither would Isaac because he was working with me. In a matter of three years we proved them wrong when he won five titles during that time. I feel like now we have come full circle. For the first time in six years Isaac and I have trained in South Africa again. Again we are faced with doubters. Again we are going to prove them all wrong"
“I want to be in exciting fights. From here on in my career, I want to be great. Who better to face than Leo Santa Cruz? This is a chance to put my name down in history and become a two-weight world champion from Ireland."
"The last time I was an underdog was the Irish championships, when I was an amateur. You could have got me at 11:2, I was a massive underdog. I dropped him pretty early on, so the last time I was an underdog, a lot of people who knew me made a lot of money. It's going to be the same result this time."
“Moving up to 126 pounds was definitely the right decision for me. I’m a big puncher but I lost power coming down to 122 pounds. I’m going to be punching harder and be at my very best."
Shane McGuigan, Frampton’s Trainer
“Leo Santa Cruz is unbeaten and there aren’t really any weaknesses from my perspective. He’s a phenomenal fighter, but I don’t believe he’s fought a fighter of Carl Frampton’s caliber, as an all-around fighter."
“When he meets someone who is as good, or in my opinion, better than him, we’ll see what he’s made of. I think it’s going to make for one of the most exciting fights of the year."
Antonio Orozco, Super Lightweight Contender
"My opponent is a tremendous fighter from what I've seen, who can pull off an upset and has won against undefeated fighters before. We are putting together our relentless style of boxing and July 30 will be no exception. No one will be bored watching this fight."
Antonio Orozco to take on Abner Lopez on July 30
Antonio Orozco (24-0, 16 KOs), one of the most promising contenders in the welterweight division, will be tested as he takes on Abner Lopez (25-5, 19 KOs), a tough fighter from Tijuana known for his heavy punch and endurance in the ring.
The 10-round main event will headline an exciting night of boxing from Golden Boy Promotions' home in the Coachella Valley at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, in Indio, Calif. on Saturday, July 30, and will be televised on HBO Latino Boxing beginning at 11:30 p.m. (live ET/tape-delayed PT).
Unbeaten as a professional, Orozco has paid his dues on the way to the top, and now his only intention is to get the shot at a world championship that he's craved. Winner of the NABF junior super lightweight title in 2014, the 28-year-old has since defeated former world champions Humberto "La Zorrita" Soto and Steve "2Pound" Forbes, and hot prospect Emmanuel "Tranzformer" Taylor.
A professional since 2011, Abner "Jaeger" Lopez has been steadily climbing the welterweight ranks. Lopez has taken on tough opposition, defeating Humberto Mauro Gutierrez, Ricardo Dominguez, Jose David Mosquera, and Aik Shakhanazaryan.
Also featured in the televised co-main event of the night will be undefeated contender and former U.S. Olympian Joseph Diaz (20-0, 11 KOs), who will put his NABF Featherweight Title on the line in a 10-round featherweight fight against Victor Proa (28-1-2, 21 KOs) of Monterey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico.
Showtime to air classic Julio Cesar Chavez bouts
Widely acknowledged as the preeminent Mexican-born fighter in history, and one of the greatest prizefighters of all time, Julio Cesar Chavez will be honored as Showtime airs classic Chavez fights in continuation of its year-long celebration of its 30 years covering boxing.
The month will be highlighted by four of the incomparable Chavez’ most memorable fights – against Hector “Macho” Camacho, Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker (a disputed draw in which Whitaker appeared to thoroughly outbox the slower Chavez), the second of three fights with Frankie Randall, and the rematch with Meldrick Taylor.
All four fights will air Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT during the month of July.
For years, the revered ring legend was considered the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter. In an amazing 25-year-career (1980-2005), Chavez fought 115 times (107-6-2 with 88 knockouts). At the highest level, he competed in four weight classes – 130 pounds to 147 pounds – and was a six-time world champion in three divisions.
He holds records for the most world title successful defenses (27), most title fight victories (31), most title fights (37) and the second-most title defenses won by knockout (21, after Joe Louis with 23).
Chavez was 31-4-2 with 21 KOs in world title fights. A multiple Fighter of the Year winner, Chavez was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2011.
WBC super featherweight champion Chavez (81-0) and his WBO counterpart, Camacho, fought on Sept. 12, 1992, in Las Vegas. Chavez turned back a determined bid by “Macho” to take a unanimous 12-round decision.
Chavez had an 87-fight winning streak end when he and WBC welterweight champion Whitaker fought to a highly controversial 12-round majority draw in Sept. 10, 1993, at the Alamodome in San Antonio. One judge scored it for “Sweet Pea” by 115-113; the others had it 115-115.
Chavez was dealt his initial defeat on a 12-round split decision to nemesis Randall on Jan. 29, 1994. In the rematch the following May 7, Chavez won a razor-thin, split eight-round technical decision after the fight was stopped because of a large cut over Chavez’ eyebrow. Chavez and Randall would fight a third time, with Chavez taking the rubber match on a clear, unanimous 10-round decision on May 22, 2004.
Chavez went 2-0 against Taylor, winning by eighth-round knockout in a rematch on Sept. 17, 1994. In their initial fight four-and-a-half years earlier, Chavez rallied to win by 12th-round stoppage.
By Staff of TheDailySportsHerald.com and news services