When Sergey Kovalev defends his WBA, WBO and IBF titles against Andre Ward on Saturday night in Las Vegas, it will be the biggest fight of the year. The winner will have three of the four belts at 175-pounds. More importantly, he will be regarded by most observers as the sport’s top pound-for-pound star.
I expect Ward to win, but I do not recommend anybody bet money based on my opinion. I can see this fight going either way. And I expect it to be close enough to justify a rematch in 2017.
But once the dust clears between Kovalev and Ward, another fight should loom on the horizon for the winner–a matchup with Adonis Stevenson, the WBC and lineal champ.
Most fans expected to see a fight between Kovalev and Stevenson way back in 2014. For both men, 2013 was a breakout year. Both Kovalev and Stevenson went 4-0 on the year, with four KOs. Kovalev claimed the WBO belt in August by demolishing Nathan Cleverly. Stevenson became the lineal and WBC champion in June of that year, when he stunned Chad Dawson with a Round 1 KO.
On November 30, 2013, Kovalev and Stevenson co-featured on a HBO card in Stevenson’s hometown of Quebec City. Kovalev demolished Ismayl Sillah. Stevenson handled tough contender Tony Bellew, who has since gone on the claim a title at cruiserweight. The entire night seemed designed to set up what promised to be 2014’s biggest fight.
But Stevenson has proven very wary of Kovalev since that night. In 2014 and 2015, Kovalev emerged as one of the sport’s biggest stars, adding two more titles to his collection in November 2014, when he defeated the legendary Bernard Hopkins.
And while Stevenson bided his time, Ward stepped into the light heavyweight division and became the much more compelling option for Kovalev. Ward is a former gold medalist, and one of the elite talents of this generation. He’s already defeated three sure-bet Hall of Famers in Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham and Carl Froch. He defeated them with ease.
The compelling thing about Kovalev vs. Ward is that both men could easily lose and both have a tremendous amount to gain.
So far, Adonis Stevenson has avoided that sort of fight. We can only wait and see if he will pursue it in 2017.