On Saturday, June 11, at DIVS in Ekaterinburg, Russia, WBA/IBF/WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (29-0-1,26 KOs) the knockout artist from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, by way of Kopeysk, Russia, defends his titles against Isaac “Golden Boy” Chilemba (24-3-2, 10 KOs), from Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa, way of Blantyre, Malawi.
If the past is any indication, Kovalev may be indestructible. While Krusher waits for WBC champion Adonis Stevenson to fish or cut bait, Chilemba thinks he’s in the right place at the right time and on the cusp of making history.
“I believe Kovalev is a hard-working fighter,” he said recently. “There is no such thing as an easy fight. I believe Kovalev worked hard to get where he is. I don’t think he would say any of his opponents weren’t tough. He has never fought me or someone like him though. This will be a very different fight for Kovalev.”
Krusher has crushed every man he has faced. Some opponents were little known and others marquee fighters and they all met the same fate. But among those fates none was more dramatic, and none more finite, than the tragedy that befell Roman Simikov in 2011 at the same venue.
“Whatever happened at that time is not what’s going to happen now,” said Chilemba. “The pressure is on Kovalev. He will be fighting in his hometown where he hasn’t fought in a long time. My focus is on him. My mind is on him only.”
Chilemba is no pushover. Punching one’s way from Malawi to Russia is no easy task. His lack of power is a liability, but he believes his last fight, a disputed majority decision loss to undefeated Eleider Alvarez in November, is less a drawback than a springboard.
“I have gained a lot experience from a lot of hard-fought fights in hometowns of my opponents,” he said. “I am working on Kovalev. I am going to give him hell and not leave it in the judges’ hands. Everyone expects it to be an easy fight for him. I have come short fighting for the WBC title but maybe this is where I was meant to be.
“I was disappointed after my fight with Alvarez. When I got the call that this fight was offered you can’t believe the joy that came over me. I knew I would get another chance to fight a tough opponent. I have been praying hard and I thank God that I finally got the opportunity.”
The fight with Chilemba is a homecoming for Kovalev. He knows it. The Russians know it. Chilemba knows it.
“I believe the pressure is on him,” Chilemba said. “He is fighting at home. He needs to show his home people what he is made of. I am happy to go to fight anyone, anywhere, in their backyard, in their own house, I don’t care. I will give a show. I am gunning for a win. I don’t care where we are fighting. I don’t care what Kovalev is made of. We know his weaknesses and we know his strengths. I am going to beat him in his own town.”
Others have predicted a Kovalev loss and had their predictions fall short when it mattered. But Chilemba is as confident as they come.
“I believe in myself,” he said. “I believe in my abilities as a fighter. Coming in I am not worried about anything else. Every mistake I have made in my personal life and my boxing life has made me stronger. I am confident. I will be ready. I am where I am meant to be. I am going to show the world who I am and what I am made of. I believe I am the antidote to Kovalev. I am walking into this fight with only a few people believing in me. I am going to show the world Kovalev is not invincible. He is not God. He is a man just like me. I will be the man to crush the Krusher.”
This article was penned by the author who is not related to the WBA and the statements, expressions or opinions referenced herein are that of the author alone and not the WBA.