Former unified light heavyweight titleholder Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev, coming off back-to-back losses to Andre Ward in acrimonious world title fights, is returning to the ring looking to begin a new chapter of his career.
Kovalev will take on Vyacheslav Shabranskyy in a 10-round light heavyweight bout on Nov. 25 (HBO, 10 p.m. ET/PT) at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York, Main Events announced on Saturday night during HBO’s Srisaket Sor Rungvisai-Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez rematch telecast.
In November, Kovalev lost his three 175-pound world title belts and undefeated record by controversial decision to Ward and then got knocked out in the eighth round of the rematch in June.
Now he’s on the comeback trail and said the losses have made him stronger.
“I learned a lot from my fights with Andre Ward,” Kovalev said. “When you don’t win and when you suffer adversity, it makes you stronger. It also shows you who your real friends are. I feel like I cleaned out my life and now I’m ready to start fresh. I’m very excited to get back in the ring, and fight at Madison Square Garden for the first time, and I’m focused on the future. I’m not looking back.”
Before returning to the United States from a summer in Russia, Kovalev spent time at a monastery in Greece to clear his head and prepare mentally and spiritually for his return to boxing, according to Main Events.
One major change for Kovalev (30-2-1, 26 KOs), 34, a Russia native fighting out of Los Angeles, is the likely end of his association with longtime trainer John David Jackson. Their relationship was rocky going into the rematch with Ward and now appears fractured beyond repair given comments both have made. Who Kovalev’s new trainer will be is unclear.
“The Theater at Madison Square Garden is really a perfect place for Sergey to start the next chapter of his career,” Main Events CEO Kathy Duva said. “He needs to go out and remind people why they love the ‘Krusher.’ Sergey is an exciting fighter who is a pleasure to watch in the ring, and that’s what everyone is going to see on Nov. 25.”
Shabranskyy (19-1, 16 KOs), 30, a native of Ukraine fighting out of Los Angeles, is a powerful puncher like Kovalev. He has won two fights in a row since suffering a seventh-round knockout loss to contender Sullivan Barrera in December.
“I’ve been waiting for this fight a long time. I will take this chance to show everyone my abilities and qualities in the ring,” Shabranskyy said. “My coach, Manny Robles, and I have been working on movement and defense, which together with my natural power will be more than enough to defeat a great fighter such as Kovalev. I’m proud to represent USA and Ukraine at this fight.”
Said Golden Boy Promotions CEO Oscar De La Hoya, Shabranskyy’s promoter: “Vyacheslav Shabranskyy is back, and ready to prove he will do everything to climb to the top, including facing a top-level fighter such a Kovalev. Shabranskyy is stronger and smarter inside the ring, and will show off his mastered talent when he faces Sergey. We are excited to partner with Kathy Duva and the Main Events team yet again for an amazing show that will no doubt bring the action.”
While the deal is not yet finalized, the HBO co-feature is likely to be a junior lightweight fight between former world titleholder and all-action brawler Orlando Salido (44-13-4, 31 KOs), 36, of Mexico, and former featherweight world title challenger Jonathan Oquendo (27-5, 17 KOs), 34, of Puerto Rico. Salido was on hand at the Sor Rungvisai-Gonzalez rematch at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, with manager Sean Gibbons and promoter Fernando Beltran to meet with HBO in an effort to finalize his end of the fight.