Even before former unified light heavyweight world titleholder Sergey Kovalev lost for the second time in a row to Andre Ward in June, it was quite clear all was not well between the fighter and longtime trainer John David Jackson.
Once Ward knocked Kovalev out in the eighth round, the writing was on the wall. The relationship was fractured, and Jackson was let go.
On Friday, a few weeks after Kovalev’s next fight was scheduled, he formally announced whom he has hired to be his chief cornerman: Abror Tursunpulatov.
Kovalev’s announcement of his new trainer came one day after the WBO agreed to sanction his fight with Vyacheslav Shabranskyy, which will take place Nov. 25 in the main event of an HBO-televised tripleheader (10 p.m. ET/PT) at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York, for the 175-pound world title that Ward vacated upon his retirement in September.
Kovalev has been in training in Big Bear Lake, California, for the fight but without a head trainer. Now he has one in Tursunpulatov, whom he met when his promotional company, Krusher Promotions, signed Russian middleweight Bakhram Murtazaliev, who is trained by Tursunpulatov.
Tursunpulatov’s most noteworthy fighter other than Kovalev is junior welterweight prospect Fazliddin Gaibnazarov, who won a 2016 Olympic gold medal for Uzbekistan.
Kovalev initially introduced Tursunpulatov with little fanfare, posting a photo earlier this week on Instagram including the message, “I’m presenting you my coaches, Aleksandr Sedov for physical training, and boxing coach Abror Tursunpulatov. I feel very comfortable to be working together and preparing for Kovalev vs. Shabranskyy at MSG in New York City. Hope our connection will bring us new success for my boxing career.”
Kovalev (30-2-1, 26 KOs), 34, a Russia native living in Los Angeles, won a light heavyweight world title with Jackson in his corner when he knocked out Nathan Cleverly in the fourth round in 2013. With Jackson, Kovalev made eight successful defenses, including unifying three world titles, and shot up the pound-for-pound rankings before the losses to Ward.
In recent fights, the strained relationship between Kovalev and Jackson was not a secret, and the tension between them was obvious during the promotion for both Ward fights.
Egis Klimas, Kovalev’s manager, said he was pleased that Kovalev has settled on a new trainer and is excited about the pick heading into the vacant title fight with Shabranskyy (19-1, 16 KOs), 30, a native of Ukraine fighting out of Los Angeles.
“I’m just happy that Sergey found someone who can train him, and I’m happy that Sergey is listening to somebody, which means a lot because I believe the trainer needs to have the respect from the fighter and it can’t be the other way,” Klimas said. “If fighter goes to the trainer and tells him what to do, he’s not the trainer. The trainer needs to tell the fighter what should be done.
“Abror is a real trainer. He’s not a showman going for the camera and getting into the press talking about it. He’s just helping Sergey to get him into better shape and to get him ready for boxing. And he reminds Sergey of his old trainer from the beginning in Russia, especially because Sergey wants to hear Russian language spoken in his corner. That is important to him.”
Jackson did not speak Russian, although Kovalev speaks and understands English.