One of the most common storylines that is associated with the sport of Boxing and by extension all combat sports that most can identify with is one of a former world champion trying to re-emerge into competition after a lengthy absence. A storyline is most commonly known as “A Comeback.”
While there are certainly no shortage of comeback stories that range from highly successful to at times tragic in the sense of the outcome of a planned return, each comeback story has its own unique circumstances. In the case of former three-time World Light-Heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev, his career has seen several highs and lows that often come with a long career in the sport. In his last bout in November2019, Kovalev's third reign as a Light-Heavyweight world champion came to an end when he was knocked out by Saul “Canelo” Alvarez for the WBO world championship in eleven rounds. Since then, Kovalev has been inactive due in part to testing positive for banned substances for a second time, which derailed a planned return against Bektemir Melikuziev in January of last year. While obviously the circumstances of the ongoing global COVID-19 epidemic likely has also contributed to Kovalev’s inactivity, now at age thirty-nine he prepares for the next chapter in his career.
This chapter for Kovalev will begin on Saturday, May 14th when he faces undefeated Tervel Pulev on a Triller promoted Boxing card at The Forum in Inglewood, CA. The bout, which will be the main event of the card will be broadcast on Triller's TrillerVerz digital subscription-based streaming platform through FITE. The fight for Kovalev will also mark his debut in the Cruiserweight division.
Although the 190lb.-200lb. Cruiserweight division has traditionally been lightly regarded as it has never been thought of as a career destination for most boxers, the division has served a purpose either as a stepping stone for lack of a better term for fighters who want to test the waters before moving up to the Heavyweight division or as a fall back option either for smaller Heavyweights who feel that they may be able to compete more effectively at Cruiserweight or for Light-Heavyweights who either cannot make the 175lb. Light-Heavyweight limit or simply want to seek opportunities in a division that normally seems to lack mainstream attention. For Kovalev, his notoriety is such that if he is successful in this fight, he may be able to springboard himself right into contention for a world title shot in the division based largely on his name recognition alone.
An obvious question as this fight approaches is what does Sergey Kovalev have left to give as a fighter. In addition to a lengthy layoff, it is important to remember that much of the last decade in the Light-Heavyweight division saw Kovalev in one way or another in the role of a division cornerstone in compiling three separate reigns as a world champion over the course of that time. While a lengthy absence out of the ring might be viewed negatively by some, three of Kovalev’s four career losses including his last bout against Saul Alvarez came via knockout. Though the potential of ring rust is very real and should not be dismissed, there are times where a long layoff can allow a fighter to recuperate from not only the effects of a loss, but also the wear and tear that comes from a long career.
What does Tervel Pulev bring into this fight? The younger brother of multi-time Heavyweight world title challenger Kubrat Pulev, who will also coincidentally be fighting on the undercard, is unbeaten in sixteen professional bouts having scored knockouts in thirteen of those fights. While Pulev will be at a disadvantage when it comes to big fight experience as compared to Kovalev, the advantage at least theoretically that Pulev should have going into this encounter is that he is a natural Cruiserweight and has been more active than his opponent.
Although Sergey Kovalev will always have a Boxing style that should be respected due to it often being a style where the objective is seek and destroy, regardless of how long he has been out of competition, it will be interesting to see if Pulev attempts to impose his will on the former world champion early. While Pulev should approach Kovalev with caution at least early in the fight, he needs to find a way to establish himself as the naturally bigger fighter and cannot be awed by the occasion of fighting someone of Kovalev’s caliber.
As someone who has covered Sergey Kovalev’s career extensively through the years, my gut instinct suggests that we are likely to find out what he will bring with him into this fight sooner rather than later in the sense that he likely will not be interested in going the scheduled ten round distance. Even though it is tempting to say that a loss for Kovalev at this stage of his career could bring retirement, this observer would not feel comfortable in suggesting that at least until we see how he looks both after the lengthy layoff as well as now fighting in a new weight class. There is little doubt however, that the pressure will be on Kovalev and whether he wins or loses this fight, it might be how he performs that will determine how he will move forward in his career.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
Kovalev vs. Pulev takes place on Saturday, May 14th at The Forum in Inglewood, CA. The fight can be seen globally on digital combat sports and entertainment streaming network FITE as part of Triller’s Trillerverz digital subscription streaming platform beginning at 9PM ET/6PM PT. (U.S. Times only.) For more information about Triller, Trillerverz, and to subscribe please visit: https://www.fite.tv/join/ and click the Trillerverz Pass tab. FITE is available on mobile, tablet, and connected streaming devices/platforms/Smart TVs. For more information about FITE including schedules, list of compatible streaming devices/platforms/smart TVs, event availability in your area, local start times in your area, and for instructions on how to download the FITE app on your device of choice please visit: www.FITE.TV.
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