If you’re watching one of the many Rocky marathons that seem to be permeating cable television at the moment, consider changing the channel to HBO on Saturday night (9:45 p.m. ET) for a look at what many are calling a real life "Ivan Drago."
Sergey Kovalev’s punching power and Russian roots may have fans recalling the fictitious Rocky IV antagonist, but even after those comparisons are taken away, the 31-year-old WBO light-heavyweight champion, who now lives and trains in Florida, still stands as one of boxing’s most exciting up-and-coming fighters.
The undefeated Kovalev has knocked out 22 of his 24 professional opponents, and in his last four fights, against fighters who had a combined two losses between them, none went past the seventh round. That makes him an avoided man. So while the boxing world waits to see if he can land a fight with Adonis Stevenson or Bernard Hopkins, Kovalev will take on his next challenger, Blake Caparello (19-0-1, 6 KOs) of Australia.
"It is not my problem," Kovalev said of people avoiding him. "I have a fight with an opponent who is ready and my job is to win that fight and after that, I’ll fight whoever’s ready, but Blake Caparello is ready to fight."
Caparello may not have big power, but he does have some qualities that could allow him to hang around in the fight.
"He’s undefeated and he’s a very good opponent," Kovalev said. "He’s tall, he’s 6-foot-1, and he’s a southpaw."
To prepare for the fight, Kovalev sparred lengthy southpaws. He also had a taste of that in his last bout with Cedric Agnew, who tried to show a different look to Kovalev, which allowed him to last the longest of Kovalev’s last seven opponents.
"Cedric tried to surprise me, but I knew he was right handed, but he turned southpaw," Kovalev said. "For me, it doesn’t matter if he’s right handed or left landed and it’s a fight and I have two hands and my opponent has two hands. That fight got me a little bit more experience in looking for places to punch."
Knockout punchers never want to predict knockouts. Fellow KO-artist Gennady Golovkin did not want to predict a knockout last weekend, but promptly went out and stopped Daniel Geale in the third round. Kovalev is taking the same approach.
"I don’t want to say what my expectations are. I just want the world to see a good fight and I want to make it a really good fight," Kovalev said.
The percentages say that good fight likely ends in a Kovalev knockout.