There are only three things HBO has focused as far as their boxing is concerned in 2018: Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin, its Superfly series and building towards a light heavyweight title unification between Sergey Kovalev and Dmitry Bivol.
The latest step towards building that unification fight has HBO make a stop in Atlantic City, New Jersey on August 4 for a world title doubleheader featuring Kovalev and Bivol defending their titles on separate bouts.
Kovalev, the WBO light heavyweight champion, will defend his title against undefeated top contender Eleider Alvarez in the main event of the fight.
It’s been almost four years since Kovalev last fought in Atlantic City, when he defeated future Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins to unify the WBO, WBA and IBF titles. Since then, Kovalev enjoyed four consecutive win before running into Andre Ward. Kovalev suffered his first two professional losses at the hands of Ward and at that point, some had started to write off Kovalev.
After Ward retired from the sport last year, the division was for the taking as Ward’s three world titles were suddenly vacant. One of those titles landed on what was supposed to simply be Kovalev’s rebound fight against Vyacheslav Shabranskyy at Madison Square Garden. Kovalev took the overmatched Shabranskyy and made quick work of him, winning the WBO title for the second time in his career.
On his first world title defense, Kovalev would return to Madison Square Garden, where he easily dispatched challenger Igor Mikhalkin. Since then, the idea of a unification fight between Kovalev and Bivol started to appear like it would be possible down the road.
Alvarez, on the other hand, has been in title purgatory for years as he has been the mandatory challenger to Adonis Stevenson’s WBC title for many, many months. Frustrated with not getting his long overdue title opportunity, Alvarez abandoned his quest for the WBC title and signed on to be Kovalev’s next opponent.
But the thought of a unification fight between Alvarez and Bivol wouldn’t have been possible had Ward not retired. With Ward’s three world titles being suddenly vacated, Bivol, who was the WBA’s interim champion was then elevated to full world champion. With a first-round knockout win over Trent Broadhurst late last year, Bivol emerged as an immediate star in the division and was tabbed as the one to carry the division for years to come.
With wins over Broadhurst and Sullivan Barrera, Bivol is on the verge on getting a career-defining fight against Kovalev. But before that, Bivol has to face former title challenger Isaac Chilemba, Bivol’s most experienced challenger as of yet.
Chilemba’s career was in a freefall from 2015 to 2016 when he lost three straight fights to Alvarez, Kovalev and Oleksandr Gvozdyk. After not fighting for more than a year, Chilemba returned to action with a win over former title challenger Blake Caparello in March.
These two world title fights could end being an entertaining night for HBO with the end result being a potential light heavyweight unification between the young lion of the division in Bivol challenging the long-established king of the division in Kovalev.
Here's the main card: (HBO/10 p.m. ET):
- Sergey Kovalev (c) vs. Eleider Alvarez: WBO light heavyweight title
- Dmitry Bivol (c) vs. Isaac Chilemba: WBA light heavyweight title
Tale of the Tape: Kovalev vs. Alvarez
Record: 32-2-1 (28 KO)
Titles Won: NABA-USA light heavyweight, WBC-ABCO light heavyweight, WBO light heavyweight, WBA "super" light heavyweight, IBF light heavyweight, EBP light heavyweight, IBA light heavyweight titles
Notable Opponents: Andre Ward, Isaac Chilemba, Jean Pascal, Bernard Hopkins, Cedric Agnew, Nathan Cleverly, Darnell Boone
Record: 23-0 (11 KO)
Titles Won: WBC Silver light heavyweight, WBO-NABO light heavyweight, WBA-NABA light heavyweight titles
Notable Opponents: Jean Pascal, Lucian Bute, Isaac Chilemba
Tale of the Tape: Bivol vs. Chilemba
Record: 13-0 (11 KO)
Titles Won: WBC-USNBC Silver light heavyweight, WBA Intercontinental light heavyweight, WBA interim light heavyweight, WBA light heavyweight titles
Notable Opponents: Sullivan Barrera, Cedric Agnew
Record: 25-5-2 (10 KO)
Titles Won: ABU super middleweight, WBO Africa light heavyweight, WBC International light heavyweight, ABU light heavyweight, IBO super middleweight, NABF light heavyweight titles
Notable Opponents: Oleksandr Gvozdyk, Sergey Kovalev, Eleider Alvarez, Tony Bellew
Betting Odds: Kovalev vs. Alvarez (Provided By Paddy Power)
Sergey Kovalev Victory: 2/9
Eleider Alvarez Victory: 3/1
Fight Ends In A Draw: 25/1
Betting Odds: Bivol vs. Chilemba (Provided By Paddy Power)
Dmitry Bivol Victory: 1/100
Isaac Chilemba Victory: 16/1
Fight Ends In A Draw: 33/1
Fightful will provide live coverage of the HBO card live from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City.