Russian champs Kovalev, Bivol aim to move closer to light heavyweight showdown

AFP
Russia's Dmitry Bivol, pictured June 2017, will put his World Boxing Association 175-pound belt on the line against Isaac Chilemba, whom Bivol calls a "tricky" challenge (AFP Photo/Christian Petersen)

Russia's Dmitry Bivol, pictured June 2017, will put his World Boxing Association 175-pound belt on the line against Isaac Chilemba, whom Bivol calls a "tricky" challenge

Russia's Dmitry Bivol, pictured June 2017, will put his World Boxing Association 175-pound belt on the line against Isaac Chilemba, whom Bivol calls a "tricky" challenge (AFP Photo/Christian Petersen)

New York (AFP) - Dmitry Bivol and Sergey Kovalev share the same card at Atlantic City on Saturday, defending their light heavyweight world titles with a unification showdown between the Russians possibly looming.

Bivol, 27, puts his World Boxing Association 175-pound belt on the line against Isaac Chilemba while Kovalev defends his World Boxing Organization title against Eleider Alvarez.

Bivol impressed in his most recent fight, knocking out Sullivan Barrera in the 12th round on March 3 to improve to 13-0 with 11 wins inside the distance.

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He called Malawi's Chilemba, now trained by American Roy Jones Jr., a "tricky" challenge, noting he took Kovalev the distance in 2016.

"When I see the fight against Kovalev, Kovalev doesn't look good," Bivol said of the challenger who owns a record of 25-5-2 with 10 knockouts.

"When you fight against the best guys like Kovalev, sometimes it makes you better because you're getting the experience."

But Bivol is already anticipating tougher competition, including, possibly, Kovalev.

"The (Kovalev) fight is not that far away," Bivol said. "Boxing fans will want this fight, then if course it will happen. I think eh wants this fight. He wants this unification fight because I know people liek the best guys fighting against the best guys."

The card will be the first major boxing promotion in Atlantic City since Kovalev dominated Bernard Hopkins in November of 2014 to unify three light heavyweight world titles.

He made four successful title defenses before back-to-back defeats to Andre Ward in 2016 and 2017.

"I'm more experienced, and I'm more mature," Kovalev said of his progress since then. "I lost my mind (after the Ward defeats). But now I'm back, and I'm ready for anything on Saturday."

Kovalev, who bounced back to claim the vacant WBO light heavyweight belt with a second-round stoppage of Vyacheslav Shabranskyy in 2017, stopped Igor Mikhalkin on March 3.

He brings a record of 32-2-1 with 28 knockouts to the bout against Alvarez -- a Colombian based in Canada who boasts a record of 23-0 with 11 knockouts.

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