Sergey Kovalev Looks Forward to Another Big Year in Boxing and in Life
January 16, 2015
Photo Credit, David Spagnolo
By Vladimir Lik, OpeningRound.com Contributor
It was a whirlwind 2014 for the WBO, WBA and IBF Light Heavyweight World Champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev 26-0-1 (23 KOs). Named by Sports Illustrated and USA Today as their fighter of the year, Kovalev won all 3 of his fights last year including a career defining win against future hall of famer Bernard “The Alien” Hopkins.
Add to that was the birth of his child, a baby boy born October 20th while Kovalev was waist deep preparing for the biggest fight of his career against Hopkins. Kovalev only first met his new son after dominating Hopkins over 12 rounds and doing what very few could, which is give the wily veteran a boxing lesson.
As Kovalev prepares to travel to Montreal, Canada on March 14th to defend his title against Jean Pascal live on HBO, I spent a few a minutes with the champ as we talked about his upcoming fight, his arch rival Adonis Stevenson and is upbringing in Russia.
Who is Sergey Kovalev?
Well, Sergey Kovalev is actually just a regular guy from Chelyabinsk in Russia. I am from an industrial part of the city where people work very hard. I grew up on the streets but I slept at home.
Tell us about your upbringing and what that was like?
Some of my memories were eating lots of sweets. When it was the USSR My parents were able to spoil us with ice cream and candy. Once the Soviet Union collapsed life became more difficult for us. My mother got a job at a factory which provided for us a place to live. Everyone who worked at the factory had a room for their family. It was not an apartment. we could not say this belonged to us. It was just 2 rooms for the 4 of us and we had to share a kitchen with other families. That was government subsidized housing. I did everything I could to help my family from selling newspapers in the street to washing people’s cars.
When did you first know you wanted to be a fighter?
I knew I wanted to be a boxer when I was dreaming for a better life. I was 12 years old and realized that if I was going to make this a career I needed to train hard and work my butt off. I knew that if I succeeded in boxing that it would give me the life I wanted. I just needed to get there.
If you were not a boxer what do you think you would be doing?
I don’t know what I would do without boxing because boxing gave me everything I have. Boxing opened up doors and a lot of opportunities to travel and meet good people and it continues to give me all these opportunities and blessings to live a good life and provide for my family. I just had a son. Boxing will give me the opportunity to have more kids and take care of them.
You were once a member of the Russian Army. Tell us what that experience was like.
I was in the Russian Army and served mostly in the tanks on the army base. I was competing as a boxer inside the army so I spent my time boxing and training. I represented the Russian Army in Boxing. I only served one year because I had a college degree so I was able to leave but if it was during wartime they would have been able to call me back at any time.
Tell me about your education in Russia?
I completed my degree in a sports education. I specialized in the theory of different styles of boxing. I studied physical culture at the Uralsky Institute and completed their highest level. After school I went on to represent the Russian Army around the world as a boxer and was finally getting paid some money.
What are the differences between fighting in Russia and America?
It’s better in America of course. Th media coverage is more and the fans here take it more seriously. It’s exciting here. It’s an event. Plus the money is here.
Who is part of your team?
My team is the best. My manager is Egis Klimas. He believed in me first and foremost and gave me money from his own pocket before I was getting paid to fight. My promoter is Kathy Duva and Main Events and they are like my family. My trainer is John David Jackson. He is a very, very good coach. I am truly lucky to have this team.
If you can describe your fighting style in 3 words, what would they be?
Aggressive, tricky & calculated.
Any music you’re listening to now and while you train?
I listen to what the DJs play in clubs. I like Trans and House music.
If you can choose a ring walk song what would it be?
I used to walk out to whatever they played. It was after my 10th pro fight I started choosing my own music. Now I walk out to a Russian band called Smislovie Gallyucinacil and the song Vecho Molodoy (Forever Young). I always thought it was a popular song but now in Russian they associate this song with me and my name (he says while laughing).
Congratulations again on defeating Bernard Hopkins. Did any part of the fight
Hopkins was very careful the whole fight. I could tell he was planning something so I had to respect him and be cautious. He could of given up after the 5th round when I hurt him and he saw he could not hurt me, but he was trying to plan something. I give him credit for tolerating the pain.
Which fighter past or present would you want to fight and why?
Roy Jones…not today (he said with a big laugh). I would have fought him when we were both in our prime. That would have been a classic I think.
You are on the verge of cleaning out the Light Heavyweight division. Would you ever move up to heavyweight?
No. We have no plans to that especially if I weigh what I weigh today. I won’t go to heavyweight just for a title. It has to make sense.
Tell us about your next fight with Jean Pascal and what type of challenge he poses.
Jean Pascal is a good fighter. He fought a lot good fighters and is very experienced. I don’t know what type of challenger he will be. This is boxing. Anything can happen. I think we will be okay and we can handle anything he brings but we will have to wait and see.
How do you feel about being the champion but having to fight Jean Pascal in his native Canada?
I fought in Canada too. It is okay because I am the champion and the champion should be able to go anywhere. I don’t mind. I trust my promoter. They said we have choice 1 which is Jean Pascal and choice 2 is Jean Pascal and choice 3 is Jean Pascal. I said okay let’s fight Pascal (laughing).
Why are you the best Light Heavyweight in the world and not Adonis Stevenson?
I cannot explain why I am better. It’s not for me to say. You can make an opinion because you can watch us and decide better from the outside. I will say Stevenson did not deserve to win Ring Magazine fighter of the year in 2013. He beat Chad Dawson with one punch and maybe it was a lucky punch. Do you see him celebrate when he wins? I bet he is as shocked as we are (laughing).
What about his left hook?
That’s all he has. (shaking his head and laughing)