The light-heavyweight division will once again take center stage on HBO with the confirmation of a November 30 championship double-header featuring Adonis Stevenson vs. Tony Bellew and Sergey Kovalev vs. Ismayl Sillakh.
Stevenson has had a breakout 2013, having picked up the WBC light-heavyweight crown in a one-round blowout of Chad Dawson in June, and dominating Tavoris Cloud to a seventh round corner stoppage last month. The November 30 date will mark his third HBO appearance in five months. Bellew, who earned his shot with back to back wins over Isaac Chilemba in March and May, will be making his first U.S. and HBO appearance.
Sergey Kovalev is making the first defense of the WBO light-heavyweight strap that he lifted via a fourth TKO of previously undefeated Nathan Cleverly in August. Considered by many the most feared puncher in the division, Kovalev will be facing a fighter in Ismayl Sillakh who was held in similar regard until an upset TKO loss to Denis Grachev lst year. Since that defeat, Sillakh was won four straight with three coming via stoppages in six rounds or less.
The card will take place at the Pepsi Coliseum in Quebec City and airing in the U.S. as a HBO “Boxing After Dark” card at 10:15 p.m.
HBO is not playing about their “Epic Fall Boxing Schedule” tagline. Obviously, the goal is a unification matchup between Stevenson and Kovalev. What’s intriguing is that the two champs aren’t being given easy “setup” fights so they can look good heading into 2014. Bellew and Sillakh are tough challengers to the point upsets are not out of the question. Bellew proved his toughness and ability to adjust in the Chilemba bouts, and Sillakh has the technical boxing skill, not to the mention the range and power, to give Kovalev looks he hasn’t seen before.
Kudos to HBO for making this happen and really investing in the 175 pound division. Their work over the last few months has made Hopkins’ IBF title defense against Karo Murat seem like an afterthought.