Photo Credit – (@PremierBoxingChampions)
Boxing is a sport epitomized as the emotions of two men, larger than life, locking horns in a blood fueled encounter. Bringing entertainment to many, but the same ‘many’ associate the sport with nothing less than heavyweight fighters.
Boxing has long surpassed the ideologies of welterweight and heavyweight being the glamour divisions, and I will be embarking on a break down of each division in the foreseeable future. Starting with an in-depth article on the exciting and underrated, maybe even unacknowledged, light-heavyweight division.
On the forefront of boxing, you see the success, you see the victories and you see the belts. You are however kept in the dark as to the journeys these people have wondered on their path to success, many stemming from the amateurs.
Photo Credit – (@HBO)
Sergey Kovalev – Former unified WBO, WBA & IBF Light Heavyweight Champion 30-1-1 (26ko’s)
Number one on my list of light heavyweight fighters is Sergey Kovalev. Of course due to the recent controversial super fight of 2016, he cannot be ranked as number 1 when he suffered his first loss to Andre Ward.
He was however the winner on my scorecard, so for that reason I would place him at the top of the pecking order. Sergey Kovalev’s boxing style is one of the most exciting and entertaining to watch, besides Gennady Golovkin there isn’t quite anyone that possesses the ability to destruct someone with both hands.
Born out of the Soviet Union, Krusher Kovalev started boxing at age 11. He had won gold medals at numerous youth world championships before turning pro in 2009. In 2011 Kovalev took part in his 18th professional fight against Roman Simakov.
Sergey dominated Simakov for the majority of the fight, knocking him down in the 6th and then ordering the referee to stop the fight a round later. Simakov fell into a coma and died three days later. Kovalev has often donates large portions of his purses to the family of Simakov.
Kovalev won his first world title in 2013, knocking out Nathan Cleverley in the champions back yard. Within 4 rounds, the fight was over and Kovalev was the new man in town, hunting down fellow world champion Bernard Hopkins.
In 2014 was Kovalev’s career defining fight. He finally got the chance to face Hopkins and a one-sided destructive victory saw him become the new unified champion, walking away with the IBF and WBA Super titles.
Sergey then made 4 back to back defenses of his titles and lined himself up a mouth-watering fight with former pound for pound star Andre Ward at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, losing the fight in a very controversial unanimous decision.
Photo Credit – (@Sportsnet)
Adonis Stevenson – WBC Light Heavyweight Champion 28-1 (23ko’s)
39-year-old Haitian born fighter Adonis Stevenson, residing in Quebec, Canada is an extremely frustrating fighter to follow. He had an impressive number of wins as he retained his title back to back, but has drifted away from the front of the 175lbs division.
By the age of 14 Stevenson was living on the streets, gang culture and violent crimes led him down a self-destructive path, seeing him serve an 18 month prison sentence in his early twenties for managing prostitutes and assault. He also put a fellow inmate in a coma after an assault inside.
After suffering his first and only professional loss back in 2010 to gatekeeper Darnell Boone, Stevenson rebuilt himself into one of the divisions hottest names, demonstrating his ruthless power whilst doing so.
He became the WBC, Ring and Lineal champion in June 2013 by knocking out Chad Dawson in unexpected fashion, a first round stoppage secured him a place among the world-class talent.
He has since blasted through all the opposition that has stepped in his way, more memorable to UK fans is the plastering he gave Tony Bellew, knocking him out in round 6.
Whilst Russian professional Sergey Kovalev was planting his seed as the divisions most dangerous man, Stevenson was fading away fast as the level of opposition he was facing was incredibly questionable. Himself and Kovalev were set to face at one point, but politics behind the TV rights made the fight fall through.
Photo Credit – (@SkySports)
Andre Ward – IBF, WBO & WBA Light Heavyweight Champion 31-0 (15ko’s)
The current king of the division is Andre Ward, a topic left in the dark as his meeting with Kovalev was left unclear as to who the real number one really is. Ward is however undeniably one of the most stylish and talented fighters in the world at the moment.
Ward was born in into a troubled family, his two parents were both drug addicts and he often referred to a side of his father he didn’t like growing up. His dad would walk into his room, and come out a man who Ward didn’t want to be around.
He later realised his dad was going into that certain room to take Heroin, whilst his mother was off living a life of struggle and drug use, his dad was trying to hold the family together. Aged 9 Ward went to his first boxing gym where he met Virgil Hunter.
Hunter then went on to become Ward’s godfather, and took him in when problems arose and his father sadly passed. Hunter is still his trainer now, and is the mastermind behind Ward’s astonishing career, being undefeated in both the professional ranks and amateur ranks since the age of 13.
Ward won the gold medal at light heavyweight at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and turned professional shortly after. In 2009 with a record of 20-0 he faced Mikkel Kessler.
Winning by a technical decision after Kessler sustained cuts from an accidental head clash, Ward went on to become the king of the super middleweight division. He then went on to win the ‘Super Six’ tournament in 2011. Carl Froch, Arthur Abraham and Glen Johnson also took part.
Ward then continued to rule the roost at 168lbs, before moving up and challenging at light heavyweight, beating Sullivan Barrera by unanimous decision. He then fought Alexander Brand and was granted the shot at Kovalev later on in the year, which he went on to win.
There was an immediate rematch clause put in place for Kovalev and Ward if Kovalev lost the bout, which he did. The fight is in uproar at the moment as Ward continues to hint at a possible retirement.
Photo Credit – (@SkySports)
Joe Smith Jr – WBC International Light Heavyweight Champion 23-1 (19ko’s)
The fairytale continues for fan favourite Joe Smith Jr as he continues to cause back to back upsets. The 27th year old recently became the first person to knockout hall of fame fighter Bernard Hopkins.
In 2016 he went up against Andrzej Fonfara, an experienced veteran in the game. Smith Jr entered the fight as the underdog and scored a first round knockout, finishing Fonfara in just 2 minutes.
52-year-old Bernard Hopkins then announced he would be retiring from boxing after a 30 year career, and he would be ending his time in the ring against Joe Smith Jr. The pair faced in December 2016, Smith Jr coming in the underdog once again.
In the 8th round, Joe Smith Jr caught Hopkins with a flurry of immaculate punches in the corner of the ring, he then caught Hopkins flush with a shot that sent the 52-year-old outside the ring, and left with a damaged ankle.
The fight was waved off and despite Hopkins claims that he was pushed and it should be a no contest, the slow motion replay showed it was a punch that did the damage, and Smith Jr was awarded the TKO victory.
The day after his victory against Hopkins, Smith Jr was pictured back working on site with a hard-hat and a high vis vest on. He is rumored to be next in line to face WBC champion Adonis Stevenson.
Photo Credit – (@BoxingNewsOnline.Net)
Artur Beterbiev – 11-0 (11ko’s)
One of the ones to watch in the division is Russian fighter Artur Beterbiev. The 32-year-old won gold in both the 2006 and 2010 European championships, and gold at the 2009 World championships.
A very close and competitive rivalry with stable mate Sergey Kovalev forced Kovalev to embark on a professional career whilst Beterbiev continued to fly the flag for Russia in the amateurs.
In all of Beterbiev’s 11 professional fights, he has never gone past the 7th round and is an extremely exciting and dangerous fighter. He resides in Quebec, Canada similar to Adonis Stevenson.
The 32-year-old will face Sullivan Barrera on 21st April 2017 in Miami in a very fun fight to watch. Barrera has only lost once at the hands of Andre Ward, and is still a top class fighter.
Photo Credit – (@SkySports)
Oleksandr Gvozdyk – NABF Light Heavyweight Champion 12-0 (10ko’s)
Gvozdyk is another amateur champion boxer, winning bronze at light heavyweight in the 2012 Oympic games in London for Ukraine.
He is another fighter with extreme power in a very hot and competitive division, and a recent career best win against Isaac Chilemba bought him some serious exposure. Four months prior to that fight, Chilemba took Sergey Kovalev the distance.
He will be facing Yunieski Gonzalez on April 8th, in Maryland United States. Gonzalez has a record of 18-2 (14ko’s) and is expected to be a solid test for Gvozdyk. Providing the Ukrainian comes through his next bout, he will be in among the top fighters chasing the belts.
Photo Credit – (@RoundByRoundBoxing)
Eleider Alvarez – 21-0 (10ko’s)
Colombian born fighter Eleider Alvarez won the gold medal in the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio. He has since gone on to become a promising prospect in the 175bs division and is this weekend facing former super middleweight world champion Lucian Bute.
Photo Credit – (@SkySports)
Nathan Cleverly – WBA Regular Light Heavyweight Champion – 30-3 (16ko’s)
Welshman Nathan Cleverly has been around the block for years, and despite being a name that seems to have lasted for a while, he is still only 30 years old. A two-time world champion, he has to be considered among the crop of the world-class fighters.
Cleverley suffered his first professional loss to Sergey Kovalev in 2013, loosing his WBO title. Two back to back wins then set him up for his rematch with Tony Bellew, one of pay per views biggest nightmare memories.
He went on to lose again when he faced Andrzej Fonfara but bounced back in 2016 with a win over Jurgen Brahmer, winning the WBA Regular title after Brahmer didn’t make it out his corner in-between rounds.
As he is the holder of the WBA regular belt, he has the right to exercise a mandatory shot at the Super belt, held by Andre Ward.
Photo Credit – (@BoxBetting)
As exciting as this division is, it’s still on hold until the rematch between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev goes ahead as all the belts are tied up in-between the pair.
We do however expect an incredible 2017 for the light heavyweight division!