“After this fight, my attitude towards boxing completely changed. For me it became more than just a sport. This is all very serious.”—Natalia Kovalev
WBA Undisputed light heavyweight champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (29-0-1, 26 KOs), the knockout artist from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, by way of Kopeysk, Russia, is unlike other fighters. It’s not just his power and unbeaten record that set him apart. It’s that he killed a man in the ring and appeared to take it in stride.
We know the public Kovalev, the strong, silent Russian, the stoic Kovalev.
The private Kovalev was a mystery—until now.
Courtesy a Yahoo Sports Documentary called “Life After Death: The Toughest Fight For Sergey Kovalev,” Kovalev opens up about the 2011 fight against Roman Simakov at the DIVS Sports Palace in Ekaterinburg, Russia (to which Kovalev returns Monday night in his fight with Isaac Chilemba on HBO). Kovalev was little-known when he fought Simikov, who was a rising star.
That was about to change.
Kovalev TKO’d Simikov in the seventh round. Simakov fell into a coma and died a few days later.
Kovalev had never gone public with his feelings about the fight. It remains a touchy subject. Simikov’s family still wants to press charges. Kovalev has been questioned by the police. He has been called a heartless killer, among other things. It has been a nightmare. But unlike fellow champions Ezzard Charles, Emile Griffith, and Ray Mancini, fighters who also killed men in the ring, Kovalev stayed true to his fighting self.
He took some time off. He had to decide if he should keep fighting. When Kovalev returned, it was as if the Simikov fight had never happened.
He resumed knocking guys out.
“This is sport,” said Kovalev. “This is not war.”
Kovalev doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve. But his promoter, Kathy Duva of Main Events, wanted to share the private side of Kovalev and assembled a topnotch team, headed by Yahoo Sports’ Chris Mannix, to set the record straight. Kovalev is given an opportunity, as are his wife Natalia, his manager Egis Klimas, and his former trainer Abel Sanchez to talk about that cold December night in Ekaterinburg, Russia.
Sergey Kovalev vs. Isaac Chilemba will be televised in the United States on Monday night at 10:15 p.m. ET/PT (same day tape-delayed) on HBO.