Sergey Kovalev retained his IBF, WBA Super and WBO World Light-Heavyweight Titles with a unanimous decision points victory over the durable Isaac Chilemba at the DIVS Arena in Ekaterinburg, Russia.
Chilemba lived up to pre-fight predictions he would prove a tricky operator as Kovalev joined the list of men who have failed to stop the Malawian.
‘Krusher’ took a measured approach, refusing to rush in and put it on the awkward challenger.
Chilemba had success off the back foot, using his reach advantage to counter the Russian with a fierce, popping jab to snap the Champion’s head back on multiple occasions.
Whilst Kovalev struggled with his distance, Chilemba continued to roll, bob and weave his way out of trouble until the seventh round where Kovalev finally made inroads.
A crushing left hook sent Chilemba sprawling to the canvass, having made the count was fortunate enough to hear the bell after an onslaught. Kovalev smelt blood for the first time in the fight.
Rather than go for the kill, Kovalev seemed to take his foot of the pedal for the subsequent next two rounds with Chilemba easing back into the contest after the knockdown, arguably taking the next two.
With the partisan home support behind him, the unified Champion aimed to become the first man to stop Chilemba but after an initial assault failed to do so.
The ‘Krusher’ took the contest 116-111, 117-110, 118-109 on the scorecards.
Whether Kovalev simply had an off night, took his eye off the ball with the proposed super-fight with Andre Ward looming or had some ill-effects of fighting in the arena which saw tragedy during his last outing, he kept his side of the bargain to bring November’s colossal showdown one step nearer.
All eyes now switch to Andre Ward who fights Alexander Brand on August 6th in Oakland, victory for the self-proclaimed “Son of God” will set up one of the biggest fights of the year.
Sergey Kovalev defends his WBA 'Super', IBF and WBO World Light-Heavyweight Titles against Isaac Chilemba on Monday 11th July in Russia.
Currently positioned in second place in the Ring Magazine’s pound for pound list, Kovalev graces BoxNation screens once more as he looks to stretch his unbeaten record to 30-0-1.
It’s a first return to Russia for ‘Krusher’ since stopping Roman Simakov back in December 2011.
The unified World Champion will have to keep his focus on Chilemba with a proposed super fight with Andre Ward looming for November.
It’s a first shot at World honours for the South African based Chilemba, who U.K fans may remember from his two fights with Tony Bellew back in 2013.
Can Kovalev become the first man to stop him? The challenger is durable and could take the Champion some rounds.
Last time out, the big punching Kovalev repeated his performance over Jean Pascal to ensure it was 2-0 in the series and onto bigger and better things.
On the flip side, Iscaac Chilemba is coming off a majority decision defeat last November against Eleider Alvarez and will be looking to bounce back with a bang.
Widely regarded as the best in the division, Kovalev will rightly be a hot favourite to retain his World Titles in front of his home fans.
This is Kovalev’s final hurdle to get over before the big Ward fight but will Chiemba spoil the party?
Watch the fight on Monday 11th July, live on BoxNation – The full running order is here.