Light Heavyweight Division Puzzle Almost Solved

Kovalev gets second straight win in Garden ring. Credit: Main Events

By Rich Mancuso/Sports Editor
The puzzle in this mix of a highly contested light heavyweight title picture was partly answered Saturday night at The Theatre at Madison Square Garden. Wins and title defenses by Dmitry Bivol and Sergey Kovalev were convincing as they retained their WBA and WBO titles, respectively, and now promoters at Main Events will decide next steps.
Bivol, the No. 2 contender took every round but the 10th before stopping the tough challenge of Sullivan Barrera. For Kovalev, it seemed easy as he also took every round but one before cuts forced referee Steve Willis to put an end to the bout at 2:25 of the seventh round.

Bivol goes for finish against Sullivan Barrera. Credit: Main Events

Now the question to be answered at some point about completing the puzzle with a title unification bout that could lead to a showdown between Kovalev and Bivol. And with Andre Ward — a recently retired two-time champion who defeated Kovalev twice — hinting about a comeback, the division could get even more complicated. Last November, Kovalev regained the WBO title with a convincing second round stoppage over Vyacheslav Shabranskyy at the Garden.

So where is this puzzle headed with two of the premiere light heavyweights in the division? Moreso would a Kovalev and Bivol unification bout be the one that boxing fans buy and have that appeal?

Sergey Kovalev on way to defending WBO light heavyweight title. Credit: Main Events

Kovalev said after his convincing win, “ I am always looking for the big fight.” That could be with Bivol who is attempting to take his style for that appeal outside of St. Petersburg Russia. Main Events has a working agreement with the Garden and Biviol-Kovalev could be the headline there as soon as September.

Again, that requires selling fight fans on the match-up but last night neither fighter did anything to convince fans that they would be a mega fight.

Bivol, 13-0, 11 K0s, after a successful amateur career was cut over the right eye in the second round and that did not hinder his effort. Barrera got his title shot and felt the opportunity was better against Bivol and bypassed Kovalev.

Either way, the puzzle will soon be solved. It’s a matter of unifying the titles and neither winner hinted what was next.

“I’ve got the goods to be the best light heavyweight in the world,” Bivol said. “But I got a lot of work to do to be the best in the division. I have to fight the best to prove I am the best in the division.”

Kovalev was only talking about fighting with the best, more so for the lucrative purse that has appeal. “This was better work than the last fight for sure,” he said “I don’t think about that right now,” he said about another possible meeting with Ward.
So where does this puzzle go to determine who reigns as the best light heavyweight? Based on the outcomes at the Garden that will still be determined. But for now, and with Andre Ward the retired fighter it remains a Kovalev-Bivol fight to determine where this division is headed.

Comment Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso

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