Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev will meet for the second time Saturday in a fight between arguably the two best light heavyweights, but there’s a prospect on the undercard who could soon join the picture.
Actually, he’s more than just a prospect. He’s already a champion.
Dmitry Bivol, the WBA interim titlist, will make his Las Vegas debut when he faces Cedric Agnew in a 10-round bout at the Mandalay Bay Events Center during the HBO pay-per-view undercard of Ward-Kovalev.
It’s been a year of many firsts for the 26-year-old with only 10 professional fights.
Bivol, who was born in Kyrgyzstan and raised in Russia, made his American television debut in April when he knocked out Samuel Clarkson during a Showtime card.
The impressive victory quickly put Bivol on the crowded list of 175-pound contenders that features Joe Smith Jr., Sullivan Barrera, Artur Beterbiev and Oleksandr Gvozdyk.
“I wouldn’t say everything is happening too fast,” said Bivol, who defeated Felix Valera in May 2016 to win the interim belt. “I’m right where I need to be. If you look at my track record, each opponent is better than the previous.
“I’m excited to fight on this card with the best light heavyweights. I want to prove I belong here.”
Bivol isn’t ready to call out Kovalev, WBC champion Adonis Stevenson and Ward, who has the WBA, IBF and WBO titles. But he’s ready to face the second-tier 175-pounders.
The Russian native is hoping to face Nathan Cleverly, the WBA “regular” champion, at the end of the year.
But first Bivol (10-0, eight knockouts) needs to take care of business against Agnew (29-2, 15 KOs), who was knocked out by Kovalev in 2014.
“I’m not trying to do better than Sergey,” Bivol said. “I can’t think that way. I always prepare to go 12 rounds and make sure I put on a beautiful fight.”
Guillermo Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KOs) will defend his WBA junior featherweight title against Moises Flores (25-0, 17 KOs) in the co-main event of Saturday’s undercard.
Luis Arias (17-0, 8 KOs) goes up against Arif Magomedov (18-1, 11 KOs) in a 10-round middleweight match to open the PPV undercard.
Contact Gilbert Manzano at email@example.com. Follow @gmanzano24 on Twitter.
Tuesday: Erick Bone vs. Eddie Ramirez, 6 p.m., Fox Sports 1/Fox Deportes, Sam’s Town
Aug. 26: Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor, TBD, Showtime PPV, T-Mobile Arena
Sept. 16: Gennady Golovkin vs. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, 6 p.m., HBO PPV, T-Mobile Arena