Kathy Duva, CEO of Main Events: Welcome everyone to the Kovalev-Shabranskyy International Media Conference Call. Thank you to all the media who have dialed in to this call today to discuss the upcoming fight for the vacant WBO Light Heavyweight Title. This tasty Thanksgiving weekend boxing event is sure to thrill fans and will air on HBO World Championship Boxing® live from The Theater at Madison Square Garden on Sat., Nov. 25 at 10:00 PM Eastern and Pacific Time. The fight is presented by Main Events and Krusher Promotions in association with Golden Boy Promotions.
Sergey Kovalev, former unified light heavyweight world champion: Yes, I’m really good. My training camp is going really good, like always, and I’m happy to work right now with my new coach Arbor Tursunpulatov. He’s doing a great job and we understand each other because we speak and understand one language. We understand each other and I feel comfortable.
Question: Sergey, can you describe what it was like for you to put the losses to Andre Ward behind you? This is like a new beginning for your career. Can you talk about that?
SK: All life is like a lesson for me. After my last three fights, some felt that I should get more physically into my work life with my boxing again. But right now, I feel all bad things are gone from my mind. Right now I concentrate, and I focus for the future of my boxing career. I’m ready to be again a world champion and collect my belts if somebody will be ready to unify the title.
Question: Sergey, when this fight was made with Shabranskyy you did not know it was going to be for the title. Andre Ward hadn’t retired, I don’t believe, when this fight was put together and you were going to go in and fight him to get back in action, score a win and get back on track. Can you tell me what it was like for you, as far as how excited you were that when you found out that it was going to be for one of the titles that Andre vacated when he retired? That you’d have a chance to regain one of your belts in your first fight coming off of a defeat?
SK: My next fight without the belt was going to be discouraging, because I must come back.(It) should be very exciting. I’m really excited and ready to get my belts back. It would be really interesting and really exciting, and I would fight anybody.
I was ready to fight Sullivan Barrera, but he didn’t approve the fight and we got Vyacheslav Shabranskyy. And, after this, Andre Ward vacated the title; it’s additional motivation. It’s like the most important (in) how my future boxing career is going to be. I’m really happy that this fight will be for the title and for the WBO, because this was the first title that I had already., But now this is like a new chapter in my boxing career. I am recharged. I am much stronger than last three fights and you will see November 25 in New York.
Question: Kathy, you’ve promoted a lot of fighters over the years. I just wanted your philosophy about what to do when you have a top-notch fighter, like Sergey Kovalev, and they have the situation where they lost a fight, lost maybe a second fight and your philosophy on how you go about bringing them back to prominence once again? What is your thought process when you meet with the fighter’s manager to put him back in a position to get him back on top?
KD: The first fight, I will say for the rest of my life, he didn’t lose. The second one, he was fighting the referee and the fighter, but he lost to the number one fighter in the world. That’s not coming back. You don’t fall too far when you’re that close with a guy who is that good. Ward has a style that is just very, very hard to beat, especially when he’s getting help.
My feeling about this is that Sergey is must-see TV. Sergey is still one of the most compelling, exciting fighters in the world. Having lost a debatable decision or a debatable stoppage shouldn’t really derail somebody’s career all that much. And as things turned out, Sergey is in a position right now to, not only be right back on top, but to be right back on top of one of the most exciting and perhaps the deepest division in boxing.
In my mind, you know, you hit the reset button. That’s what we did here. Sergey started out from absolutely nothing and in a few short years made it all the way to the top of the sport. I don’t know why everybody thinks he can’t do it again. He doesn’t have far to climb this time and it’s very nice the way the thing is starting to play itself out. You have exciting young fighters winning world titles in the division now. He’s going literally back to where we began with the WBO. He wins that belt first and I’ve already been hearing that some of the other champions want to fight him.
We’ve got some terrific fights to look forward to. I think, let’s put it behind us and move on. These are going to be exciting fights. This is an exciting division. I commend Sergey for reaching for that brass ring and fighting someone he really didn’t have to fight to try to grab that mantle of greatness. I think he got it, in essence, because he did it.
In this day and age, there are very few fighters who are going to go win a world title, put their titles on the line against absolutely everyone, one right after another and come right back and start doing it again. To me, this is a little interruption and we’re just moving forward now.
Question: Do you think all this leads, Kathy, to Sergey fighting the eventual winner of Bivol and Barrera?
KD: Of course. If he wants to win his belt back, he’s going to have to do that. If the Bivol-Barrera fight gets done. We’ve had talks. It is certainly makeable, but it is by no means a foregone conclusion at this point.
Question: Sergey, from a tactical standpoint, there were some things that were mentioned during the Ward fight, and I know you’re saying that you want to move on and you guys have hit the reset button. I agree, you don’t fall far off of the map or the ladder when you take a loss to another world champion. But just from a tactical standpoint, what are some of the things that you took away from the two fights with Ward that you may or may not have seen as things that you could work on moving forward now that you’ve hit the reset button?
SK: The most important thing in my boxing career that I should do during all my time here in America till I finish my boxing career: when I’m doing boxing, I should do boxing. Not another business or a lot of flights to come back and forth to Russia to spend free time. Because when I’m in Russia, I don’t have the time like for locals and doing the boxing. Just a lot of meetings, a lot of businesses, a lot of wrong things. I mean.not sport at all. But right now, I’m here in America, and started a new chapter in my boxing career.
Question: You think it was more or less you were having distractions from outside of the ring being in Russia with family and other businesses. Here in America you’re able to focus 110% on boxing. But then, once you are 110% zoned in here in America, with your training, what are some of the things that you’re doing inside of the gym? Or are you just getting back to the basics and working hard and going back to the things that got you all the way to where you currently are? Is there anything different outside of the training?
SK: By being in the U.S., I am a more disciplined fighter. All the traveling that I did, changing the time zones, doing the non-boxing business, it was hard for me to get back into the tip-top condition before my fight. When I do too much traveling and when in other businesses, I’m not 100% focused. By staying in the U.S., I would have been disciplined all the time. That’s what’s going to help me to have that reset button and to get to my next title fight.
Question: Kathy, do you see many big challenges for Sergey Kovalev at 175?
KD: Oh yes. My Lord, they’re just lining up. You saw Dimitry Bivol the other night, certainly, announce his rival very emphatically. You’ve got Artur Beterbiev, there’s that grudge match that hasn’t happened yet that certainly is still on the horizon between Sergey and Beterbiev. Particularly if Beterbiev is successful in his title fight that’s coming up shortly. You’ve got Sullivan Barrera who’s going to be on this card. He’s got Felix Valera who’s going to be fighting him in, we think, maybe the sleeper fight of the night. Of course, Gvozdyk, who is also managed by Egis Klimas is another one. You’ve got Eleider Alvarez who I’m hearing isn’t getting a title fight. So, who knows? Maybe he’ll arrive and, you never know, if that WBC titleholder ever grows a pair, we may see him some day. There are so many good fights in this division.
If you think about it, Dimitry Bivol is in his 20s. He is the only one, actually, who is in his 20s. The rest of these guys are in their 30s. There’s going to be a whole crop of new fighters coming up right behind them. I do mean it when I say I think this is the deepest division in boxing. I think it is.
Question: Sergey, with these names: Alvarez, Stevenson, Bivol, all the guys, do you feel that you are the main guy? You are the strongest guy in 175?
SK: Take your time. Let’s just see what will happen after next year. Right now I have a focus on my next fight and I do not say that I’m the best. But I want to be the best. And I already have proved a lot of things to myself and to lot of people, to the boxing fans, that I can be the best. But the three last fights, it was something is wrong with me. Next fight and next year I will show everything, who I am. But take your time. I’m working on it.
KD: That will be so much fun finding out.
Question: Sergey, I was just wondering if your upcoming opponent, if his style is going to offer you any problems, his movement and his defensive boxing?
SK: If I will be in the best shape and right now, everything is going very good with my training camp and I’m feeling very good and I hope that everything will be much better than the last fight, you know.. If I will be in the best shape, not any problem against Shabranskyy or anybody.
Question: Our Commander in Chief, Donald Trump, we are trying to get him to come to Bellator and he’s expressed some interest in fight sports. Will he have to buy a ticket or will there be a VIP pass if he wish to attend?
KD: [laughing] I’ll probably make him buy a ticket because the last time I made a deal with him, he didn’t pay us the whole amount of money he owed us. So he’s going to have to buy a lot of tickets before we make up that 2.6 mil.
Question: Do you think Sergey’s opponent can offer him any problems or present any challenges?
KD: Of course. Every time a fighter like Sergey has to take the next step in his journey, learn to deal with the loss, move on from it, the next opponent is obviously going to present a problem. Shabranskyy is a great big puncher and this is boxing, anything can happen. I know Sergey is taking this very seriously and putting 100% into it. Because you’ve got to do that every time when you’re in there with a world-class fighter, which is what he’s going be in with on November 25th.
KD: I would like to mention our undercard fight with Sullivan Barrera and Felix Valera. I think Eric can talk a little bit about the other undercard fight, which is terrific. It’s always a pleasure to deal with our friends at Golden Boy. It really does make this job a lot more fun when you actually genuinely like the people you’re working with. Welcome, Eric. Good to have you.
Eric Gomez, Golden Boy Promotions: Thank you, Kathy. The feeling is mutual over here at Golden Boy. Good morning to everybody as it is still morning on the West Coast. Happy to be on this call and obviously very happy for this fight for Vyacheslav Shabranskyy. We call him Slava for short. This is going to be a great card on November 25th. As Kathy mentioned, we have one of our fighters in the co-feature and that’s Yuriorkis Gamboa, who is going to be making a comeback fight on HBO. He’s got a tough fight against Jason Sosa and we’re looking forward to that. But we’re very happy for Slava. He’s finally getting an opportunity to fight for the world title. And obviously, he’s fighting the best light heavyweight out there in Sergey Kovalev. He has demonstrated to all of us at Golden Boy that he’s prepared for this fight. This is going to be a tough challenge, but he’s up for it.
Let me give you a little background on Slava. He made his professional debut back in 2012. He had 17 straight victories, 14 KOs. The only blemish on his record was a hard-fought fight against Sullivan Barrera, but he’s bounced back since and he’s had a couple of great wins.
He’s the current WBC USNBC Light Heavyweight Champion. This is his chance at stardom. If he can beat a guy like Sergey Kovalev, he’s going to be considered probably one of the top light heavyweights in the world.
Vyacheslav Shabranskyy: Training camp is doing good. I’m so happy for our preparation. Thank you very much, yeah. Everything is great.
Question: Slava, this is obviously such a big opportunity for you. Do you think that Sergey’s style of always coming forward and your style of classic boxing, does his style play perfectly into yours?
VS: I think we have a different style. It will be a more interesting fight because my style is a background Ukrainian amateur, plus Mexican here. So, I know what Kovalev’s style is like. I know his Russian background is strong and now he’s here. I think it will be interesting fight there for everybody.
Question: Are you afraid of his power at all?
VS: No, I’m not scared of nobody. Hey, bro, I have a wife and two kids. I’m scared of nobody. [Laughs]
Question: I asked Sergey if he did anything differently in this training camp since the Andre Ward losses as far as from a tactical standpoint. It seemed like he was having some trouble with the inside fighting. I know you said you have your amateur background and you also mentioned you like to apply Mexican style. Is that something that we can look forward to as far as your game plan? Can we look forward to the two of you banging on the inside, because it seemed as though there still might be some questions out there for Sergey as far as taking it to the body and then also the inside fighting.
VS: You never know how a fight is coming, but I believe it’ll be like good fight. I’ll bring everything what I know from Ukraine here but don’t want to give away too much, yeah.
Question: Eric, the other fight that you had mentioned, the Gamboa-Sosa fight, can you tell us a little bit about that? Because I know Gamboa, was announced yesterday as the replacement. Can you just talk a little bit about that fight?
EG: Robinson Castellanos was the original opponent that was going to fight Jason Sosa and he injured himself. He injured his back. This actually happened last week. He injured his back and the doctor gave him a few days off. He came back to training and he still had a lot of discomfort. And it looks now like he might have some surgery on his knee that was causing the pain. It trickled up from the knee to his back. He’s going to be out for a while, Robinson Castellanos. Gamboa came back after losing to Castellanos. He came back and he had a win and he was available. Gamboa is a former three-time world champion. He’s still very tough and he was able to come right in and replace Castellanos for the fight. I think it’s going to be a very good fight.
Question: Vyacheslav, do you feel that you are coming in a better moment than Sergey Kovalev after two victories?
VS: Everything will be in the ring, so, we will see our situation in the ring. Both guys are coming into this ring bringing everything that they have on the line and, just because I have two consecutive wins after unfortunate loss, doesn’t mean anything. So, both guys are probably in the same position as of now.
Question: Eric, do you see this division, 175, as one of the most interesting in boxing right now, and what do you think, like Kathy said, about Barrera, Stevenson, Bivol, Kovalev, these guys. How do you see the 175 category?
EG: No, it is. It’s one of the best divisions in boxing, obviously, when you have one of the top pound for pound fighters, Andre Ward, fighting in that division. He just recently retired, but for a long time it’s one of the best divisions. When you have a star like Sergey, who pretty much put the division on the map. A few years back, some of the top fighters were fighting there. Bernard Hopkins obviously spent the last part of his career fighting at light heavyweight. And ever since then it’s been very exciting. There’s many good fighters in that division, and you’ve got to give it to Kovalev. He’s probably the top guy there now with the retirement. It’s a very hot division and there’s many good a match as they can take place in this division and November 25th is one of the matches.
Question: Vyacheslav, I was just wondering what you thought of the Kovalev-Ward fight, the second fight in particular. Do you see vulnerabilities in Kovalev that maybe you hadn’t seen before?
VS: Ward did his homework, A+. I am prepared to see Kovalev in a different light for this fight because I am 100% sure that I learned a great lesson from what happened to him.
Question: What lessons did he learn from that fight?
VS: Ward made necessary adjustments. I am going to do my homework for this one. I am sure I am prepared for anything.
Question: Does Slava feel that Kovalev is maybe more vulnerable now than he was before, now that he’s been stopped in a fight and has lost? A lot of people thought he won the first fight, but now that he’s lost two fights in a row?
VS: He’s actually much more dangerous after a loss, because he has everything to look forward to in this fight.
Question: How does Slava view this opportunity for himself, being that he was stopped by Barrera in the big fight last December? How does he view this fight for himself in terms of making himself a world champion and thrusting himself into huge fights in the light heavyweight division?
VS: Up to this point every single fight, I treat it like a championship fight. And for this fight, I had no idea the belt would be on the line. And now that the belt is on the line, I am blessed to have this opportunity.
Question: Eric, I was just wondering if you could comment on the fight and what you think of Kovalev at this stage as opposed to before he fought Andre Ward twice and what are Shabranskyy’s chances of winning this fight?
EG: I can make the argument that Kovalev won the first fight with Andre Ward. That was a very, very close fight. I felt he won that fight. He made some technical errors in the second fight. I think he’s still the top guy. He’s still the top guy, especially now that Andre Ward retired. It’s going to be a very tough fight, but the key is Shabranskyy has been waiting for this fight his whole life. This is the opportunity. This is what he’s wanted ever since he signed with Golden Boy. He wanted the opportunity to fight one of the top guys, to fight for the title. Is he going to rise to the occasion? That’s the question. That’s the question. He’s doing everything right in camp. He’s looking great. Talking to his trainer he’s doing everything that he’s supposed to. He’s motivated. We’re going to have to wait and see November 25th.
Question: Eric, what do you think that he learned from the Barrera fight? Obviously, he had knocked Barrera down in the fight and then got knocked out himself. What do you think he learned from that and how has that made him a different fighter?
EG: To work a little bit more on his defense and you can’t just walk into a fighter. You got to come behind a jab and work on his head movement a little bit more. Those are some of the things that he’s been working on in the gym and I think that those are going to be beneficial. When you’re fighting a guy like Kovalev, he probably has one of the best jabs in boxing. He’s so long and he uses it so well. Slava has his work cut out for him. He’s going to have to get past that jab so he can be able to get on the inside and do some work.
Question: Eric, you mentioned the Gamboa fight. Can you comment on the opportunity that Yuriorkis is getting here coming off the tough loss and everything? What this chance means for him in his career and maybe being able to salvage his career here?
EG: This is probably like his last chance. This is do-or-die for him. And that’s the way he’s taking it. This is do-or-die. He’s still very exciting. He’s one of the most exciting fighters in boxing. He can bang. He can punch. He can box. He can move. He might not have the same hand speed he did when he was a little younger, when he first came on the scene, but he’s going to fight tooth and nail in this fight. This is going to be a great fight because his back is against the wall. And in order to get more paydays or be considered in title fights, he’s going to have to win this fight. Jason Sosa in many ways he’s in the same position as him. They make for great fights when you have two guys that are fighting for their future, and they want to stay at this elite level. I’m looking forward to a great fight.
EG: I just want to thank everybody that was on the call. Thank you very much, Kathy. I am looking forward to this great event, November 25th.
VS: Thank you guys, thank you everybody. I’m so excited for this fight here. See you on November 25th.
Kovalev vs. Shabranskyy is a 12-round fight for the vacant WBO Light Heavyweight World Title promoted by Main Events and Krusher Promotions in association with Golden Boy Promotions. Barrera vs. Valera is a 10-round light heavyweight fight promoted by Main Events in Association with Shuan Boxing Promotions. Gamboa vs. Sosa is a 10-round super featherweight fight promoted by Golden Boy Promotions in association with Peltz Boxing and ZR Entertainment. The event will take place on Nov. 25 at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City, and will be televised live on HBO World Championship Boxing beginning at 10 p.m. ET/PT.