Sergey Alexandrovich Kovalev (born April 2, 1983) is a Russian professional boxer. He is a former unified light heavyweight world champion, having held the WBA (Undisputed), IBF, and WBO titles between 2013 and 2016. The Ring magazine named him their Fighter of the Year in 2014, and in July 2016 he was ranked as the world’s best light heavyweight by The Ring and BoxRec, both of which also ranked him as the world’s third best active boxer, pound for pound. Kovalev is well known for his formidable punching power.
Kovalev started boxing in 1994 at age 11, and made his amateur debut in 1997 in the Russian Boxing Junior Championship, where he won the gold medal in the middleweight juniors division. One year later he competed with the seniors and reached the final, and a year after that, he won the final fight. For Team Russia, he competed in the European Championships.
In 2004, Kovalev for the first time took part in the Russian senior Championship, and in his first season he reached the final and also won the gold medal in the team event. The next year was the most successful in his career as an amateur in winning two titles: the first as champion of Russia and the second as champion among servicemen. In the 2006 championship for servicemen, he won the silver, and a year later, he took bronze in the Russian Championship and gold in the World Military Games in India.
In 2008, Kovalev took part in his final national competition and again made the final; after that he decided to turn professional. As he once admitted, he had to leave the national team because of the extremely tense competition between him and more successful boxers such as Artur Beterbiev. He finished his amateur career with a record of 195-18.
Kovalev started his career with a first-round KO of Daniel Chavez at Greenboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina. He won his first nine fights with first or second round knockouts. He faced more serious competition against Darnell Boone in October 2010, when he had to fight all eight rounds, and was dropped en route to a split decision win.
In July 2011, Kovalev won his first NABA belt in a 10 round fight with Douglas Otieno from Kenya. The Russian’s next bout against Grover Young was controversial, however, as in the second round, Kovalev threw a left hook to the head, but the judges suggested that it was a blow to the back of the head, and unintentional infringement. As the American could not continue, the fight was declared a technical draw.
Death of Roman Simakov
In his 2011 fight against Roman Simakov, Kovalev knocked down his opponent in the sixth round and the fight was stopped one round later and Kovalev was awarded a TKO victory. Simakov was taken to the hospital, where he lapsed into a coma and died three days later.
Rise up the ranks
In 2012, Kovalev began being trained by John David Jackson. He knocked out Darnell Boone in two rounds in a rematch, demonstrating his improvement as a fighter since their last meeting and leading him to be signed to Main Events boxing.