WBO light-heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev is hoping to earn more titles to his boxing resume' by the end of the year.
Before he can pursue fellow champs Adonis Stevenson (WBC) and Bernard Hopkins (IBF), however, he will need to get past unbeaten challenger Cedric Agnew on March 29 at Boardwalk Hall's Adrian Phillips Ballroom in Atlantic City and on HBO's "Boxing After Dark.".
"Last year in my division, the best boxer was Stevenson," Kovalev said Thursday in a conference call. "Which means I need to beat him. But I have a big wish to win my next fight. I am ready for any fight in my division."
Kovalev (23-0-1, 21 KOs), a 30-year-old native of Russia now living in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is considered the best 175-pounder in some boxing circles. He went 4-0 last year and none of his bouts lasted past the fourth round. He is 7-0 with seven knockouts/TKOs since settling for a second-round technical draw against unheralded Grover Young at the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, Calif., in 2011.
Kovalev won the WBO crown with a fourth-round TKO over then-undefeated Nathan Cleverly last Aug. 17, then defended it with a second-round knockout over Ismayl Sillah on Nov. 30.
"We are beyond excited to make this fight official," Main Events president Kathy Duva said. "Sergey is must-see television and Cedric (26-0, 13 KOs) is a young fighter testing his skills against a champion. This is exactly the kind of fight we should be putting on."
"No matter what we will see a sensational performance from Sergey, but he has to stay focused. His style is so exciting and electrifying, but I can't say the outcome is preordained. The real challenge is not to get distracted by fights that are not scheduled yet."
Agnew, a 27-year-old from Chicago, is ranked 15th by the WBO, though hasn't faced many top fighters aside from a 12-round, unanimous decision over former contender Yusaf Mack last April. Only nine of his 26 opponents had winning records at the time he fought them, according to boxrec.com.
Yet, Agnew didn't seem too concerned about taking a major step up in competition.
"I think (Kovalev) is a decent fighter, but I don't see anything spectacular coming from him," Agnew said. "In my personal opinion, I think think he is just ordinary. This is a great fight for us. We wouldn't have taken it if we didn't think we would win. He can be hurt just like anyone else."
Vineland junior-middleweight Ismael Garcia (5-0, 3 KOs) is scheduled to be on the undercard against New York resident Dushane Crooks (6-0, 4 KOs). Atlantic City super-middleweight Rafael Jastrzebski is slated to fight Paterson's Michael Mitchell (2-3-2). Mitchell is coming off a four-round, unanimous decision loss to Egg Harbor Township's Gabriel Pham (6-0, 2 KOs) last month at Golden Nugget Atlantic Cityi. ... Tickets range from $26 to $152 and are available at Boardwalk Hall, host Caesars Atlantic City, Main Events and through Ticketmaster. ... Doors to the ballroom open at 6:30 with the first undercard bout slated for 7 p.m. HBO will start its broadcast at 10 p.m.