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Sergey Kovalev: Mikhalkin is dangerous, I have to be ready

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Sergey Kovalev isn’t listening to those who say Igor Mikhalkin is an easy opponent.

Sergey Kovalev v Vyacheslav Shabranskyy Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

WBO light heavyweight titleholder Sergey Kovalev is expected to retain his title on Saturday when he faces Igor Mikhalkin in the HBO main event from Madison Square Garden, but he says he’s not taking his fellow Russian lightly.

“I am hearing how everyone is saying how Mikhalkin is going to be easy, but we’ll see. I know just one thing -- he’s very motivated right now. He never fought for a real world title and right now he is very motivated. Maybe, his whole life, he has been waiting for this moment. He comes here, and he is very dangerous because it is a great opportunity for his future boxing career and I should be ready for everything he can bring against me.

”I don’t like to make any predictions. Only one thing I can say is this fight will be an interesting fight because it’s two Russians, and two motivated fighters.”

Kovalev (31-2-1, 27 KO) returned in November with a thrashing of Vyacheslav Shabranskyy, after two controversial losses to Andre Ward. He picked up the vacant belt — given up when Ward retired — with that win, and is now back at the top of the heap at 175 pounds.

Mikhalkin (21-1, 9 KO) isn’t really seen as a top contender, but Kovalev may have something bigger if he’s successful. In Saturday’s HBO co-feature, Dmitry Bivol (12-0, 10 KO) faces Sullivan Barrera (21-1, 14 KO) in a matchup of top contenders, with Bivol defending the WBA “world” title. Kovalev against the winner of that fight would be an appetizing matchup for this summer.