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Sergey Kovalev vs Bektemir Melikuziev set for Jan. 30 in Russia

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Kovalev was set to face Sullivan Barrera in April before COVID intervened

WBO light heavyweight title bout in Las Vegas: Canelo Alvarez vs Sergey Kovalev Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images

Now here’s a crossroads fight I didn’t see coming.

Mike Coppinger reports that former light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev will face blue-chip super middleweight prospect Bektemir Melikuziev in a 178-pound catchweight bout on January 30th. “Bek the Bully” steps in for Sullivan Barrera, who was slated to face Kovalev in April but whom Coppinger reports was unable to make it to Russia.

Kovalev (34-4-1, 29 KO) has not fought since losing his WBO title to Canelo Alvarez in destructive fashion last November. His only fights in 2020 have come outside the ring, as he was arrested for DUI in February and recently plead guilty to assault for a January 2019 incident, receiving three months’ probation.

Uzbekistan’s Melikuziev (6-0, 5 KO), a 2016 Olympic silver medalist and two-time world championship medalist, has looked like a monster since joining the pro ranks in June of last year. Only the durable Vaughn Alexander has lasted the distance, and even Clay Collard went down in four. That said, this is a monumental step up in competition to go along with the step up in weight; even with his recent struggles, Kovalev still beat some of the best 175ers in the world and kept pace with Canelo for 10 rounds. Melikuziev’s handlers must be extremely confident in their young charge.

Unfortunately for viewers, this will have some competition, as Artur Beterbiev takes on Adam Deines that same day. Let’s hope the two cards are at least somewhat staggered.