Sergey Kovalev (-1600) vs Vyacheslav Shabranskyy (+900), Draw (+2800)
It’s been a tough year for Sergey Kovalev (30-2-1, 26 KOs), the former WBA, IBF, and WBO light heavyweight champion. He makes his return this Saturday (November 25th) after back-to-back losses to face the little-known Vyacheslav Shabranskyy (19-1, 16 KOs). The two fighters meet at Madison Square Garden to contest the vacant WBO and IBA light heavyweight titles.
Almost exactly a year to this day, Kovalev faced Andre Ward for the first time and suffered his first professional defeat. After dominating the early rounds and landing a knock down in the second, Kovalev began to tire and allowed Ward to become the aggressor. Ward did little to threaten Kovalev, but in the eyes of the judges, it was enough to earn him the decision.
The rematch was far more decisive, with Ward out-boxing Kovalev and stopping him in eight rounds, though it was also laced with controversy. Ward landed a series of low blows and the finishing shot, which caused Kovalev to slump over the ropes and prompted the referee to call a stop to the fight, was arguably below the belt.
Feeling robbed of two consecutive title fights, Kovalev retreated back to Russia and split with his long-time trainer. Now, following the sudden retirement of Andre Ward, he’s back to reclaim his place at the top of the light heavyweight division. There are quite a few undefeated prospects rising through the ranks of the light heavyweight division — Oleksandr Gvozdyk (14-0), Artur Beterbiev (12-0), and Dmitry Bivol (12-0) just to name a few — so it’s a shame that Kovalev is making his return against an unknown fighter like Vyacheslav Shabranskyy (19-1, 16 KOs).
Shabranskyy stands at over 6’3” and will look to use his reach advantage. Like Kovalev, he’s more known for his power than his technique. He doesn’t have a fight resume comparable to Kovalev’s, though. His only opponent of note, Sullivan Barrera, finished him comfortably within seven rounds and he’s been inactive for over a year.
This fight will likely ease Kovalev back into the sport. A more technical fighter could pose a serious threat to “Krusher,” but if it’s slugger vs slugger, Kovalev will come out on top. This is a fight designed for Kovalev to win.
Pick: Sergey Kovalev (-1600)
Method of Victory
- Kovalev by KO, TKO or DQ: -400
- Kovalev by Decision: +450
- Shabranskyy by KO, TKO or DQ: +1200
- Shabranskyy by Decision: +2800
- Draw: +3300
With the line so heavily skewed towards Kovalev, there’s more value in picking the method of victory. We have two heavy hitters squaring off, so there’s a pretty slim chance that the fight goes the distance.
Kovalev has earned 26 of his 30 wins by way of knockout, and it’s likely he’ll add another to that list when he takes on Shabranskyy. Especially considering that Shabranskyy is the kind of fighter who likes to trade punches and doesn’t possess much technical finesse, the outlook isn’t looking good for him to make it the distance.
Pick: Kovalev by KO, TKO or DQ: -400
- Over 7.5: +162
- Under 7.5: -225
Simply eking out a win won’t be enough for Kovalev. In order to stage a successful return, he’ll have to score an emphatic win over a lowly fighter like Shabranskyy. If Kovalev is still the fighter we remember, that shouldn’t be too tough for him.
Kovalev has the power to easily stop a fighter like Shabranskyy in the early rounds, and I expect to him to do just that. His change of trainer and his state-of-mind after two crushing losses could diminish the former light heavyweight king, but he should still be able to get the job done this weekend.
Pick: Under 7.5: -225