Sergey Kovalev Begins A “New Chapter”

Going into his light heavyweight title defense against Igor Mikhalkin Saturday night, Sergey Kovalev’s recent losses to Andre Ward are at the center of the narrative. Sure, he rebounded against Vyacheslav Shabranskyy to capture the vacant WBO and IBA titles in November, but Kovalev himself is making it clear that this is a “new chapter” in his career.

“You know, I’m happy for everything that I have,” he told FIGHT SPORTS. “What’s happened, has happened. What happened has made me better, and it’s in the past. What has happened with me, it’s a lesson for life. God sent me this test, the Ward fights … It left big questions. I understand for myself now, the main thing that I should do is maintain my body and my boxing career.”

At 35, maintaining his body comes down to changes in his training. Before, Kovalev was a full-time fighter, training year-round. This deep into his career, though, there’s less of a need for that, less of a need to spend that much time in the gym to pick up new skills.

“Between the fights before this point, before the losses, I didn’t use any boxing gym, I didn’t do any workouts,” he said. “I spent the time with my family, with my friends, and just two months before the fight, I started working. It’s not right. But I was young, younger. Right now, I am a little bit older, and right now, my body should be maintained everyday. Day by day, building my best shape for my next fights.”

Laughing, he added that this consisted of “Less parties, more workouts.”

That doesn’t mean he can’t still unwind, though. He just needs to do it in a way that’s more conducive to a professional athlete in a training camp for a prize fight. “On my day off, I go to the sauna, I have a spa day,” he explained. “For me, like a spa day is relaxing – a message, therapies, also I have a big lunch with my family if they are not very far from my training camp. Right now, they are very far, in Florida. Then I go to the sauna, spend 1-1/2 or 2 hours, drinking tea, speaking with each other, relax and go back.”

Kovalev’s coaches are also a keeping an eye on what they can do for him as he changes his preparation, in particular making sure that not only does he not over-train to keep his weight down while preparing for his fights, but that he doesn’t worry about it.

“I don’t spend my energy to build a plan for my training, my training camp,” explained the champion. “Just – I wake, I do what my coach says, and I follow his instructions – when to work out, when not to work out, when to rest, and it’s good for me. I don’t spend the time doing – Right now, more energy is saved, spending it on workouts, and I save it for the fights.”

It looked like it paid off in November: Kovalev’s second round knockout win was his quickest in over three years.

“I’m motivated for the new chapter in my boxing career,” he added in an interview with the New York Post before Wednesday’s press conference. “I showed in the last fight I’m back, I’m clear mentally and ready to achieve my goals. What happened, happened for a reason. The next chapter will be much more interesting for me and boxing fans. I have new energy.”

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