Due to the surprise announcement that leading IBF light heavyweight contender Karo Murat was forced to pull out of his mandatory July bout with IBF Champion Bernard Hopkins due to visa problems, the winner of tonight's clash between Sergey Kovalev and Cornelius White on NBC Sports Network Fight Night (8 p.m. Eastern) will immediately become the mandatory challenger for Hopkins' title.
"This pushes up the timetable considerably," said promoter Kathy Duva. "Both Kovalev and White accepted this fight knowing that a win would ensure them a title shot. Now, it appears, the winner will likely fight for the title in his next bout. What was already a compelling match just got a lot more interesting and significant."
These are exciting times in the light heavyweight division. Following Adonis Stevenson's spectacular one-punch knockout of longtime champion Chad Dawson there is much speculation about what is to come. One of the deepest divisions in boxing, light heavyweight should provide plenty of action in the coming months.
In addition to the explosive Stevenson, the cream of the light heavyweight crop includes the ageless Hopkins, Nathan Cleverly, Beibut Shumenov, Karo Murat, Tony Bellew, Jean Pascal, Lucien Bute, Tavoris Cloud and newcomer Andrej Fonfara. In addition, there is speculation that Super Middleweight kingpin Andre Ward may eventually move up to 175, as might the UK's crowd pleasing Carl Froch.
The winner of tonight's bout on the NBC Sports Network Fight Night will now be assured a world title fight in the not too distant future and instantly become a member of this elite group of light heavies.
"I remember when light heavyweight was considered one of boxing's glamour divisions," promoter Kathy Duva of Main Events said. "During the 70's and early 80's the division featured a virtual "hall of fame," beginning with Bob Foster and moving on through John Conteh, Marvin Johnson, Matthew Saad Muhammad, Dwight Muhammad Qawi and Michael Spinks. Personally, I will never forget witnessing 1980's 'fight of the year' between Saad Muhammad and Yaqui Lopez from ringside."
Duva stated, "There is so much talent concentrated in this division right now. I believe this is the most exciting group to emerge on the light heavyweight scene since the 70's." She added, "Tonight's NBC Sports Network fight will only add to the buzz!"