Sergey Kovalev’s cruiserweight debut is almost set.
BoxingScene.com has confirmed that representatives for Kovalev and Meng Fanlong have almost completed a deal for them to fight March 12 at an undetermined venue. Trill Fight Club will offer the Kovalev-Fanlong fight as a main event.
Russia’s Kovalev (34-4-1, 29 KOs), a former light heavyweight champion, and China’s Fanlong (17-0, 10 KOs), a light heavyweight contender, have agreed to meet at a catch weight of 185 pounds. Boxing’s cruiser weight limit is 200 pounds.
ESPN.com’s Mike Coppinger first reported the news of the Kovalev-Fanlong fight on Twitter.
Kovalev hasn’t fought since Canelo Alvarez knocked him out in the 11th round of their WBO light heavyweight title fight in November 2019 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The Alvarez-Kovalev fight was very competitive prior to Alvarez’s vicious knockout, but Kovalev’s career has stalled since he earned a reported $12 million for fighting the Mexican superstar.
The 38-year-old former champion was supposed to box then-unbeaten Uzbekistan native Bektemir Melikuziev (8-1, 6 KOs) last January 30 in a DAZN main event. Kovalev was removed from that bout because he tested positive for synthetic testosterone, a banned substance.
Kovalev’s removal from that bout caused a contract dispute with Golden Boy Promotions, which owed Kovalev at least one fight after he lost to Alvarez as part of Oscar De La Hoya’s company’s distribution deal with DAZN. An arbitrator could rule on the Golden Boy-Kovalev issue sometime next month.
The 33-year-old Fanlong, meanwhile, has tried to land a high-profile fight since the COVID-19 pandemic cost the 2012 Olympian a shot at unbeaten IBF/WBC light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev. The Beterbiev-Fanlong fight was scheduled for March 2020 at Videotron Center in Quebec City, Canada.
Fanlong was the IBF’s mandatory challenger for Beterbiev’s belt. Pandemic-related restrictions prohibited the southpaw from traveling to Russia for their rescheduled bout.
Germany’s Adam Deines, who lost a 12-round IBF elimination match to Fanlong by unanimous decision in June 2019, replaced him as Beterbiev’s mandatory challenger. Beterbiev (17-0, 17 KOs) stopped Deines (20-2-1, 11 KOs) in the 10th round last March 20 at Khodynka Ice Palace in Moscow.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.