The biggest boxing match this past weekend saw Mikey Garcia knock down Robert Easter Jr. in the third round to improve to 39-0 and unify the WBC and IBF lightweight belts. Garcia now is talking about moving up to welterweight for a mega-fight with world titlist Errol Spence Jr., who said he would welcome the challenge. Here’s a look at two fights this Saturday from Atlantic City, televised by HBO, and their respective boxing odds at MyBookie Sportsbook.
Bivol puts his WBA light heavyweight belt on the line and is a huge -7000 favorite with Chilemba at +3000. Bivol (13-0, 11 KOs), 27, of Russia, will be making his third title defense. Bivol knocked out Sullivan Barrera in the 12th round on March 3 in his last fight.
Chilemba (25-5-2, 10 KOs), 31, a native of Malawi fighting out of South Africa, is coming off a unanimous decision win over former title challenger Blake Caparello on March 16 in Australia. Chilemba, a pro since 2005, lost his only previous world title bout, a unanimous decision to Sergei Kovalev in his home country of Russia in July 2016.
Chilemba’s manager, Jodi Solomon, said he thinks Bivol’s team is probably taking Chilemba lightly, seeing him as a “stepping stone,” and that Bivol will be in for a surprise against a fighter quite different to anything he’s faced before.
“Because he (Chilemba) has got such a good record, he’s viewed as a good stepping stone. It’s good to have him on Bivol’s record,” Solomon said. “The best Bivol has been in the ring with so far is Sullivan Barrera. Isaac has been in the ring with the likes of Kovalev, Eleider Alvarez, and Tony Bellew. He’s been in the ring with most of them, and those he hasn’t been in the ring with he has sparred with… (Artur) Beterbiev and (Jean) Pascal. From my point of view, Bivol has never seen a fighter like Isaac.”
Chilemba did lose three straight before that Caparello fight, dropping decisions to Alvarez and Kovalev, plus a stoppage due to a broken hand against Oleksandr Gvozdyk. He also lost to Tony Bellew back in 2013 in a rematch, after they drew the first fight.
Sergey Kovalev vs. Eleider Alvarez
Boxing Betting Odds: Kovalev -500 / Alvarez +400
Kovalev puts his WBO light heavyweight title on the line and is a -500 favorite. Kovalev was originally to face top contender Marcus Browne, but the 2012 U.S. Olympian was arrested twice in four months over incidents with the mother of his daughter and for violating a restraining order to stay away from her. So that was scuttled.
Kovalev (32-2-1, 28 KOs) has fought three times in Atlantic City, including a 2014 victory over Bernard Hopkins in which he unified three of the four 175-pound titles. The Russian has bounced back from consecutive losses to Andre Ward to win two in a row, regaining the WBO’s version of the title.
After more than three years of waiting in vain for Adonis Stevenson, Alvarez will finally get a shot at a world title. Alvarez (23-0, 11 KOs) has been the No. 1 contender for the WBC belt but hasn’t gotten the opportunity to fight for that title, so he instead took the bout against Kovalev.
When a boxer wins a title, he is supposed to fight a mandatory bout against the top-ranked contender within a year. But for a variety of reasons Stevenson has repeatedly avoided defending his WBC belt against a mandatory challenger, leaving Alvarez to bide his time facing uncrowned opponents. Kovalev has been pushing to fight Stevenson too. He emphasized that Alvarez will be a serious challenger.
“I can say about Alvarez that I’m waiting for a very interesting fight and I am sure that it’s not going to be easy to fight Alvarez because he is undefeated and he is a number one in the WBC. [Adonis] Stevenson avoided him already like two or three times and he’s the proof that he [Stevenson] is scared. But I’m not scared of him and I’m interested to fight him and get the victory over him. Just pay attention to August 4 and be ready. I will defend my title,” Kovalev said.
Kovalev is a former unified world champion – he held titles from 2013 until 2016 until he lost a pair of bouts to now-retired Andre Ward, the only opponent so far with the defensive savvy to nullify his power. Kovalev-Alvarez is the first major fight in the one-time boxing hotbed of Atlantic City since Kovalev outpointed Bernard Hopkins to unify three belts at Boardwalk Hall in November 2014.