With the mammoth undisputed heavyweight title showdown between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk just weeks away, the undercard is beginning to come together, and one name has come out of the blue as a former world champion who makes his return to the ring.
ESPN’s Mike Coppinger has revealed that 2014 Fighter of the Year and former WBA, WBO & IBF light-heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev is set to make a sensational return to the sport, at the age of 40, where he will fight in the cruiserweight division against an unbeaten opponent in Sweden’s Robin Safar (16-0).
Sergey Kovalev will return Feb. 17 in Riyadh on the Fury-Usyk undercard, sources told ESPN. Kovalev will meet undefeated Swede Robin Safar in a cruiserweight bout. Kovalev, 40, will be fighting for the first time since May 2022 and the second time since Canelo brutally KOed him.
— Mike Coppinger (@MikeCoppinger) January 9, 2024
This won’t be Kovalev’s first foray at the weight, having fought and defeated Tervel Pulev (16-0), brother of heavyweight title contender Kubrat, in May 2022 in his lone outing since losing to Canelo Alvarez in 2019.
Fans have already began to speculate on how serious he takes his comeback and whether he can make a bid to becoming a two-division world champion during 2024.
‘The Krusher’ is best remembered for his run as 175lb champion between 2013-2016, defeating Nathan Cleverly for the WBO crown, before unifying the belts against Bernard Hopkins and twice knocking out Jean Pascal during his eight successful title defences.
However, Kovalev’s reign came to an end when he fought the legendary Andre Ward in 2016 and lost a razor-close decision before being knocked out for the first time in their rematch.
Although the Russian managed to regain the title on two more occasions, first knocking out Vyacheslav Shabranskyy for the vacant WBO belt before avenging a loss to Eleider Alvarez in 2019.
31-year-old Safar is not ranked in the top fifteen by any of the four sanctioning bodies, so Kovalev will likely be hopeful of this bout being a kick-starter for bigger fights and opportunities in the 200lb division in the future.