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HBO Boxing ‘Kovalev vs. Shabranskyy’ Preview

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HBO Boxing’s four week run of show kicks off at the small room at Madison Square Garden, where Sergey Kovalev (30-2-1, 28 KOs) looks to bounce back from his two losses to Andre Ward against Ukrainian prospect Vyacheslav Shabranskyy (17-1, 15 KOs).

Kovalev has a new trainer, a new strength and conditioning program, and reportedly a whole new mindset, and will need all of that against Shabranskyy, a 6’3 light heavyweight who can punch and is riding a two-fight winning streak. This match will be the vacant WBO light heavyweight title, and the winner could be in line for some big fights down the road.

The co-main event will feature another 175-pound matchup as Cuban Sullivan Barrera (20-1, 14 KOs) taking on former interim WBA light heavyweight champion Felix Valera (15-1, 13 KOs) of the Dominican Republic.

Barrera has won three in a row since being dominated by Andre Ward in March 2016, including stopping Shabranskyy last December and outpointing Bernard Hopkins conqueror Joe Smith Jr in July. Valera was served up in just his thirteenth pro fight to Russian veteran Stanislav Kashtanov, but he somewhere came out of Russian with a split decision and an interim title, but was dominated by Dmitri Bivol in his next fight. He has won two fights against low-level opposition in DR since. These are two guys who can punch and don’t like each other very much, so there should be something to this one.

The opener will be former WBA junior lightweight champ Jason Sosa (20-2-4, 15 KOs) facing Yuriorkis Gamboa (27-2, 17 KOs). Sosa is an honest they come battler from New Jersey who gave it everything he could against Vasyl Lomachenko, but couldn’t touch the Ukrainian wonder. Gamboa is an Olympic Gold Medalist and four-time former world champion who was once one of the best in the sport, but poor career decisions and long layoffs have ruined his career, as was evidenced when he was stopped by Robinson Castellanos in May. He has one win since and is taking this fight on short notice, but Sosa should be sturdy and powerful enough to resist whatever Gamboa has left.

image credit – HBO

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