Light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev, the Russian puncher who hasn't let an opponent escape the fourth round in six consecutive fights, will make his second defense when he meets Cedric Agnew on March 29 at the Adrian Phillips Ballroom at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., Main Events announced Tuesday.
"I am excited to be back on HBO and for my first fight at Boardwalk Hall," Kovalev said. "I promise to put on an exciting show."
Agnew (26-0, 13 KOs), a 27-year-old from Chicago, is not a well-known contender but owns wins against former title challenger Yusaf Mack, Daniel Judah and Otis Griffin.
"I'm thrilled that Cedric Agnew stepped up to fight Sergey," Main Events chief executive Kathy Duva said. "For an undefeated young fighter to take a fight that it seems no one else wants, that really says a lot about him. I'm sure he'll be prepared come fight night and Kovalev will have a tough challenge in front of him."
Said Agnew, "I think, as of now, [Kovalev] has not seen a person of my skill level. At the end of the day you have to fight world champions to be a world champion and be considered the best. He's a world champion. I am looking to be considered one of the best."
Agnew is filled with confidence, but the fight is supposed to be the next step toward a fall showdown between Kovalev and lineal 175-pound world champion Adonis Stevenson, who is due to headline his own HBO card in May in Montreal, probably against Chicago-based Poland native Andrzej Fonfara (25-2, 15 KOs).
If Kovalev, (23-0-1, 21 KOs), 30, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Stevenson (23-1, 20 KOs), 36, of Montreal, win their bouts they are supposed to meet in September in Montreal in a fight that would match two of boxing's most devastating punchers as well as crown the division king.
Main Events, Stevenson promoter Yvon Michel and HBO have been working on a deal for the fight, although it is not done yet.
"We do not discuss contracts," HBO Sports president Ken Hershman said in a statement given to ESPN.com. "A dream matchup of Stevenson versus Kovalev is a fight that the fans want. It's a fight that all of us at HBO want. It's a fight that the two fighters have said they want, and the battleships are pointed in that direction. But right now both men are facing tough tests in the spring and nobody should be looking past those fights."
Kovalev, 30, stormed to his title victory on Aug. 17 when he traveled to Nathan Cleverly's home country of Wales and wrecked him. Kovalev scored two knockdowns and stopped him in the fourth round. Kovalev made his first title defense on Nov. 30 in Quebec City and scored a blistering second-round knockout of Ismayl Sillakh on the undercard of Stevenson's sixth-round destruction of mandatory challenger Tony Bellew.
Since then, Stevenson and Kovalev have been on a collision course. But first things first.
"We're thrilled that we're able to bring Sergey to Atlantic City, where we have been so successful in the past," said Duva, who promoted the late Arturo Gatti, the last major draw in Atlantic City. "You can't miss a second of a Kovalev fight. There's so much tension in the ring. You're almost guaranteed to see an incredible knockout."