Light heavyweight contender Isaac Chilemba and up-and-comer Oleksandr Gvozdyk will meet in a scheduled 10-rounder in one of the HBO PPV undercard bouts on the Sergey Kovalev-Andre Ward card on Nov. 19 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Main Events announced on Thursday.
While Kovalev (30-0-1, 26 KOs) will defend his three 175-pound world title belts against former super middleweight world champion Ward (30-0, 15 KOs) in the main event, the Chilemba-Gvozdyk winner will be angling for a shot at the belts.
Chilemba (24-4-2, 10 KOs), 29, of Malawi and based in South Africa, had a crack at Kovalev in his last bout, getting knocked down in the seventh round but going the 12-round distance in a decision loss to one of boxing's most powerful punchers on July 11 in Ekaterinburg, Russia, near Kovalev's hometown. It was Chilemba's second loss in a row but his previous defeat, a 12-round majority decision to Eleider Alvarez 10 months ago in a title eliminator was controversial with many believing Chilemba deserved the nod.
Chilemba said he will train for Gvozdyk with former pound-for-pound king and former light heavyweight champion Roy Jones Jr.
"Oleksandr Gvozdyk, with a good amateur background, is highly rated and undefeated as a pro. I'm going to work with my idol, the person I look up to most, Roy Jones Jr.," Chilemba said. "This is a huge opportunity for me to train with him, learn from him, and have him in my corner. Not only is he the greatest, but he cares and has love for the game. I'm looking forward to getting back in the ring, and completing what I should have done in my fight against Kovalev, but 10 times better than ever."
Said Jones: "Isaac is a very exciting fighter with a lot of upside. I am very excited to be training him and be part of his team now. I look forward to seeing much bigger and better things from him in the future. He is fighting a very good opponent so we look forward to this challenge. I can't wait to start to work with him."
The 29-year-old Gvozdyk (11-0, 9 KOs), a 2012 Olympic bronze medalist from Ukraine who now trains with Robert Garcia in Oxnard, California, is coming off a fifth-round knockout of former world title challenger Tommy Karpency on the Terence Crawford-Viktor Postol undercard on July 23 in Las Vegas.
"I am really happy to have this opportunity to fight on such a big card like Kovalev-Ward," Gvozdyk said. "Thanks to (promoter) Top Rank, Main Events and to my manager Egis Klimas to make my goals come true. Chilemba is a tough opponent and I am expecting a tough fight. It's a good test for me and I will pass it."
Said Garcia: "Oleksandr Gvozdyk is an Olympic medalist with a lot of amateur experience, great skills and tremendous power. Chilemba is a very good fighter who lost a decision to Kovalev. I think Chilemba will bring the best out of Gvozdyk. Gvozdyk is very dedicated and came to the USA to become a world champion and this fight gets him closer to that dream."
Main Events CEO Kathy Duva put the fight together with Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti, who used to work for her.
"Isaac was a warrior against Sergey Kovalev," she said. "That was a tough battle for both fighters. Many fighters would have preferred a tune-up fight after facing Sergey Kovalev for 12 rounds but Isaac has the heart of a champion. He wasted no time getting back in the ring and demanded the toughest opposition we could find for him."
Said Moretti: "This is a huge opportunity and a step-up fight for Oleksandr, especially fighting on this card. We believe he's ready but there's only one way to find out and we'll all have the answer on Nov. 19."