Promoter Main Events, which represents three-belt unified light heavyweight titleholder Sergey Kovalev -- the best 175-pound fighter in the world -- has two of its top fighters headed toward world title eliminators in the division it is focused on.
Contenders Isaac Chilemba and Sullivan Barrera have formally accepted title elimination bouts, Main Events announced on Wednesday.
Chilemba (24-2-2, 10 KOs), 28, of Malawi and based in South Africa, had the option to pick one of two eliminators. One would have made him one of Kovalev's mandatory challengers but Chilemba opted for the path to a shot against champion Adonis Stevenson (26-1, 21 KOs).
Main Events now will negotiate for Chilemba's eliminator against Montreal-based Colombian Eleider "Storm" Alvarez (18-0, 10 KOs) with promoter Yvon Michel.
"I'm very happy that he accepted that challenge," said Chilemba, who is trained by Buddy McGirt. "I'm not taking Alvarez lightly. He is a good fighter all around. I know he wants to be a champion himself.
"Unfortunately, not this time as this is my time. By the time we meet, I'll be 100 percent ready and, even though my mind is fully focused on the present opportunity, it brings me closer to that WBC championship I have been working so hard to get to. Just that is what will drive me into leaving nothing to chance when I face Alvarez. I really appreciate the great work of my team getting me where I am today."
With Chilemba turning down the opportunity to face Russian banger Artur Beterbiev (9-0, 9 KOs) for a shot at Kovalev (28-0-1, 25 KOs), Barrera (16-0, 11 KOs), 33, a Cuban defector living in Miami, was happy to accept the shot when it was offered to him. Michel also promotes Beterbiev, so he and Main Events will be negotiating both eliminators.
"I'm excited to finally get my opportunity," said Barrera, who is trained by Abel Sanchez. "I'm looking forward to the fight. I don't know anything about Beterbiev. Only thing I know is to get to the top I have to beat him. [I'm] looking forward to the opportunity."
Main Events CEO Kathy Duva said she was pleased to have both of the light heavyweight contenders she promotes to be in position to land a title shot.
"We've been focused on the light heavyweight division for the past few years. I'm delighted that so many of our efforts are paying off at the same time and that Isaac and Sullivan are finally getting the opportunities that they've earned and have been waiting for," Duva said. "Yvon and I have a lot to talk about! I've reached out for him and expect that we'll begin negotiations over the weekend."