Light heavyweight Dmitry Bivol, one of the most exciting up-and-comers in a loaded weight class, will face former world title challenger Cedric Agnew on the undercard of the rematch between unified light heavyweight titleholder Andre Ward and former titlist Sergey Kovalev, Main Events announced Wednesday.
The fight will take place June 17 (HBO PPV, 9 p.m. ET) at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, where it will be the second bout of the four-fight pay-per-view telecast.
Bivol owns an interim light heavyweight title but the fight, at least at the moment, is scheduled as a 10-round nontitle affair.
Bivol (10-0, 8 KOs), 26, of Russia, made his American television debut on April 14 in the main event of a Showtime "ShoBox: The New Generation" card at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, and was very impressive in a fourth-round knockout of Samuel Clarkson to retain his interim belt.
Now Bivol is moving onto an even bigger stage of the Ward-Kovalev rematch and is excited about it.
"Cedric Agnew is the opponent with the biggest name in my career so far," Bivol said. "He is an experienced fighter and is well-skilled defensively. The Kovalev and Ward rematch is the most important fight in the light heavyweight division right now and I am honored to be part of such an event. I am very motivated and excited about this fight and I am anxious to showcase my skills in the Mecca of boxing of Las Vegas, USA."
Bivol's manager Vadim Kornilov has been working hard to secure the fighter American exposure and plans for him to fight in the United States regularly now. He was happy the deal with Main Events could be worked out.
"Initially, (Main Events CEO) Kathy Duva reached out to us about fighting (Sullivan) Barrera on the Ward-Kovalev II card and we had to make a decision quickly," Kornilov said. "Even though Barrera chose to take another fight, Kathy came forward with another opponent to stick to her offer and keep Bivol on the card. It has been a pleasing experience in putting this fight together with Kathy and the rest of the Main Events team.
"In his last fight against Samuel Clarkson in April, Dmitry Bivol has proven that he is one of the major forces in his division and started building a U.S. fan base for his aggressive and exciting style. On June 17, he will face Cedric Agnew in a fight where not only will he have to perform up to his reputation, but also be at his best on the biggest stage of his professional career. Bivol is in the third week of camp in Los Angeles with his trainer, Genndaii Mashyanov, and will be ready to shine come June 17."
Duva, who struck the deal with Bivol's promoter Andrei Ryabinsky of World of Boxing, added: "We were originally talking to (Bivol's team) about facing Sullivan Barrera on the Ward-Kovalev II undercard, which would have been a huge step up for Dmitry Bivol, and he and his team did not hesitate in taking that fight. When Sullivan was offered a bigger opportunity against Joe Smith Jr. on HBO on July 15, it just made sense to stick with Bivol, who is a rising talent in the light heavyweight division, and find him an opponent. That part was not easy. All credit to Cedric Agnew, who was willing to take on this undefeated prospect."
In 2014, Agnew (29-2, 15 KOs), 30, of Chicago, challenged Kovalev for his 175-pound world title in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and although he gave him a few problems, ultimately got wiped out. Kovalev knocked him down twice in a seventh-round knockout victory. Two fights later Agnew lost an eight-round split decision to Clarkson. Agnew, who did not fight at all in 2016, has won two fights in a row since.
"This is my destiny and I won't let anything or anyone stop me from conquering it. I will show everyone on fight night how serious I am," Agnew said.
Agnew will be a prohibitive underdog. He and his team know that.
"We're aware that Bivol is considered the next big thing," said Lou DiBella, Agnew's promoter. "Cedric Agnew is a true professional and a quality boxer. He was not an easy out for Kovalev. I don't expect that he will be an easy out for Bivol. Agnew will show up to win."
Ward (31-0, 15 KOs) and Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KOs) first met on Nov. 19 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas in a highly anticipated bout. Kovalev scored a knockdown in the second round but lost his belts by a very controversial unanimous decision -- 114-113 on all three scorecards -- despite the majority of ringside observers believing Kovalev deserved the victory.
In the two previously announced fights on the pay-per-view undercard, junior featherweight world titleholder Guillermo Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KOs) will face interim titlist and mandatory challenger Moises Flores (25-0, 17 KOs) in the co-feature. Up-and-coming middleweights Luis Arias (17-0, 8 KOs) and Arif "The Predator" Magomedov (18-1, 11 KOs) will square off in a 10-rounder that will open the show.