Vyacheslav Shabranskyy (19-1, 16 KOs) will spend his Thanksgiving holiday 3,000 miles away from his adopted hometown of Los Angeles as he hopes to spoil former world champion Sergey Kovalev’s own holiday plans when they meet at the Theater at Madison Square Garden on November 25 live on HBO.
The bout will be for the WBO world Light Heavyweight titles that Kovalev once held and recently vacated by Andre Ward.
For Shabranskyy this will be his first time challenging for a world title and the 30-year-old Ukranian believes he has evolved from the fighter who was knocked out by Sullivan Barrera last December.
“We are way past the Barrera fight,” said Shabranskyy in his native Russian. “Of course, we learned a lot and I have already come back to win two fights. I believe strongly what happened to me in the Barrera fight won’t ever happen to me again and my team continues to monitor my progress.”
Shabranskyy understands he stands in the way of Kovalev returning to the win column after two devastating losses to Ward in which not only did Kovalev lose his world titles, but also lost his aura of invincibility.
“I am very motivated for this fight obviously,” said Shabranskyy. “But, I believe Sergey will also come to the fight motivated because he has a lot to prove and wants his title back.”
Shortly after the bout was announced the WBO decided during its annual convention to put their vacant title on the line once Ward announced he would retire and vacate his titles.
“Training for this bout has been great,” said Shabranskyy. “This is a very big and important bout for me and I will do everything in my power to be ready and strong and 100 percent confident to do my best.”
Shabranskyy and his team have spent time watching Kovalev’s bouts and believe he can learn just as much from some of Kovalev’s wins as he can from the two losses to Ward.
“A lot of people are quick to look at Sergey’s losses to Ward,” said Shabranskyy. “Yes of course Ward had a game plan and executed it well and had his keys to beat Sergey. But, we can look at the Chilemba fight and others and learn from it all. Sergey has tons of experience and a deep background and we will do our best to study his mistakes.”
Shabranskyy believes the fight will be an exciting one because much is at stake for both of them.
“All fighters have their individual pluses and minuses and he will try to implore his will as I will try to implore mine,” said Shabranskyy. “We studied Sergey’s pluses and minuses and I have to tell you he doesn’t have too many minuses. After the fight I can let you know if my game plan was successful or not. It does no good for me to tell you I will do this to him and that to him. It’s empty words. I believe first I need to execute my plan and then I can tell you here is what I did to him.”
Shabranskyy recalls seeing Kovalev at a park in Los Angeles where both fighters currently reside.
“I’ve talked to Sergey a few times and he’s always been very nice,” said Shabranskyy. “I don’t believe in any bad talk before fights. Everything should be settled in the ring. That’s the essence of sports and we are both sportsmen. At the end of the day Sergey has two hands like me, two legs and one head. He’s a man just like me.”
Shabranskyy doesn’t feel any additional pressure of fighting at Madison Square Garden where a large contingent of Russian and Ukranian fans are expected to attend.
“For me the ring is the same whether we are in Hollywood, Las Vegas or New York,” said Shabranskyy. The ring is the same everywhere. What’s important is that I have a strong team behind me who will support and believe in me and have my back to correct my mistakes. That’s the most important thing so I can fight anywhere.”
Although Shabranskyy can fight anywhere, he will be in New York City on Thanksgiving and may look for a place to enjoy Turkey if he is not concerned with making weight the next day.
“If I get an invitation somewhere for Thanksgiving then maybe we will go,” said Shabranskyy with a smile. “Otherwise I will get in some last minute training.”
All photos by Lina Baker/See You Ringside Photos