Sergey Kovalev doesn’t mince words. Ask him how he feels about fellow light heavyweight Adonis Stevenson shading him for his two losses against Andre Ward and "The Krusher" (31-2-1, 27 KO) will snap harder than one of his punches.

“Fuck him,” says Kovalev.

The WBO World light heavyweight champ, one fight removed from his second loss to Ward, is once again considered one of the best in his division and doesn't have time to deal with the shit talking of one of his division mates. After easily dispatching Vyacheslav Shabranskyy this past November to regain a title he lost to Ward, Kovalev is newly dedicated to his craft, once again considered among the best pound-for-pound in the world, and intent on unifying what might be boxing’s premiere division. 

We talked to Kovalev earlier this week before his bout Saturday in New York with the unknown Igor Mikhalkin (HBO, 10:05 pm ET) about the lessons learned from the losses to Ward, and who he thinks is the hardest puncher in boxing.

(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.) 

Leading up to this fight, you’ve talked about you haven’t reached your full potential as a fighter. What kind of fighter do you want to be?
I just want to do my job. Right now I’m focused on my new way in my next chapter in boxing. 

You switched trainers—Abror Tursunpulatov is now your guy—why the change and how has he elevated your training for this fight? 

He’s a great coach. For me, it fits very good because we understand each other, we speak the same language, and he knows what boxing is. I follow what he says. I listen to him and trust him and our duty is to break him (Mikalkin). 

In your two battles with Andre Ward, two losses, you’ve said you learned lessons. What lesson sticks out the most?
The biggest lesson that I got from the last two losses is that I should spar more every day. Don’t have a long pause between fights.

When someone like Adonis Stevenson, another top light heavyweight, says you haven't recovered from the knockout suffered against Ward in the rematch, how do you respond? 

Fuck him.

You're facing a guy that few fight fans have seen or are particularly familiar with. What do you expect to see from Mikhalkin Saturday? 

This makes him dangerous. I’m dangerous too, you know. When we met March 2nd we’ll show who is the best of us. 

What is the path to victory?
I don’t know. I don’t do predictions. I just have patience. Watch HBO March 3rd or come to The Theater at Madison Square Garden. I don’t want to make any predictions because when I made predictions [in the past] and they didn’t prove [to be true] it does not look very good. 

And you'll be paying attention to the other light heavyweight fight before yours between Dmitry Bivol vs Sullivan Barrera. 

It’s going to be an interesting fight. I follow these guys. I wanted to fight Barerra but right now Bivol fights him and we’ll see in the future with these guys. 


You can make a case right now that the light heavyweight division is one the best in boxing. Tell me why.
There’s very good competition in our division. Lot of very good fighters. Right now, we have belt holders and we have to find out who is the best in the light heavyweight division by making unification bouts. And there’s super middleweight, cruiserweight. Let’s just make one champion of the world. 

Are you the hardest puncher in the world? Lot of people say it’s you.
I don’t know. Who is the hardest puncher? Mike Tyson. 

But I’m talking current boxers.
I didn’t punch myself. If people say it’s true, maybe it is. I don’t know.

What does a knockout feel like?
I just need time to recover my knuckles after each fight.

You’re back fighting at The Theater at Madison Square Garden. What do you like about fighting in New York?
Madison Square Garden is a historic arena. I’m very happy to fight there in front of a good boxing fanbase. People really love boxing here. They’re emotional and friendly. I’m very happy here in New York. I like getting a victory in Madison Square Garden, too. 

When you turned pro, was there somebody’s career that you wanted to follow?
No. I’m Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev and I’m making history for myself, for my fans, for my children.