The Shadow League extensively covered boxing superstar Sergey Kovalev as he prepared for a life-changing fight against Bernard Hopkins. It was a classic battle, but an emphatic victory for Kovalev. It shifted the power pole positions in boxing and lifted "Krusher" Kovalev to his own mythical status. He was the poor Russian boy with the heart of a lion, who conquered an alien legend that some thought would never age and never lose. He didn’t use a weapon or sorcery on his rags to riches mission. He whipped B-Hop like so many opponents before him -- with his bare hands of stone.
That fight was just the beginning of Kovalev’s mighty reign as WBA, IBF and WBO light heavyweight champion. The 32-year-old pride of Kopeysk, Chelyabinsk Oblast, Russia SSR scored a TKO win over Jean Pascal in Montreal in March to retain his three light heavyweight titles, Krusher (28-0) will put his bling on the line Saturday evening when he takes on mandatory challenger Nadjib Mohammedi (37-3, 23 KOs) in a scheduled 12-round match at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. The fight will air at 10pm EST on HBO.
After taking the WBO World light heavyweight title from Nathan Cleverly with a fourth-round TKO in August 2013, Kovalev has defended it five times and since added the IBF and WBA titles.
One of the keys to Kovalev’s success is Strength & Conditioning Coach/Physical Trainer Quan Paxton. The Detroit -born terminator trainer used to be one of boxing’s best kept secrets until The Hopkins fight went down and The Shadow League introduced him to the boxing world and got him to boldly and assertively predict Sergey’s impressive win and the inevitable changing of the guard.
As we always do before a "Krusher" Kovalev massacre, we sat down with Coach “Q” and discussed the training camp leading up to this fight.
Coach Q: Camp was tough. Exhausting as usual. We came up with a good game plan of good cardio and strong strength and conditioning. We actually climbed up Big Bear Mountain on the very top of the mountain. It was breathtaking. It was like some Rocky movie stuff. It was sorta cool.
We went hard though and he pushed himself. Like I said "we like to train like we’re broke." We know everybody’s gunning for us so we like to be prepared to work hard and sweat a lot and bond more and really push each other to get the best out of Sergey.
More than anything, however, “Q” wanted to address absurd allegations of racism levied against Kovalev by WBC (paper) Champ Adonis Stevenson over a Tweet showing a T-shirt of a monkey in boxing gloves. The Tweet read: “Adonis looks great !”
“Q” also addressed a bigger truth. Stevenson keeps ducking a mega-fight to unify the belts once and for all. Despite the inhibitive politics that often squash major fights, Paxton says "nothing but fear" is stopping Adonis from making it happen.
Coach Q: Sergey wants the WBC belt. That's what he really, really wants, but ol’ boy is ducking and talking mad crap about how Sergey is a racist and all this other bullcrap. That's not a good angle to take. First of all I’m black and I’m from the hood. Trainer John David Jackson is black and he’s from the hood. Our other cut man is black ... and then the other guy is Mexican, so it’s like, “Where are you getting that from?”...Oh because he teased you on Twitter ...man shut that up. Ali did the same thing to Joe Frazier. Cut the deal . Let’s fight on HBO and let’s put up all the belts.
But Adonis is scared...If he’s scared it’s all good because he has fought nobody worth talking about the last three or four fights anyway. Sergey wants to dominate the division and reign for however long he can reign, but we want all the belts. We got three and there’s one left. Adonis is barking like he’s Top Dog and only has one belt and we got three. He’s trying to hold onto the belt for dear life and he’s getting old.
The politics of boxing is not allowing it to happen. Sergey is still young and it’s crazy because now Sergey has a mandatory, major deal with HBO and Adonis is on Showtime or PBC (Premiere Boxing Champions) so that's a big conflict of interest as well. We all would love for that fight to happen to see two good boxers just get in there and get it on. But I don't think that it will happen.
Paxton says this fight against Nadjib is more than a title defense. “It’s personal.”
Coach Q: We're fighting Nadjib Mohammedi who’s trained by Sergey’s former trainer Abel Sanchez who also trains GGG (Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin). Sergey and GGG are friends. Golovkin is a real cool dude. He stays out here in Cali. I ran into him a few times running up at Big Bear and at a few spots.
Nadjib is a solid guy. A No. 1 contender. He's trained by Abel so he’s going to come prepared and Abel’s been talking like he knows something about Sergey that nobody else knows...Ok..Ok..I know one thing; The guy likes to stand in front and he likes to throw, so that plays right into our hands. He hasn’t faced a guy with power and an 89.9 knockout percentage like The Crusher. A guy who’s going to put them thangs' on you. Bernard knows, Pascal knows, Cleverly knows. I can go down the list...I know and at the end of the day it’s his time. He’s in his prime and he’s a smart boxer and a lot of people just didn’t believe he was that smart of a boxer until he outdueled Bernard.
Coach Q: I haven’t seen Nadjib fighting the level of competition that we’ve been facing and we never overlook any fighter, but I know Sergey wants to punish this dude, knock him out, turn around and look at Abel like, “What’s up? I’m that guy. Stop talking sh*t.”
Abel’s been talking junk in press conferences because Nadjib’s not gonna say nothing because he values his face. Ask Pascal. So this guy's coming in and he’s going to be ready but after he tastes the power he's going to submit. I’m expecting him to be out of there by the sixth or the seventh round. I'm saying six or seven because I want to see some rounds. I want to enjoy my time. He's a strong kid. He got some nice strong legs. He's in shape. He has a body like Pascal a little bit but he doesn’t have the ring generalship or the amount of rounds that Sergey has.
With Kovalev’s newly acquired celebrity, Coach “Q” implements new training methods with each fight to avoid complacency, keep Kovalev hungry and at a World Championship Level.
Coach Q: I always try to focus on keeping him faster. I always feel like the fastest guy to the punch wins. He's naturally powerful so I just try to make him consistently powerful and always come with crazy different exercises to push him to whereas when we're done he's crawled up in the floor looking at me like, “ man you’re nuts.” That's just the kind of guy I am when it comes to training. We always hit core real crazy. Some he knows because we already have a relationship, but I always like to add 10 to 15 to 20 more.
And I use the family and the baby to keep him motivated because he wants his son to get all the things he didn't have, like all good fathers do. When he don't want to give me that extra two or three reps, I’m like,"Aye' yo, we gotta get it . Lil' man is over here looking. After that, Sergey will look at me laugh and go pump em' out.
With Kovalev shining, Paxton’s excitement about his career advancements and the progression of his most prestigious client are evident.
Coach Q: At this stage of the game, Sergey’s a very disciplined fighter. Sometimes I push him off the cliff, we dive into the water, we climb back up the mountain together and get it going again. I try to stay humble and keep him humble. He’s a fun guy though. We're family. He’s just a blessing to train at this point in my career. There’s not a lot of people who can say they trained the light heavyweight champ of the world.
I got a lot of celebrities coming at me real hard; professional athletes, a couple of basketball guys, a couple of actors that have been hearing about me, so my catalog has been growing, but you know...the champ is top priority. He tells me to come to camp and I drop everything and go to camp. I just love representing Detroit and my family and being a young strength and conditioning coach.
So in the meantime, while Team Kovalev is figuring out a way to corner Stevenson into stepping between those ropes, Paxton says world domination is the best thing on the menu.
Coach Q: Staying on top and reigning and getting this doe. He's focused. Sergey has always wanted this. He's always wanted the titles he feels like he deserves them with all of the things he’s been through. It's funny how every time we are watching a light heavyweight fight together everybody’s always throwing out his name but he just sits back and laughs... It’s like, “If you want it. Come and get it.”
He wants to be the lineal champion.
Its funny because Pascal is fighting on our undercard and trying to set up a rematch for that which the fans would probably want to see but we really want Adonis. We want all of the belts. We want to be King Joffy Joe.