How much work have you had to do with Sergey Kovalev throughout your time with him?
I’ve put in some work but it’s different to most fighters I work with. I let him do pretty much what he wants to do and then I show him certain things and let him develop those things into his repertoire and the way he wants to do that. Sometimes we might fight over it but he will go home and do that and come fight night everything that I ask him to do he does for me. He might not really want to do it in the beginning but he does it and come fight night everything I ask him to do, he does. So it’s nice to see him progress and the way he’s developed.
You lost to Bernard Hopkins as a pro, was Sergey’s victory revenge for you in any way?
It was nice in the sense that the things I showed this kid he did, he did it to perfection and it worked for him. As far as a revenge thing that never came into play for me because the only way I could have got revenge was if I fought him again and beat him myself. For someone else to beat him it does nothing for me. The gratification for the win for the kid was there, but it did nothing for me personally.
There’s been speculation that Sergey had a torrid time in sparring with Gennady Golovkin…
Me and Sergey talked about that. Abel [Sanchez]’s blown that out of proportion. Yes they sparred. Sergey said, ‘John, the reason I don’t want to spar the kid is because I’ve got to hurt him. He said Triple G’s a tough guy, I’ve got to hit him with everything I’ve got to keep him off me and that’s going to hurt him. We’re friends. He says then Abel tries to make it a war and that’s not what we’re in there for. ‘That’s why I refuse to spar with the kid. Why should I have a war with him when I’m not going to make any money from it?’ He said Abel starts all this stuff but said, ‘The kid’s rough. I admit that. I had to hit him with everything I have to get him off. That’s all that was.’ They’re friends.
You don’t seem to rate the threat posed by Adonis Stevenson.
Stevenson is a threat, he always has a threat. I’ve seen Sergey in with guys who can punch in sparring and he goes nowhere. Yes, bigger gloves and bigger headgear but it doesn’t faze him. There are a lot of up and coming young guys who are out there.
What about a fight Artur Beterbiyev, who defeated Kovalev in the amateurs?
The bad thing about boxing today is it’s micromanaged. People are having title fights when they’re 10-0, 8-0, they haven’t even learned the game yet, or haven’t even been given the chance to be taught or learn as a professional. So, when they get to these championship fights they’re winning but they’re fighting guys at the same level and limited ability that they have. Right now that kid is learning the pro game so I say if he wants to fight, take it. It’s 12 rounds, take the fight. He’s got 12 rounds to try to beat you, we’ve been 12. Has he been 12, hard rounds yet? It’s a different game.
If you could have any fight for him would it be Adonis Stevenson?
Financially that’s the fight to have. That’s the fight that’s going to make the most money for him but the fight I want him to fight because the kid is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters is Andre Ward. Andre presents a different problem. He’s young, he’s strong, I think that’s a good fight for Sergey. Not action-wise, because Sergey’s going to be the action fighter, but here’s a kid who does things his way and does them well. Grabbing, holding, punching when he wants to and if you have the fight out of California it would definitely be an interesting fight. It would be interesting to have it inside California but to have it outside would be more interesting. But I think it’s a fight the fans deserve to see because Andre is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters and the best should fight the best for the fans.
Would he have to fight at light-heavyweight?
He’d have to. There’s not catchweight. You fought at light-heavyweight as an Olympian, you won there. You’re fighting smaller guys now. Go back up and fight the bigger guys.
What has Sergey got in his locker that we haven’t seen yet?
You’ve seen the left hook to the body now, he might have a few more surprises. I’ve seen his heart, luckily he hasn’t shown that yet. I’ve had him in sparring sessions when you’re sparring 12-four minute rounds and you’ve got fresh guys coming in every three rounds trust me, you have heart. He has the heart and determination to remain champion for a while.