Bektemir Melikuziev was prepared to hit the road for his biggest pro fight to date.
That opportunity will now take place down the block.
A major location change has come of the upcoming crossroads clash between Melikuziev and former three-time light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev. The Jan. 30 DAZN-televised event will now take place at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California, two sources with knowledge of the development informed BoxingScene.com on Wednesday.
The fight was originally scheduled to headline at Luzhniki Arena in Moscow, Russia, marking Kovalev’s second fight in his home country within his past three starts. The venue switch was made in light of safety and health concerns, allowing both camps to remain stateside where they already regularly train, according to one source.
A second source informed BoxingScene.com that the show will proceed at a start time which will accommodate primetime viewing in Kovalev’s native Russia, confirming a breaking news tweet from The Athletic’s Mike Coppinger.
Melikuziev—a 2016 Olympic Silver medalist for his native Uzbekistan—now lives and trains in Indio, California. The venue switch will give the unbeaten rising contender his third fight in his adopted hometown, all coming within his past four ring appearances. Melikuziev (6-0, 5KOs) is coming off of a 3rd round knockout of Alan Campa at Fantasy Springs last October. His prior appearance on site came in a 10-round decision win over Vaughn Alexander, the Dec. 2019 bout marking the lone time as a pro that the 24-year old Uzbek fighter has been extended the distance.
Both of those fights came at super middleweight, though a concession was made to allow for this bout to take place at a maximum catchweight of 178 pounds. Melikuziev has weighed as heavy as 181 ½ pounds, which came in a stay-busy fight last February in Anaheim, California.
Kovalev (34-4-1, 29KOs) will fight at Fantasy Springs Casino for just the second time in his career, with the only other occasion coming in 2011. The 37-year old Russian–who lives in Santa Monica, California and divides training between Big Bear, California and Florida—was due to headline a show at this location last April, only for his fight with Sullivan Barrera to get shut down due to the initial wave of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The delay has left Kovalev out of the ring since an 11th round knockout loss to Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in their Nov. 2019 clash at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The defeat ended Kovalev’s third light heavyweight title reign which began earlier that February in a revenge fueled 12-round win over then-unbeaten Eleider Alvarez to avenge a knockout loss from Aug. 2018. Kovalev’s only other career losses came at the hands of Hall-of-Fame elected Andre Ward in Nov. 2016 and June 2017.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox