Kovalev to defend title in Russian hometown

Light heavyweight world titlist Sergey Kovalev is going home and could not be happier about it.

When talks for a Sept. 14 title defense against middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez stalled, Kovalev's overdue mandatory defense against Anthony Yarde was finalized and on Thursday promoter Main Events made the fight official.

Los Angeles-based Kovalev will make the first defense of his third title reign against Yarde on Aug. 24 (ESPN+) at the Traktor Arena in Chelyabinsk, Russia, his hometown where he has never boxed before.

As much as Kovalev would have liked a really big fight with Alvarez -- which could still happen later this year -- he is happy about his homecoming.

"I am thrilled to fight for the first time in my hometown of Chelyabinsk. It is a dream to defend my WBO title in front of all my friends and family back home," Kovalev said. "Thank you to (RCC Promotions') Igor Altushkin, (manager) Egis Klimas and Main Events for making this dream a reality and thank you to Anthony Yarde for agreeing to fight in my backyard."

Kovalev (33-3-1, 28 KOs), 36, lost his 175-pound title by seventh-round knockout to Eleider "Storm" Alvarez last August but enforced his contractual right to an immediate rematch and cruised to a unanimous decision to regain the belt on Feb. 2. RCC promotions then put up money to bring the fight to Chelyabinsk.

"We are so pleased that Sergey, one of boxing's greatest all-time road warriors, will finally get the chance to defend his title in his own hometown, where he grew up and where his most-devoted fan base resides," Main Events promoter Kathy Duva said. "I can only imagine how excited Sergey's friends and neighbors will be to finally get the chance to see him perform in person."

Yarde (18-0, 17 KOs), 27, of England, has fought all of his bouts in the United Kingdom except for one in the United States, but he has embraced going to Russia for a shot at the title against by far the most notable opponent of his career.

"I am more than happy to achieve my goal in Russia and I think it is only right that a great world champion such as Kovalev is given the opportunity to defend in his home country," Yarde said. "He has earned that right. What I know is that on Aug. 24 another world title belt will be under British ownership and I will have done it the hard way -- one that nobody will be able to question."