On Saturday night, Canelo Alvarez faces off against Sergey Kovalev in Las Vegas, Nevada for Kovalev’s WBO Light Heavyweight world title. The unique selling point on this fight – the smaller Canelo is jumping up, not one, but two divisions to challenge the best at light heavyweight in Sergey Kovalev. Yet, aside from the size disparity there are few other interesting storylines in this fight. Here’s our preview of Canelo-Kovalev.
The sport of boxing is littered with fighters moving up in weight to chase opportunity. Fighting the bigger man, means bigger paydays, bigger recognition and usually additional titles. However, those fighters who have gone up two divisions is not as frequent. As a result, it is more noteworthy. It’s even more special when a good smaller man, already a star in his own right, meets a good big man of equal stature. However, conventional wisdom and precedent says the good big man usually wins.
Recent examples, are Errol Spence defeating Mikey Garcia. Garcia is a great fighter, but all agreed he bit off more than he could chew in facing Spence. If you dig further back into the boxing archives, one may recall welterweight champ Marlon Starling jumping up to middleweight to face then champ Michael Nunn. Nunn won with ease. Will the same happen to Canelo? One may be quick to say yes. But there is precedent for a Canelo victory here. Harken back to the early 1980’s Roberto Duran jumped two divisions to face Sugar Ray Leonard. Duran was the victor. Yet, aside from history, Canelo’s strengths feed into Kovalev’s weaknesses. Which brings us to strategy in Canelo-Kovalev.
One Man’s Strength Is the Other’s Achille’s Heel
Canelo Alvarez is well known for his ability to counter-punch and mount a sustained body attack. This is precisely Kovalev’s Achille’s heel. Of the few true defeats Kovalev has on his resume. The loss in the Andre Ward rematch is notable because it was a sustained body attack the fell Kovalev. So, is it Canelo’s plan? Alvarez didn’t hold back when asked, stating “[a] body punch is always necessary in every fight and it’s a key move that I’m obviously going to utilize to my advantage to win this fight.”
How is Kovalev preparing for it? According to Kovalev’s trainer Buddy McGirt, it sounds like the mantra of the best defense is a great offense will be employed. “People have been asking about Canelo’s body attack. But nobody likes getting hit to the body. I don’t care who you are. But the thing is this: What’s going to happen when Canelo gets hit to the body? Guys that like to go to the body, don’t like it when you to go to their body.”
Yet, Alvarez is not without weaknesses of his own, namely an inability to deal with a strong jab. Floyd Mayweather best exposed this weakness and Erislandy Lara, also gave Canelo fits it hotly disputed loss. What are Canelo’s thoughts? “We know he has long arms, his jab is really strong, and he knows how to move, but we’ve trained for this. He’s my strongest opponent without a doubt and it’s a huge risk for me but we’re ready.”
Kathy Duva perhaps best summarized this bout she stated “This is one of the most intriguing fights I’ve ever seen, let alone made. You have a guy in Canelo who is a great body puncher, and maybe that plays into Sergey’s Achille’s heel, shall we say. In Sergey, you have someone with the hardest and most accurate jab in the sport. I’ve seen that be a problem for Canelo as well. They both have a strength that will play into the other guy’s vulnerability. “
Another irony about this bout is the stakes in Canelo-Kovalev. The bigger star here is clearly Canelo Alvarez, he’s got the huge contract, matinee looks, built in fan base and machine behind him. Yet, there is little to lose if defeated. The upside is tremendous. With a victory Canelo becomes a four-division champion and his star burns even brighter. None of this is lost on either fighter.
As Kovalev pointed out “Canelo has nothing to lose in this fight. He has a chance to make history. But I have to defend my title. This is the biggest fight of my career. I’ve never been in this situation, where someone is coming from middleweight. I’m not going to make a prediction, but I am going to go in there and defend my title.” Canelo is also keenly aware of this This title is very important, to be a four-time world champion in different divisions. This is historic for my career. In boxing you have to take risks to make history.”
Will history be made on Saturday night? Although Canelo is a talented fighter and always game. One must remember the aforementioned major contract and machine in the Canelo camp? So Kovalev best be prepared to knock Canelo out if he is to emerge victorious. Leaving it in the hands of the judges would not be wise. Yet, regardless of outcome, given the penchant for both of these fighters to mix it up, Canelo-Kovalev will make for one hell of a fight.