Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (32-3-1, 28 KOs) will be seeking revenge against Elieder “Storm” Alvarez (24-0 12KOs) on Saturday, February 2nd in Frisco, Texas. There are important questions that are going to be answered during this fight. First, was the first fight a fluke? Or is Kovalev’s career finished at the elite level? Has father time caught up to Krusher? He’s almost 36, and hasn’t looked as sharp as he once did against top quality opponents. His losses to Andre Ward were questionable, but after seeing the first fight against Alvarez, I question what Kovalev has left in the tank.
If Kovalev had a good camp, and comes into the fight in really good shape, then he has a shot at regaining the WBO title. In the first fight against Alvarex, he looked tired. His punches weren’t that crisp, his reaction time was slower, and he left his chin exposed. In his prime, unlike now, Kovalev was able to get away with exposing his chin because he was much better at controlling range, ,was faster and had much better endurance. He still has dangerous power and he’s smart enough to make adjustments from the first fight, but will the adjustments make a difference? Can he implement a game plan that makes up for his weaknesses now? Is there a way he can neutralize Alvarez?
On the other hand, Alvarez is not known for his power, so a repeat of the first fight is unlikely. He relies mostly on his boxing technique and speed. When he knocked out Kovalev, he was down on the cards, so he will need to box more effective during the fight given the chances of knocking Kovalev out again are presumably less the second time around. Nevertheless, Kovalev shouldn’t get overly confident and will still need to respect Alvarez’ power. There’s a lot riding on this fight, including a potential unification bout against WBA Light Heavyweight Champion, Dimitry Bivol (15-0, 11 KOs).
Keys for to victory for Kovalev:
- Control range consistently throughout the fight. Do not stay on the outside too long. Mix it up. If he plans to stay in the pocket, he needs to tuck his chin in.
- Keep hands up. I’m not sure if his hands were low because he was tired, or if it’s a bad habit.
- When Alvarez covers up, as he did in the first fight, Kovalev must throw body shots and jabs to the body to lure him in and then counter with uppercuts.
- Needs to conserve his energy. As Kovalev has gotten older, he tends to fade in the 2nd half of fights. He needs to pick his spots to be aggressive and make his punches count. If a clean opening isn’t there, he needs to pepper Alvarez with jabs and short punches, conserve his energy and take the points.
- Keep Alvarez on his back foot. Don’t allow him to trade too much. Alvarez is the only fighter that has kept Kovalev honest on the outside and actually match him.
- Take away Alvarez’ jab. If he’s able to do this, the fight will be his.
Keys to victory for Alvarez:
- Go to the body early and often. Kovalev has had endurance problems lately so expose it even more.
- Use the power jab consistently, as he did in the first fight. Wear Kovalev down with it. Mix it up to the body and head. Kovalev is slower and won’t be able to match Alvarez jab for jab. Alvarez should be able to counter him with the jab and follow it up with straight rights.
- Knowing Kovalev fades in the 2nd half of the fight, wait for that lazy jab, and start countering with the overhand right.
- Force the fight inside, especially when Kovalev starts to tire. I don’t know if Alvarez will get another KO or even if he can. At the very least he will bully Kovalev on the inside. It’s no secret that Kovalev isn’t a great inside fighter.
Fight prediction: I’m on the fence about this fight. I’m leaning towards an Alvarez UD. If Kovalev doesn’t finish it early, I think Alvarez’ technique and speed will be too much for Kovalev and Kovalev will fade as the fight gets into the later rounds. I could see Kovalev getting a KO or, if he can control range with Alvarez consistently during the fight then winning by decision. Kovalev was up on the judges scorecards when he got KO’d in the first fight. I really do think this is a toss up fight. If i had to choose, it’s Alvarez UD.
You can catch this fight on ESPN+. The main event is scheduled to begin around 12am (midnight) EST. The undercard begins at 7pm on regular ESPN, and moves to ESPN+ at 10pm EST.