On Saturday, November 2nd, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (52-1-2, 35KOs) will move up two weight classes to face off against WBO Lightheavyweight Champion, Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (34-3-1, 29KOs) at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV.
Canelo Alvarez last fought in May, defeating Daniel “Miracle Man” Jacobs (35-3, 29KOs) by Unanimous decision. A lot has happened since then as far as the landscape of the middleweight division goes. Canelo was elevated to WBC “Franchise” Champion and had his IBF belt stripped, after his team failed to negotiate a deal against mandatory Sergiy “The Technician” Derevyanchenko (13-2, 10KOs). Derevyanchenko instead faced off against Gennady “GGG” Golovkin (40-1-1, 35KOs) and dropped a unanimous decision to him. Golovkin had 2 wars with Canelo, both ending with controversy, and a third fight looking more unlikely by the day. Canelo decided not to unify against undefeated WBO champ Demetrius “Boo Boo” Andrade (28-0, 17KOs). Instead he is going up two weight classes to fight Kovalev. It takes guts to move up in weight like that, but don’t be fooled. Kovalev hasn’t looked quite himself in a while. He hasn’t looked the same since after his first fight with Andre “S.O.G.” Ward (32-0, 16KOs), who retired prematurely after defeating Kovalev in their second fight. Kovalev may look ripe for the picking, but he’s still the bigger man and is still a champion with a lot of experience. Canelo has a great chin, but again he’s never faced someone as big and as powerful a Kovalev. The fight is intriguing. The outcome will also confirm or disprove if Kovalev is done at the elite level in boxing.
Sergey Kovalev is coming off an eleventh round TKO win over previously undefeated top prospect/contender Anthony Yarde (18-1, 17KOs). It was a hard fought fight, in which he came back from almost getting knocked out and finishing the fight with a knockout of his own. Anthony Yarde had never fought anyone ranked inside the top 35. In the eighth round, he finally went to Kovalev’s body, and the jab stopped. It made Kovalev freeze up just long enough for Yarde to take advantage. Yarde had him on the ropes and basically out on his feet. Kovalev survived that round, but just barely. Yarde took the next round off, possibly having punched himself out in the previous round. Kovalev was able to catch a second wind and finished Yarde.
Kovalev showed serious weaknesses in that fight. Even though he came back against an inexperienced opponent, he showed how much of a steep decline he is really on. Canelo’s power might not carry to 175, but then again, it may not have to. He’s known for having signature body punching ability. The question is, will he be able to get inside and use it?
Keys to Victory for Kovalev:
- Control the range, establish the jab. Kovalev has fine tuned his style since losing to Andre Ward in their second bout. He fights from a distance and relies on his jab to keep opponents at bay. GGG had success utilizing his jab vs Canelo, especially in their first fight. Kovalev has more power behind his jab. He wants to keep Canelo on the end of his jab, while mixing in combos. He will want to gain Canelo’s respect early with jabs followed by straight punches up the middle, meaningful/clean shots. He wants to get Canelo’s attention early in this fight.
- Timing and Counter punching. Canelo is going to want to go inside and go to the body, which seems to be the major chink in Kovalev’s armor. If he can time Canelo coming in with those wide hooks at his body, he can keep his elbows tight, turn slightly and block, at least some of the punch and throw short counters with the same hand on the same side the punch lands. Uppercuts and short hooks would probably work best. I’m not sure if Kovalev is fast enough to do this consistently, but it may keep Canelo honest and make him think twice about throwing relentlessly to his body. If it’s a straight to the body, he could turn slightly, block with his elbow and counter with the straight right. Again, I expect Canelo to adapt quickly if Kovalev is fast enough to do this or can time Canelo perfectly.
- Will have to use good footwork. Establishing the jab and counters are important, but Canelo does adapt well, and will be going for broke trying to get inside. I can see Canelo even trying to work off the clinch with counters of his own. Kovalev will have to pivot a lot and find openings. I don’t expect Kovalev to keep Canelo on the end of his jab all night. There will be inside action, at least at times in the fight. Using footwork will also make Canelo move himself. This is big in this fight. What will the extra weight do to Canelo? His endurance late in fights is already suspect. Will the extra weight make it that much harder late in the fight? Will it significantly slow him down? I dunno about significantly, but it will slow him down some. It should anyways.
Keys to Victory for Canelo:
- Get inside, Go to the body. Andre Ward wrote the blueprint for beating Kovalev. Get inside, and chip away at his body. Canelo is known for his great body punching. Can he slip the jab and avoid the counters? Can he get inside consistently? The key here is to disrupt Kovalev from getting into any kind of rhythm. He needs to keep the fight at close range and nullify those long rangy jabs, that set up the dangerous combinations that can hurt him.
- Staying out of range and transitioning inside. So Ward was able to beat Kovalev and frustrate him by getting too close and also staying out of range and using great footwork to do so. I’m not sure if Canelo is going to want to move around a lot because he’s carrying the extra weight, but being able to transition from out of range to too close for Kovalev to do anything will be another big key. If he can feint his way in and out, use clinching tactics, or however he decides to work his way inside – he can have big success. He’s younger, fresher, faster, and his ring IQ is better.
- Timing and countering. Timing Kovalev’s jab will be a HUGE key to victory for Canelo. There’s different approaches here for Canelo. When Kovalev retracts his jab and loads up his straight shots, Canelo can feint and throw punches simultaneously as he comes in and slipping anything that Kovalev throws back. He can throw straight to the body, try to get in between the guard of Kovalev and go upstairs, mix in body/head combos, etc. He has youth, speed, and ring IQ on his side. He can try to come in with a lead power punch. I would only recommend this later in the fight or very early where Kovalev is still feeling him out and may block instead of countering because he hasn’t timed Canelo yet. One other way for him to close the gap and it could work with Canelo’s speed is the overhand right. It’s going to be tough for Kovalev to consistently defend an overhand right because the far shorter Canelo will be throwing it from awkward angles. I don’t think Canelo has the power to significantly hurt Kovalev upstairs but those punches could set up consistent inside work and I do believe Canelo can and will hurt Kovalev to the body.
This is an interesting fight because you have one guy coming up two weight classes and many are giving him a good shot to win. The other guy is a seemingly fading champion who used to be the boogeyman at Light Heavyweight. Both have good skills and high IQ and experience under the big bright lights. Kovalev has the height and power advantage. Canelo has a significant speed advantage and I would give him a slight ring IQ advantage. This fight can go a few ways and it depends on how Canelo takes Kovalev’s power, how Kovalev defends against Canelo’s bodywork, and how Canelo closes the gap and gets in close range. I give the edge to Canelo because I personally think Kovalev’s career is just about done. Yes, he knocked out Anthony Yarde. He had to come back in a fight against a guy who had never fought anyone inside the top 35. That’s a huge jump in levels and rarely do you see a guy have good success, let alone almost knock out a champion with so little experience. Kovalev is diminishing but he still has power, and he’s still dangerous. It won’t be a walk in the park for Canelo, but it’s not going to be your typical toughest fight of his life type thing either. Most of the time if a boxer goes up two weight classes, they lose. If it’s competitive, you give the smaller boxer a lot of respect. Canelo has a very real chance of either knocking out Kovalev with body shots or winning on the cards. If the fight is close, Canelo 100% wins on the cards, especially in Las Vegas. Some people don’t like to hear that, but that’s the way boxing is. He’s the young cash cow and Kovalev is on his way out sooner than later.
My prediction: Canelo by late round TKO (body punches will lead to it) or a controversial decision.
This fight will be shown on the DAZN app in North America. The main card will begin at 9:00PM ET. The undercard will begin at 6:30PM ET. The main event is going to be around midnight ET. For our UK viewers, the fight will be shown on Sky Sports Action, with coverage beginning at 1:00AM, early Sunday morning. The other fights on this card are as follows:
- Ryan Garcia (18-0, 15KOs) vs Romero Duno (21-1, 16KOs) Vacant WBC Silver Lightweight title/WBO NABO Lightweight title, 12 rounds
- Bakhram Murtazaliev (16-0, 13KOs) vs Jorge Fortea (20-1-1, 6KOs) EBP Super Welterweight title, 12 rounds
- Seniesa Estrada (17-0, 7KOs) vs Marlen Esparza (7-0, 1KOs) Interim WBA Women’s Flyweight title, 10 rounds
- Blair Cobbs (12-0-1, 8KOs) vs Carlos Ortiz Cervantes (11-4, 11KOs) Welterweight, 10 rounds
- Meiirim Nursultanov (12-0, 8KOs) vs Cristian Olivas (16-5, 13KOs) USNBC Middleweight title, 10 rounds
- Evan Holyfield (0-0) vs Nick Winstead (0-1) Super Welterweight, 4 rounds