In front of a packed house at the MGM Grand and Casino in Las Vegas, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (51-1-2, 36KOs) proved why he is one of the best fighters in the world today. Many fans were curious how Canelo’s jump to the light heavyweight division against a dangerous opponent like Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (34-3-1, 29KOs) would play out. Even though Canelo was a favorite in the fight, it was a risky one for him.
The opening round of the fight was a feel out round for both fighters which was expected. It was a good round for Kovalev. He started the fight using his jab effectively. Kovalev’s jabs were more like pawing jabs. Canelo held a high guard and was trying to figure out how to get inside. As round two got under way, the action started to pick up a little. Kovalev was continuing with the left jab while Canelo was coming forward and pushing back Kovalev. Canelo had better success in the round and landed good counter punches. In round three, Kovalev was landing his jabs effectively again. Canelo was coming forward, but was not too busy in the round. It was a good round for Kovalev.
Round four was more of the same, with Kovalev moving around but throwing the jab at Canelo. Canelo still the aggressor was landing counter punches in spots, however it was another good round for Kovalev.
In round five, we started to see a shift in the fight. Canelo was starting to land his own jab effectively and it seemed to be effecting Kovalev.
In round six, Canelo got to a quick start. He pushed Kovalev back with his jab and started to connect body shots on Kovalev. Kovalev seemed bothered and was starting to clinch with Canelo. Canelo continued his attack in round seven and Kovalev was looking more tired.
Rounds 5, 6, and 7 favored Canelo. Kovalev would come back in round eight. Kovalev got busy again and even landed a right hand in the early going. Canelo looked a little winded and backed up for the first time in the fight. Kovalev came forward to take advantage of this. The end of the round drew some boos from the crowd as Canelo backed up.
Canelo went back to business in round nine and he put the pressure back on. Kovalev fired some good shots in return. It was a close round but I gave Canelo the edge.
Canelo continued to pour it on in round ten. He kept the pressure and went back to the body. Kovalev seemed fatigued again and once again we saw him clinch Canelo in the inside.
After ten rounds, the fight was very close. Sensing that Kovalev was wearing out, Canelo came out hard in the eleventh round. With about a minute left in the round, he landed a right hand to the body which prompted Kovalev to try to go for another clinch. Canelo stepped back just a little and nailed Kovalev with a right hand to the temple. Kovalev was hurt from this punch and backed up. Canelo then landed a left hook to the chin that staggered Kovalev. Canelo then followed this up with a brutal right hand that dropped Kovalev and that was it. Canelo had crushed the Krusher and won the WBO Light Heavyweight title in stunning knockout fashion in the 11th round.
After ten rounds I had the fight 96-94 in favor of Canelo, but one of the rounds could have easily swung the other way and the fight could have been a draw. The three judges scoring of the fight had it: 96-94 Canelo, 96-94 Canelo, and 95-95 even. We can honestly say the judging was fair up until the stoppage. Even the punch stat numbers were close. Both fighters were about even in punches landed. Kovalev threw more punches than Canelo in the fight, but a lot of those punches were blocked by Canelo.
Feedback on the fight
Canelo was very impressive considering that he move up two weight classes and fought a larger man in Kovalev. The size difference was apparent. Kovalev overall did well in this fight. I believe Kovalev’s plan was to stay safe and box his way to a decision. Even though I favored the Russian in the early rounds, I did expect him to go a little harder at Canelo and try to back him up. More importantly, I thought Kovalev would let his right hand go more. I believe Kovalev was hesitant because he was worried about Canelo’s counter punches. That was certainly noticeable when Kovalev initiated the clinch with Canelo. To be honest, if Kovalev went hard at Canelo early on and then Canelo took his shots, Kovalev would have been stopped earlier. We do have to remember this was not the same Kovalev from a few years ago but he was still a dangerous fighter.
On a side note, I’m glad this fight did not go to distance, otherwise we would be hearing how the fight was close and controversial. The non-Canelo fans would say Kovalev was robbed if the fight went the distance and Canelo won the decision.
Canelo has many options at this point. I believe his fight at light heavyweight was a one-time deal. Challenging Dmitry Bivol or Artur Beteriev would be risky fights for Canelo. A fight with Lineal Super Middleweight Champion Callum Smith might happen. I personally would like to see Canelo go back to middleweight as there are challenges awaiting for him there. Though he might not say it, but there is still unfinished business between him and GGG. For Kovalev, this might be the end of his career as he now has suffered his 3rd knockout loss.
Two big achievements in boxing have already happened. First, it was Andy Ruiz (who was a huge underdog) stopping Anthony Joshua to win three of the major world heavyweight titles. Then, it was a 40 year old Manny Pacquiao becoming the oldest welterweight champion by defeating Keith Thurman. Now, we can make it a third achievement as Canelo Alvarez moved up two weight classes to win a light heavyweight title. In a span of 14 months, Canelo has won titles in three different weight classes; middleweight, super middleweight and now light heavyweight.
With that being said, I believe Canelo has cemented his status at the number one pound for pound fighter in the sport. No question about it. The next topic of discussion is where does Canelo rank among the best fighters from Mexico?