Making history is firmly on the agenda for Saul Canelo Alvarez this Saturday night, as he bids to dethrone WBO light-heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev at the MGM Grand in Paradise, Nevada.
The Guadalajara native continues his seemingly inexorable rise through the weight divisions in an audacious effort to become a four-weight world champion, in addition to Mexico’s first ever titlist at 175lbs.
If he is successful – and that is a big if – it is noteworthy that Canelo would beat former WBO super-middleweight world champion Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez in accomplishing this feat; someone who has also moved up recently with the express aim of being Mexico’s first champion at the weight.
Although it is also probably fair to say that Kovalev – relatively speaking – is currently the weakest link as far as light-heavyweight champions are concerned, this is more a reflection of the sheer quality of the division, as opposed to Kovalev’s shortcomings as a fighter.
Indeed, in August, Kovalev displayed his mettle when he saw off a determined assault in the eighth round, from undefeated challenger Anthony Yarde, to spectacularly stop the Londoner with a single jab in the penultimate stanza.
Kovalev, also known as Krusher, is widely considered to be one of the most formidable boxer-punchers of recent times; virtually sweeping aside all opposition to become a unified champion in November 2014, with a resounding twelve-round drubbing of Bernard Hopkins.
However, his incredible string of victories came to an end two years later, when he himself was contentiously outpointed by Andre Ward after twelve rounds in Las Vegas.
Following his similarly controversial stoppage defeat in the eighth round of a highly-anticipated June 2017 rematch, Kovalev acrimoniously split from trainer John David Jackson and won back the vacant WBO title that October, eviscerating Vyacheslav Shabranskyy inside two rounds.
After successfully retaining his title with a routine victory over Igor Mikhailkin in March 2018, Kovalev once again suffered a setback in the summer of that year, when he was violently knocked out by Colombian contender Eleider Alvarez.
This time, however, there was nothing debatable whatsoever about the nature of his loss. After intelligently navigating himself through the early dangerous rounds, the athletic and teak-tough challenger bowled over a devastating overhand right in the seventh round that turned Kovalev’s legs to jelly; dropping him on two more ocassions before the fight was ultimately waved off.
The manner in which he lost meant that many commentators and analysts feared the end for the Krusher, but after joining forces with Buddy McGirt and embracing a more disciplined lifestyle, Kovalev avenged the loss in an immediate rematch, winning almost every round.
Canelo, meanwhile, is coming off a narrow unanimous decision victory over Danny Jacobs in May at middleweight. Before that, in December, he had cruised to victory against the evidently overmatched Rocky Fielding, stopping the Liverpudlian in three rounds to collect the WBA’s secondary super-middleweight title.
A calculated boxer-puncher by nature who tends to be quite economical with his output, Canelo has adopted a more aggressive, come-forward approach in recent contests; something which certainly paid dividends in his September 2018 rematch with Gennady Golovkin, en route to claiming a hard-fought majority decision verdict.
Alvarez’s poise, physical strength, hand speed, accurate counterpunching abilities and exquisite head movement are factors that have enabled him to rack up victories against the likes of Shane Mosley, Austin Trout, Miguel Cotto and Erislandy Lara, among others.
However, those victories have been tainted somewhat by numerous questionable scorecards; not to mention a positive test for clenbuterol that was unearthed in February 2018.
Therefore, it goes without saying that Alvarez would like nothing more than remove any doubt in the latest chapter of his career by winning in emphatic fashion. Doing so would enable him to dispel the widespread perception that he is treated favourably by judges, and would further enhance his standing in the sport as potentially the pound-for-pound number one.
Kovalev, naturally, will have other ideas. Having been stung twice in high-profile Nevada superfights, the Russian will be resolved to do everything in his power to ensure that his return to Las Vegas represents a case of “third-time lucky”.
Despite the inexplicably lopsided odds in his favour, it would be fair to say that Alvarez is the one who is gambling by choosing to face someone who not long ago was a consensus pound-for-pound superstar.
Therefore, expect the Russian to keep Alvarez honest with his powerful lead hand, whilst at the same time being conservative with his output, and not providing his Mexican counterpart with any opportunities throughout the early rounds to exploit his weakness to the body.
As the fight progresses, Canelo will continue to have problems applying sustained pressure on the seemingly stronger, bigger man, as Kovalev is able to keep the fight at a comfortable pace, winning the rounds with patient boxing. A late rally from the redhead – not renowned for his punch volume or stamina – will prove too little too late, as he comes up short on the night and Kovalev is justly declared the winner with a unanimous verdict.
Article by: Navi Singh
Follow Navi on Twitter at: @DarkMan________