Sergey Kovalev vs Eleider Alvarez: redemption or retirement?
This light heavyweight championship fight holds a lot of intrigue for boxing fans. Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (32-3-1, 28KO) will rematch Eleider Alvarez (24-0, 12KO) in a bid to regain his WBO light heavyweight title.
Alvarez won their previous fight with a come-from-behind knockout, in a fight where he was down on all three judges scorecards.
Based on the events leading up to this fight, many would assume Kovalev may be mentally and spiritually broken. The issues started following his knockout defeat to unified light heavyweight champion Andre Ward. “Krusher” would return to his home country, Russia, and wreck his Mercedes driving 90 miles per hour into a forest.
Thankfully, the former champion suffered no major injuries. He would also struggle with alcohol abuse, leading him to rehab in a monastery in Mount Athos Greece.
Kovalev would temporarily stop the proverbial bleeding and defeat Vyacheslav Shabranskyy for his WBO title.
Kovalev vs Alvarez I
In the second defense of his WBO title, Kovalev would lose to Eleider Alvarez in a fight where he literally fell apart; prompting his previous conqueror, Andre Ward, to remark “I felt bad for him and part of me felt responsible.”
Kovalev will have a lot weighing on his mind, as he’s been charged for allegedly punching a woman in the face in a June 2018 incident while training in Big Bear CA. He is currently out on $50,000 bail.
The former champ also has shaken up his corner, switching trainers from Abror Tursunpulatov to former 2002 Trainer of the Year, Buddy McGirt.
Eleider Alvarez has been on the opposite end of the spectrum, primarily fighting in relative obscurity out of Montreal Canada. Prior to defeating the Russian native, the Cuban fighter was most known for being avoided by WBC champion Adonis Stevenson.
Along the way, Alvarez picked up some impressive victories over Isaac Chilemba, Lucian Bute, and John Pascal. Once given an opportunity, Alvarez made the most of it in his come-from-behind victory over Sergey Kovalev.
Being this is a redux, we have a very clear blueprint for what each fighter needs to do.
Keys to Victory for Kovalev
First, for Kovalev, there are of a lot of things he can take from the first fight.
First is his jab. He has one of the best jabs in the sport and it sets the table for him. He can control range, hook off of it, throw right-hands to the head or body, and he can inflict damage with it. One thing I’m confident in is that Buddy McGirt will have the Krusher jabbing consistently.
Next is shoring up his defense. It’s an open secret that Kovalev struggles with lateral movement. While his in-and-out movement is superb, he simply struggles to pivot correctly.
This leaves him open to counters and allows his opponents to offset him with their own jabs. At this stage of his career, the Russian slugger isn’t going to revamp his footwork. To compensate, he’ll need to incorporate feints to freeze his opponents.
Next, he has to add another nuance to his jab. Kovalev will need to probe and utilize touch jabs to maintain distance and keep the fight at a manageable pace. If he can do these things, Krusher can regain his title.
Keys to Victory for Alvarez
For Alvarez, he also can feel really confident. First, he’s shown that he can withstand the power the Russian possesses. From a technical standpoint, Alvarez has quite the pedigree.
He was a good amateur and has fought top pros. In his first fight, many were shocked Alvarez could turn Kovalev the way he did.
It took some adjusting over the course of the first three rounds, but Alvarez started utilizing his pivots to turn Kovalev, which opened him up to the right-hand. To the surprise of many, despite his less than 50% knockout ratio (at the time of their first fight), he consistently hurt Kovalev with his right-hand.
Here, Alvarez needs to take what he’s learned and apply it earlier in the fight.
While this fight is close on paper, my prediction is crystal clear. It’s an uphill climb for Kovalev, between his out-of-the-ring issues and fighting a technician with tenacity and know-how.
Expect another mid-rounds stoppage for Alvarez as he utilizes the knowledge he gained from their first confrontation.
By: Corey Cunningham