2 Biggest Things We Learned From Watching Kovalev vs. Álvarez
By Paul “Paparazzi” Jones: Eleider Álvarez lands a hellacious left hand to Sergey Kovalev’s head on Saturday Night at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Photo © David Spagnolo/Main Events
Eleider Álvarez is the new WBO\IBA Light Heavyweight Champion, defeating Sergey Kovalev by technical knockout.
It’s unclear where Kovalev goes from here.
Here are two things we know after watching Kovalev vs. Álvarez:
Photo © David Spagnolo/Main Events
1. Light Heavyweights Beware: There’s a New Sheriff in Town
Put succinctly, the Krusher was no match for the perfect Storm.
By stopping former champion Sergey ‘Krusher’ Kovalev (32–3–1, 28 KOs) on Saturday night at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, newly-crowned WBO/IBA Champion Eleider ‘Storm’ Álvarez (24–0, 12 KOs) established himself as a force to be reckoned with in the light heavyweight division. Any path to an undisputed champion at 175 pounds must now go through Álvarez. Colombia #StandUp.
While many questioned whether Álvarez had the chops to beat Kovalev (e.g., ),* few boxing insiders that I spoke to believed that Álvarez would simply roll over to Kovalev. Undefeated fighters like Álvarez, who struck gold in the Pan-Am Games (2007) and conquered former (albeit over-the-hill) World Champions Jean Pascal (33–5–1, 20 KOs, 1 NC) and Lucian Bute (32–5, 25 KOs), and savvy veterans like Isaac Chilemba (25–6–2, 10 KOs), rarely do.
In other words, Álvarez was a live underdog and no easy mark.
But dig deeper and you’ll find that, despite underwhelming odds, Alvarez’s win was no fluke. It was the culmination of hard work, dedication, and preparation. And Team Álvarez probably believed that they were playing with house money going into the Kovalev fight.
Consider that, according to Álvarez’s trainer Marc Ramsay, the Colombian badass trained at high altitude in Bogotá (Colombia’s Capital) to prepare for this bout. Therefore, there was little doubt that Álvarez would come to Atlantic City in peak physical condition, ready to rumble.
More important, however, was a short quote from Ramsay in a recent interview that spoke to Álvarez’s mental focus. “…[Álvarez] come[s] to Atlantic City really confident,” said Ramsay, “We have the recipe to beat Kovalev.”
The “recipe” that Ramsay speaks of was undoubtedly cribbed from the cookbook of former pound-for-pound king, Andre Ward. Ward handed Kovalev a pair of heartbreaking losses in 2016 and 2017 and did so with (but not limited to) intelligent pressure, a well-timed and discouraging jab, a relentless body attack (that may venture south of the beltline at times), and by forcing Kovalev to fight while backing up (off of his back foot).
Álvarez replicated Ward’s recipe to a tee, putting the Russian dynamo on his wallet three times en route to a technical knockout in seven rounds. The hard-hitting Colombian’s victory was also a de facto warning shot to Light Heavyweight Division: There’s a new sheriff in town.
2. Where Does Kovalev Go From Here?
After losing three of his last five fights, the million-dollar question for Sergey Kovalev is: “What’s next?”
Naturally responses will fall along a continuum ranging from Kovalev should resume his boxing career to Kovalev needs to call it quits.
Among the reasons that Kovalev should continue to ply his craft is that he’s still a box office draw. Despite fighting Álvarez, a virtual unknown to casual boxing fans, Kovalev’s star power was able to put 5,642 fannies in seats at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. A sellout crowd at an inaugural boxing event in a newly-opened venue. That’s significant.
Kovalev also proved that he can still fight. For instance, at the time of the stoppage, Kovalev was ahead on all three scorecards (see below).
Irrespective of my (, Kovalev was far from a shopworn fighter from a statistical standpoint.
Nevertheless, Kovalev’s continues to display stamina issues. (see 10:42 Mark), and this limitation may have resurfaced in the loss to Álvarez.
Also working against Kovalev is Father Time. Kovalev is 35——and likely entering the twilight of his career.
All things considered, Sergey Kovalev remains a fan-pleasing fighter and there are many appealing fights out there for him. Bouts versus any of the Light Heavyweight vanguard are still must-see TV.
But, while a Álvarez rematch or matchup against WBA Champ Dmitry Bivol (14–0, 11 KOs) are enticing, there is still (29–1–1, 24 KOs) that deserves consideration.
In fact, Stevenson-Kovalev might be the type of fight that can help rejuvenate Kovalev’s career and (perhaps) get him back into the winner’s circle.
*Simply put, betting $100 on Álvarez at +400 would yield a payout of $400.
Follow Paul Jones on Twitter @boxingepicenter