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Ray Mancini: Canelo Alvarez is an all-time great if he beats Sergey Kovalev

Image: Ray Mancini: Canelo Alvarez is an all-time great if he beats Sergey Kovalev

By Dan Ambrose:  Former lightweight world champion Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini says he really admires Saul Canelo Alvarez for choosing to move up two weight classes to challenge WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev for his title on November 2. Mancini says Canelo Alvarez (52-1-2, 35 KOs) will be considered an “all time great” if he beats Kovalev.

Should Canelo be considered an “all time great” if he beats Kovalev?

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Mancini is cheapening the standards for a fighter to become an all time great by saying that a win over past his prime Kovalev is the key to reaching that status. If that’s all it takes to become an all time great, then Eleider Alvarez is now an all time great for stopping Kovalev a year ago.

A lot of fans would disagree with that opinion though, as Kovalev is seen as over-the-hill, and not in the same class as the other three light heavyweight champions. Canelo conveniently chose to side step the younger 175-lb champions in Artur Beterbiev, Oleksandr Gvozdyk and Dmitry Bivol.

Mancini doesn’t view Kovalev (34-3-1, 29 KOs) as being completely shot the way that many fans do. He sees the 36-year-old Kovalev as being in the final quarter of his 10-year pro career, and still dangerous due to his power, jab and size. Mancini is picking Kovalev to win the fight.

Mancini admires Canelo for fighting Kovalev

“I admire Canelo and his people for taking this fight,” said Mancini to Fighthub about Canelo taking on Kovalev. “Jumping up one weight class is hard, but jumping up two against a guy that can fight still pretty good. He just won a fight against [Anthony] Yarde. He can punch like a son of a gun, and he’s a big strong guy. So I admire Canelo for it. He’s at the top of his game. I think there’s a lot of guys at middleweight and super middleweight for him to fight. But for him to jump up two weight classes, I don’t understand it, but I admire it.

“Kovalev can still fight. He’s in the fourth quarter of his career, but he can still fight. If he beats him, he’s an all time great. I give it to him. He’s one of the all time greats if he beats Kovalev. He could have called for a catchweight, but he didn’t. I got to say that I admire him. My admiration has grown for him just for that fact. He wants to show greatness with no catchweight,” said Mancini.

There’s a belief that a lot of people have that the entire reason Canelo chose to move up to 175 is so that he could avoid a third fight with Gennady Golovkin, who gave him a lot of problems in their two fights. Given that Canelo is signed to an expensive 11-fight, $365 million deal with DAZN, they expect him to fight quality opposition.

Saul Alvarez had little choice in picking risky opponent

Canelo already took a soft opponent in Rocky Fielding last December. Since Canelo is choosing not to fight Golovkin, it means he’s got to fight someone that is close to the same threat in order to bring in the subscribers to DAZN. Kovalev is a good fighter, but he’s not as popular as GGG, and he’s viewed as arguably the 4th best fighter at 175 behind Beterbiev, Gvozdyk and Bivol.

With that big contract that Canelo has with DAZN, he can’t milk the remaining nine fights he has by facing Rocky Fielding level fighters. Nevertheless, DAZN didn’t pressure Canelo to fight the best 175-lb fighter or even the second best. They allowed him to fight the fading Kovalev, who at one time was seen as the #2 fighter at 175 behind Adonis Stevenson. He’s now slipped to #4, and he’ll likely continue to slip downwards unless he retires after the Canelo fight.

Kovalev is bad fight for Canelo 

“I think it’s a bad fight for him, Canelo,” said Mancini about Alvarez’s fight with Kovalev. “I think so. Kovalev has a good jab, and fights from the distance. Golovkin hit him [Canelo] with that jab all night long, and Kovalev can use it. Kovalev can hit with his right hand too. He’s a big strong guy. When he gets in the ring, he’s going to be close to 190. I admire somebody that is willing to take the chance. God bless them.

“Yeah, but he’s got to get there,” said Mancini about Canelo needing to work his way to get inside. “Kovalev is a big guy, and he creates distance with that jab. I pick Kovalev to win at this point. I don’t think Canelo is going to walk to him. I’m not sure if it’s the smartest thing [for Canelo to have picked Kovalev], and when he gets inside the ring, he may find out he did make a mistake. We don’t know,” said Mancini.

If Kovalev can stay on the outside the way that he did against Bernard Hopkins, he could out-box the shorter 5’8″ Canelo. The 5’4 1/2″ Boom Boom Mancini suffered his first career loss in 1981 when he was stopped in the 14th round by the 5’10” Alexis Arguello. Besides the 5 1/2″ inches in height that Mancini was giving away, he was also giving away 6″ inches in reach to Alexis. Ultimately, the height and reach of Arguello was too much for Mancini, and he ended up getting stopped. Kovalev, 6’0″, will be enjoying a 4 inch height and a 2″ reach advantage.

Mancini compares Canelo-Kovalev to Spence vs. Mikey Garcia

“It just happened with Mikey Garcia and Errol Spence,” said Mancini when asked if he’d ever seen a smaller fighter move up two weight divisions to take on a champion. “I admired him moving up two weight classes. Mikey, I bought into everything he said. I admired him in jumping up two weight classes.

‘When he got inside the ring, he realized the size difference, he knew after three or four rounds, he couldn’t beat the guy. So he had to watch and try and not get knocked out. After a certain point, Mikey wasn’t trying to win, he was trying not to get knocked out,” said Mancini.

Mancini’s comparison of Canelo vs. Kovalev to Errol Spence vs. Mikey Garcia is a fair one. The main difference though is that Spence is in the prime of his career, whereas Kovalev left his prime behind seven years ago. Spence isn’t 36-years-old, and he hasn’t lost three times since 2016 like Kovalev has. It’s a completely different fight. Kovalev could possibly beat Canelo by fighting on the outside the way Spence did with Mikey, but he probably won’t be able to keep the Mexican star from walking him down.

Billy Joe Saunders wants Canelo fight next May

“That’s because he’s the face of boxing and I’d like the chance to beat him,” Billy Joe Saunders said to “Here’s the really scary thing – I know that I can do it. “I would take pleasure in ruining Cinco de Mayo for the Mexican fans. With a fighter like Canelo you can’t go into the ring with a game-plan. A fighter like me? My style has beat him before, and I believe I can do it again.”

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