Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez (52-1-2, 35 Kos) will test himself yet again against Sergey Kovalev (34-3-1, 29 Kos) with the WBO light heavyweight championship on the line this Saturday at the MGM in Las Vegas.
It’s a curious matchup considering that Canelo has never fought at this weight before and will be battling an older, albeit experienced and still dangerous opponent in the 36-year old ‘Krusher’. It’s a fight that while intriguing, some deem unnecessary and very risky for the Mexican superstar.
Tale of the Tape
Alvarez may have dominated the middleweight division and every other weight class beforehand, but jumping up two weight divisions could prove to be a leap too far.
Standing in Canelo’s path and no doubt eager to welcome him at 175lbs is the reigning WBO boss, who has the firepower and temperament to make things interesting.
Kovalev has his own legacy to protect having fought some of the most recognizable names within the division throughout his impressive career such as Bernard Hopkins, Jean Pascal and Nathan Cleverly. He’s coming off an impressive knockout win over a young lion in Anthony Yarde in August and before that, defeated Eleider Alvarez in a revenge match.
The 10-year veteran has only been stopped on two occasions by Andre Ward and the aforementioned Eleider Alvarez.
The Russian has one of the best jabs in the business, underrated footwork and a high ring IQ which must not be overlooked even when accounting for his sometimes questionable durability.
This will be the 55th fight of Canelo’s career but he is seven years younger than Kovalev with less ring wear.
He is at the obvious peak of his physical powers and has really come full circle as a fighter since that humbling defeat to Floyd Mayweather back in 2013.
You can argue that Canelo should have lost the first meeting against Gennady Golovkin as well, but he brilliantly turned the tide in their rematch by taking the fight to Golovkin in winning a decision.
Few fighters are willing to go toe-to-toe with the heavy-handed Mexican and for good reason considering his unique blend of speed and counter punching capability.
Betting against Canelo as boxing’s biggest cash cow right now, with huge promotor backing is a risky strategy. In all, he’s gone 6-1 in Vegas and will look to extend that streak on Saturday night.
Will Size Matter?
The weight and size of fighters is usually a factor and the means by which fighters gain an edge over their opponents by coming in heavier on fight night, after the weigh-in.
The consensus is that jumping up two weight classes is dangerous even for a special fighter like Canelo. After all, we have weight limits for a reason.
The Russian will have natural advantages in height, weight and reach and usually carries his power into the latter rounds. Kovalev has certainly stopped bigger opponents so it’s not inconceivable that he could stop the Mexican in this fight.
Canelo looked sensational in destroying the game Rocky Fielding with a devastating body attack during his last move up in weight to 168lbs, but it was a second-tier title against an inferior opponent.
Kovalev is much more formidable and you have to wonder if the additional 7 pounds will take away Canelo’s speed and negatively impact his stamina.
Alvarez should be able to prevail if he can get inside Kovalev’s jab and attack the body. He is also the better defensive technician and quite adept at using head movement and range to stay away from his opponent’s power.
He is rightly favoured in this fight given the gap in their age and the perception that Kovalev is on the decline. This is essentially Canelo’s fight to lose but it will not be an easy task and we should anticipate that Kovalev will have his moments. This fight will likely go the distance which means that Kovalev will need to outbox Canelo over the majority of bout. That’s a daunting task since Canelo is more versatile and has home field advantage.
Verdict – Canelo Alvarez via split decision.