At thirty-five years of age, Sergey Kovalev is hunting down the belts to become Unified Light heavyweight champion once more. For those of you who don’t know the history, the only person to defeat Sergey Kovalev was the undefeated light heavyweight legend, Andre Ward in 2016 and 2017. Against Ward, Kovalev lost the WBA, IBF, and WBO titles. The losses sparked big changes in Sergey’s camp. He sought out a new trainer and other team members. In the end, he went with head-trainer Abror Tursunpulatov in lieu of John David Jackson.
On November 25th, 2017, Sergey Kovalev stepped back in the ring, coming off consecutive losses to Ward. Andre Ward had announced retirement at this point, thus vacating the belts once more. The fight between Vyacheslav Shabranskyy and Sergey Kovalev would be for the vacant WBO (World Boxing Organization), EBP (Eurasian Boxing Parliament), and IBA (International Boxing Association) titles. Anyone who had doubts was quickly brought back to their senses as to who Kovalev is when he TKO’d Shabranskyy in the second round to reclaim a couple of his belts.
Moving quickly, Kovalev took on former European and IBO light-heavyweight champ Igor Mikhalkin in March of 2018. Igor is a champion and a tough test, but Kovalev finished the 12-round fight in just 7, ending Igor’s 10-win streaks and retaining both the WBO and EBP belts that were on the line in the fight.
In Comes Alvarez
Kovalev was supposed to fight Marcus Browne this summer. But due to Browne’s recurring arrests, the opportunity at the WBO title goes to Eleider Alvarez on August 4th at the Hard Rock in Atlantic City.
So who is Alvarez? 23-0 with 11 knockouts. Adonis Stevenson was supposed to fight Alvarez this spring/summer, but Stevenson paid a hefty ‘step-aside fee’ to fight Badou Jack instead. It is safe to say that Stevenson did not want to get into the ring with the Columbian. Over the last few years, Alvarez has put together an international hit-list together and defeated Jean Pascal, Lucian Bute, Norbert Dabrowski, Robert Berridge, and Isaac Chilemba.
21 of Eleider’s 23 fights have been in Quebec. He’s only fought outside of Canada twice, once in 2015 in Chicago and once in Monaco in 2014. Fighting a champion outside of his comfort zone may be part of the reason why the odds are so highly stacked against him. On the most popular online betting sites you’ll find that Sergey Kovalev is a -600 favorite at most shops, making Alvarez a 6 to 1 underdog.
Kovalev has an uncanny ability to control the space in the ring by utilizing one of the best active guards in the business. Alvarez has an OK active guard, but he doesn’t feint well. At least not compared to guys like Ward and Kovalev. He has seen a lot of success, but we have to be honest about the resumes of each fighter. Eleider is fast, powerful, and has a great record, but I believe he’ll be severely out-classed in this fight.
Kovalev has turned setting up his opponent an art form. And he is going to walk Alvarez around the ring and eventually lead him into some big right hands. Alvarez has shown that he can’t really set-up his opponents without over-committing. So far in his career, it has worked out for him, but over-commitment will lead to devastating counter-punches from a world-class fighter like Sergey.
I predict that Sergey Kovalev sets Alvarez up by making him move into a fight-ending right hand by the sixth or seventh round. It won’t be an easy fight. Like I mentioned above, Alvarez is strong and athletic. In the end, Kovalev will be too crafty for the challenger.