Canelo vs Kovalev: The Fight City Picks

A few short months ago, absolutely no one in boxing was thinking about a clash between Mexico’s Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and light heavyweight titlist Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev of Russia. No one. Then, just before the full-fledged light heavyweight signed a contract to face Britain’s Anthony Yarde, the first word came that someone, somewhere, was floating the idea of a Canelo vs Krusher match and, no, this was not a joke. In fact, the talk was serious enough to cause Kovalev and his team at Main Events to pause and consider their options before proceeding with the Yarde fight. And once that was in the books, Canelo wasted no time in putting a contract in front of Kovalev, one dictating that the 36-year-old Russian would be back in the ring little more than two months after his grueling struggle with Yarde, but one also that “Krusher” was only too happy to sign, representing as it does the biggest payday of his career. And so it has come to pass, an unlikely and unexpected duel, and so the fearless contributors to The Fight City offer their picks for one of the most fascinating matches of recent years. Check ’em out:

Staredown at the final press conference.

Sergey Kovalev has gotten to a point in his career where he operates solely by using his best attributes: his jab and his overall outside boxing ability. The aura of the “Krusher” may be diminishing, but this version of Kovalev is far more dangerous than many, Canelo included, may anticipate going into this fight. Kovalev’s strongest attributes happen to be some of Canelo’s weak points, as shown in his 24 rounds with Golovkin. Taller fighters with an educated jab that control distance well can keep Canelo from getting into his rhythm, and hence I believe Kovalev will have the upper hand early. I do think that a fighter of Canelo’s youth and ring IQ will be able to make adjustments though, and in this case he will be forced to work his way inside and target the body. His ability to pull out the win might hinge on his ability to close strong, which is another area where Canelo has often struggled to perform in. I do think Alvarez will find a way to pull out a close decision victory, but it certainly won’t be easy.        — Alden Chodash

Kovalev by stoppage.     — Eliott McCormick

The unexpected big fight of 2019.

Make no mistake, Canelo will find it challenging to outbox Kovalev for twelve rounds. Despite his advancing years, Kovalev stays busy behind a long and versatile jab, whereas Canelo fights in spurts and has a relatively low punch output. Canelo will no doubt be targeting Kovalev’s midriff to take his legs away (look for Alvarez to slip inside the jab and then counter with a left hook to the body) and if Kovalev is as vulnerable to a body attack as many believe, I can see the Mexican breaking him down and stopping him in the late rounds. But can the smaller man punch with the same authority and frequency at 175? He appears to have bulked up, which suggests an emphasis on power and strength, but more bulk could also hinder stamina and quickness. All told I can’t help feeling that Canelo is getting Kovalev, a still formidable light heavyweight but no longer the “Krusher” of old, at just the right time. I’m less confident about my prediction now than when the match was first announced, but Canelo by late stoppage remains the pick here.                — Lee Wylie

Somewhere in the middle rounds, Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev is going to find his groove behind that heavy jab and start feeding Canelo some serious 100 proof pain like it’s premium, triple-aged Stolichnaya. However, while he may get the Mexican woozy, Canelo’s a tough bastard, as he showed in his battles with Golovkin. He’ll stay on his feet and keep battling back, looking to land the big body shot that buckles Kovalev’s legs. But his tequila won’t be as potent as the vodka and in the end the bigger, stronger man will, in the eyes of everyone but Canelo’s most ardent fans, get the better of it. And then the Vegas judges will do what the Vegas judges do in Canelo fights. Alvarez by bullshit decision.       — Robert Portis   

Some believe the Mexican is attempting a weight division too far.

Canelo can stop certain opponents like Amir Khan and Rocky Fielding, but he couldn’t stop Daniel Jacobs or Golovkin, so he very likely won’t be able to stop Kovalev. Canelo’s greatest strength, that he’s a true step-to-your-opponent-never-back-up Mexican boxer means if Kovalev brings it, Canelo’s going to get hit repeatedly and harder than he’s ever been hit before. I say “if” because Kovalev is aging and can be inconsistent. That said, Krusher’s corner, led by the great Buddy McGirt, should have him dialed in. Buddy has gone over the films, particularly that of the Mayweather fight, where Floyd totally figured Canelo out, exposed him and, thereby beat his ass like a drum. There are lessons for Krusher there. The Russian will have to pressure Canelo, who is known to fade in the later rounds. If so, and if Kovalev is effectively aggressive, Canelo will take his beating the way he took it from Money May, like the true Mexican boxer he is. And as he’s doing so, he may find himself wishing he had stayed at his natural weight and given Golovkin that well-deserved trilogy fight. Only Canelo’s great beard may prevent him being knocked out. Kovalev by decision.         — Ralph M. Semien

Canelo is almost daring us to bet against him on this one, especially when odds favor him four-to-one. While I don’t like ascribing too much value to fighters’ demeanor during the hype-building phase, I really don’t like what I saw from Kovalev in the buildup to this main event. The Russian was practically swooning at their first press conference, asking Canelo to take a selfie and thanking him profusely for the payday. Some might call it sportsmanlike, but to me it just signals Kovalev lacking the requisite seriousness and drive. I might be wrong, but I gotta go with my gut: Canelo by decision in a less-than-thrilling fight in which Kovalev leaves us wishing he had focused more on “krushing” the Mexican instead of just harboring a crush on him.            — Rafael Garcia

The Kovalev jab will need to be a big factor if “Krusher” is to triumph.

Canelo Alvarez is younger and has the edge in career trajectory over Kovalev, who has been put through the ringer the last few years. There’s also the issue of asking if this fight would have been made if Kovalev weren’t coming off a very recent and difficult brawl, and if Canelo and his team didn’t believe they were in a position to take advantage. That said, even a dented version of Sergey Kovalev has one of the best jabs in the sport, can still punch, and he seems to know what’s at stake. I sense this is a bridge too far for Canelo and that Kovalev will pull out the win.       — Patrick Connor

I think Canelo has a stylistic edge in that his strengths line up with Kovalev’s weaknesses. His head and upper body movement, counter-punching, and body work could be too much for the aging “Krusher.” But I also can’t help thinking he’s bitten off more than he can chew. Kovalev is a strong light heavyweight, with serious power, and a jab that will give Canelo flashbacks to his first fight with Golovkin. I’m leaning toward Kovalev being too strong and too busy for the smaller man. I could see Canelo starting to figure out Kovalev down the stretch, but I also envision the extra weight slowing him down. I’ll go with Kovalev deserving a close but clear decision, though the judges may score it otherwise.           — Hunter Breckenridge

Can Kovalev take inspiration from Floyd’s one-sided win over Canelo?

When this fight was first mooted, I thought Canelo might be biting off a bit more than he could chew, and as it draws nearer that feeling holds. Kovalev just has so many physical advantages that it’s hard to see them not making a meaningful difference in the ring. Yes, Kovalev is not the force he once was, and he came close to being stopped by a less-talented boxer in his last fight. But Anthony Yarde is a big, strong, power-punching light-heavyweight, and Canelo is not. Of course, Canelo does not need to knock Kovalev out to win. He’s the fresher, younger fighter, the better counter-puncher, and it’s no great insight to say his route to success will involve targeting the Russian’s body. But Kovalev is going to be sticking his long, heavy jab in Canelo’s face all night, and under Buddy McGirt’s influence he’s shown a renewed ability to stick to a game plan for twelve rounds. Kovalev on points.       — Matt O’Brien

For me this fight isn’t as competitive as many think it is. Although Kovalev still has some gas in the tank as his victories over Alvarez and Yarde demonstrate, Canelo will be too much for him at this stage in his career. Not even a great game-plan and savvy trainer in Buddy McGirt will make enough of a difference. I see Canelo using his significant advantages in speed and athleticism to make Kovalev miss and make him pay. Alvarez will be able to get inside Kovalev’s jab and rip to the body, where the Russian is vulnerable. Canelo by late round stoppage.         — Jamie Rebner

Five years ago I’d have said Canelo was making the biggest mistake in his life moving up to fight Kovalev. But time moves quickly, people age, and right now, Kovalev is simply too long in the tooth. He’s not the knockout machine with skills to match when at his best. He’s still good, but not that good. Throw in the fact that it’s almost Nevada state law that Saul Alvarez cannot lose a decision, and a clear picture starts to emerge. Canelo by comfortable decision.            — Sean Crose

Against Golovkin, Canelo proved his chin was made of Mexican steel.

Originally, when this match was announced I automatically thought Canelo would roll the Krusher over with body shots. After a while I had to be reminded of the sheer size difference, Krusher’s experience, and Canelo’s stamina issues (though Kovalev is not known for his stamina either). Could the Krusher pull off a win? I think definitely yes: he’s stronger, rangy and has an excellent jab. But the reality is we’re in Canelo’s world, the new king of the sport. He’s made improvements with each match, and his relentless body attack is going to take its toll on an opponent with a history of a soft midsection. Add in the Mexican’s popularity with Vegas judges and I think Krusher’s fate is sealed. Canelo by decision.          —Jeffrey Fuss

Canelo certainly has cojones moving up two weight divisions to fight somebody of Kovalev’s pedigree, but there’s a reason he didn’t seek out a match with, say, Artur Beterbiev. Kovalev largely outclassed Anthony Yarde two months ago, but took too many clean shots from a guy who, frankly, isn’t in the top ten for the division. While ‘Krusher’ can box beautifully when on form, as demonstrated by the clinic he put on in the rematch against Eleider Alvarez, questions remain about his gas tank and vulnerability to body shots. If Canelo can bring his speed up to 175, moving in to land well-placed liver shots and evading the Russian’s jab with his head movement, he should take a decision. His chin withstood the best efforts of Gennadiy Golovkin over 24 rounds, so Kovalev’s vaunted power might not be as potent a weapon as some imagine. It won’t be easy, and Canelo’s engine can fail him sometimes as well, but I see him taking a relatively close, but unanimous, points victory.           — Rob Lownie

Andre Ward showed that the “Krusher” could be crushed.

Kovalev has a ramrod jab, and Canelo took plenty of left leads from Golovkin, so I’m skeptical that the Mexican can handle that same kind of attack after moving up two weight classes. Given that Canelo isn’t a tall middleweight, let alone at light heavyweight, I suspect he’ll lose a touch of agility after putting on a few more pounds of muscle. That said, Canelo’s the more skilled fighter overall, but I think 175 might be a step too far. The Russian is not in his prime, but I think he’s got plenty left in the tank. Kovalev will score a knockdown and win by decision.           — Joshua Isard

Kovalev may have a powerful jab, but there’s no way he can match the endurance of the younger Canelo, who battled Golovkin twice and never hit the canvas. Yes, Golovkin was post-prime, but so is Kovalev. Some say the size difference between Canelo and Kovalev makes this a dangerous fight for the Mexican, but let’s remember that Kovalev is very timable. It will only take Canelo a few rounds to find a way to work his smaller frame to the inside where he’ll land powerful body shots. On paper, Canelo may be taking a risk, but the reality is that Kovalev, who has a history of fading in later rounds, will be lucky if he makes it to the final bell. Besides, there’s too much money riding on Canelo for his handlers to risk him losing on the scorecards. The only way Kovalev wins on Saturday is if he knocks Canelo out. Kovalev must know he has virtually no chance of winning, and he probably doesn’t care. Canelo is the fourth highest-paid athlete in the world. When Kovalev exits the ring on Saturday night with another loss on his record, he will be able to retire a very rich man.         — Blake Cass

Here’s my dream scenario: Sergey Kovalev knocks Canelo Alvarez out and then gets destroyed by Artur Beterbiev in his next fight. We get the satisfaction of Canelo getting iced, followed by Kovalev’s painful comeuppance at the hands of a Montreal-based fighter. Life, however, is rarely that sweet. The pick here is Canelo via stoppage, with superior defense frustrating Kovalev and neutralizing his vaunted jab, followed by a body shot knockout in the late rounds.      — Zachary Alapi

The more I think about it, the more I anticipate that weight and size are going to be less significant factors on Saturday night than many expect. And while I appreciate the fact that Sergey Kovalev remains a skilled and dangerous boxer at the rather advanced age of 36, Canelo just has more tools in his toolbox. I also believe he’s more durable, which means the Mexican, not “Krusher,” may prove to be the puncher in this fight. Add in his defensive ability and his skill in going to the body and I believe it all adds up to a very frustrating night for the Russian. After all, if an inexperienced Anthony Yarde could get to Kovalev and shake him, why would anyone doubt Canelo’s ability to do the same? It should be competitive early, hopefully even dramatic and memorable, but Canelo will at some point hurt Kovalev, put him on the defensive, and then cruise to a decision.                 — Michael Carbert

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One thought on “Canelo vs Kovalev: The Fight City Picks

  • October 31, 2019 at 9:24 pm

    I think Michael Carbert’s analysis is spot on.


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