Kovalev vs Alvarez: The Fight City Picks

It’s been noted more than a few times on this site in the last couple years, but it’s a fact that bears repeating: you have to go a ways back to find a time when boxing’s light heavyweight class was this stacked with talented and dangerous pugilists. The division began to cohere in a significant way about three years ago when fight fans took a look at the rankings and saw we had, in addition to perennial top talents Bernard Hopkins and Jean Pascal, lethal punchers Sergey Kovalev, Adonis Stevenson and Artur Beterbiev, plus formidable contenders in Eleider Alvarez and Isaac Chilemba. One year later and we had Andre Ward in the mix, and the year after that Joe Smith Jr. and Dmitry Bivol had arrived, before Alvarez scored big wins over Lucian Bute and Pascal to cement his status as one of the division’s top threats.

The untapped potential of 175 has been a source of frustration for fight fans.

The point is obvious: if we could wave a magic wand and get rid of all the squabbles between HBO and Showtime and the different promoters, we could have a long series of excellent fights between the top dogs in the 175 pound division. (Are you listening, World Boxing Super Series?) Alas, that has not transpired, which is why Kovalev vs Alvarez is so significant: it represents one of the strongest matches that can be made at present, a legit “best vs best” fight. Kovalev boasts the scalps of Pascal, Hopkins and Chilemba, and many thought he got the better of Ward in their first duel. Alvarez nicked Chilemba before dominating Bute and Pascal. No one disputes the fact that both are at the top of the list at 175.

Thus, Kovalev vs Alvarez represents a dangerous assignment for the champion, and the chance of a lifetime for the challenger, who has yet to develop any kind of profile outside of Quebec. Defeat will be disastrous for either man; a victory will be huge. If “Krusher” wins with authority, it demonstrates he has come all the way back from his stoppage defeat to Andre Ward. Should Alvarez win, he instantly becomes a fresh, new face at the elite-level, albeit one that’s actually been around for several years. Bottom line: this is one of the year’s best match-ups, not to mention a tough one to call. All the more reason to offer you our picks for Kovalev vs Alvarez. Check ’em out:

If there is doubt about Kovalev’s viability following his stoppage loss to Ward, this fight should resolve the question. Eleider Alvarez is a well-schooled, confident and proven contender, not to mention a skilled counter-puncher who will keep Kovalev honest if the Russian comes out too aggressively. But I see Kovalev using his jab and boxing fluidly to keep Alvarez from finding his rhythm in the early rounds. The Russian’s durability in the late going may be a question, but I’m not sure Alvarez can capitalize. The match should tell us a great deal about how each stacks up in a loaded division. Kovalev by unanimous decision.        –Alden Chodash

Alvarez is in the best shape of his life and for this fight he had the chance to train in his home country of Colombia and be with his family. I think that’s significant in terms of focus and motivation. This is the biggest, most important challenge of his life and he has so much to fight for. Plus, Marc Ramsay is a mad scientist of a boxing trainer and I know he has put together a beautiful strategy. Alvarez is going to surprise a lot of people on Saturday when he takes control in the middle rounds and goes on to win. Alvarez by decision.      — Manny Montreal

“Storm” stops Bute.

We still don’t know what the Ward fights took out of Kovalev, if anything. But if he’s lost a step or two, Alvarez is someone who may capitalize. But it’s also possible Kovalev’s lack of activity has saved him a bit. Kovalev by unanimous decision.         — Patrick Connor

Alvarez lacks the defensive discipline necessary to handle a smart puncher like Kovalev. “Krusher” will dictate the action behind his jab before exploiting one of Alvarez’s wide swings with a laser-straight right hand down the middle. Kovalev by KO.     — Lee Wylie 

I’m of the opinion that Kovalev’s defeats to Ward – in particular the second one – indicated some deeper, underlying weaknesses to the Russian’s game that have been overlooked due to the controversial nature of those results. I think there were clear indications that his mental toughness does not match his obvious physical prowess. I expect these chinks will be exposed again sooner or later, but the problem is the WBO champ is so strong and skillful that it’s going to take an exceptionally gifted fighter to take full advantage. I’m just not convinced Alvarez is the man to do it.  Kovalev by TKO.           –Matt O’Brien

After being humbled by Ward, is Kovalev still dangerous?

Eleider Alvarez finally blossomed after defeating Lucian Bute and Jean Pascal, two fighters whose success relegated him to the margins of Montreal’s elite boxing scene. He has always been a technically sound boxer, but his recent performances have been especially encouraging because he’s finally fighting with genuine urgency. In Kovalev, though, Alvarez is meeting a fighter who is simply that half step (or less) better, nearly across the board. Make no mistake, this is a competitive match, but it’s one that Kovalev will win by unanimous decision.     — Zachary Alapi

This is the biggest test for Alvarez by far and I believe he’s ready, but at the same time I think Kovalev’s power is just too much and will be the determining factor. Kovalev by decision.        –Jeffrey Fuss

Obviously this is Kovalev’s toughest test since his second fight against Andre Ward and I’m fully expecting Alvarez to be undeterred by what aura Kovalev may bring into the ring. A wiser Kovalev, arguably a more humbled one, will respect his opponent early and I’m expecting a nip and tuck affair with Kovalev landing the more telling shots throughout. Alvarez is a live dog and will take Kovalev all the way. Kovalev by unanimous decision.          — Shaun Brown

Alvarez dominates Pascal.

It feels like most people, or at least those not hardcore fight fans, are sleeping on Alvarez and on this fight. Meanwhile, some of us are seriously jacked for what, in my opinion, has the makings of a classic. The knock on Alvarez is the dearth of knockouts on his record and a tendency to be passive, but the fact he doesn’t rely on power speaks to his technique and ability to box with patience and discipline. And being passive won’t be an option with Kovalev as the Russian will apply constant pressure. “Storm” knows nothing less than the best performance of his career is required here and I expect we’ll see it, with this big, rangy light heavyweight on the front foot, snapping a hard jab, being first, and forcing “Krusher” to give ground. Alvarez by decision.      — Robert Portis

Kovalev by decision. Alvarez is just not ready for the major step up in competition which Kovalev respresents. Krusher keeps on krushing.    –Jamie Rebner

This is way too big a step up for Alvarez, a bridge too far. Krusher by KO or TKO. Probably by way of a well-placed right, of the kind with which Kovalev almost knocked out Andre Ward in the opening round of their first fight. Alvarez holds his left way too low and will be made to pay for it.          –Ralph Semien

Kovalev pursues Hopkins.

Kovalev has seen some wear and tear, that’s for sure. Even if you felt he got a raw deal in either of the Ward matches, there’s little doubt that facing someone of Ward’s caliber twice can take something out of you. And let’s not forget that Alvarez is an undefeated, skilled pro, so good that Adonis Stevenson side-stepped him over and over again. All of this suggests a possible changing of the guard on Saturday. Or does it? As Floyd Mayweather likes to say, there’s levels to this game and I honestly haven’t seen Alvarez perform at the very high level I’ve seen Kovalev fight at. Right now that makes all the difference when it comes to my pick. Kovalev by late stoppage.            –Sean Crose

I like Eleider Alvarez, and the fact that he is—like myself—an adopted Montrealer, makes it easy for me to root for him. While some questioned his competitive spirit and ambition when he stepped aside multiple times to let Stevenson fight lesser opponents, his taking on bad-ass Russian Sergey Kovalev should at least partially make up for that. However, Kovalev is on a tear since getting stopped by Andre Ward, and while he wasn’t good enough to beat S.O.G. in either of two fights, I think he’s powerful enough to keep Alvarez on the defensive, and skilled enough to earn a clear points win. Kovalev by decision.            — Rafael Garcia

Is “Storm” being underestimated?

I think the Ward fights exposed Kovalev in a bad way and sometimes you are never the same after getting knocked out. Alvarez is a patient, tall, rangy boxer who is content to use his jab and keep the fight at range. It won’t be pretty, but it will get the job done. Alvarez by decision.      Chris Connor

Kovalev vs Alvarez is an intriguing clash of styles. Alvarez’s best wins are against Jean Pascal and Lucian Bute, who were both past their prime when he vanquished them, but for me the key question is who will dictate the pace and my pick is Kovalev. His experience and versatility will be the keys to a win. Kovalev will control the ring geography and the flow of the bout and score points with his powerful jab. Kovalev by decision.     –Thad Moore

I don’t doubt the abilities of Alvarez, but I do question his temperament and lack of intensity, something which played large in his win over Pascal last year. “Storm,” for reasons unknown, was content to cruise against the former champion when it was clear he could take over anytime he wanted. Meanwhile Kovalev remains very dangerous and I give less significance to the stoppage loss to Ward than most. All the anger and stress from the bad decision in the first fight and the protracted negotiations for the rematch stripped “Krusher” of his focus and resilience. Otherwise, I don’t believe he’s lost much yet to age or as a consequence of that loss, and I’ve always thought his boxing ability and stamina are underrated. In my view he’s still the guy who boxed with discipline for 12 rounds against Bernard Hopkins and won with room to spare. And that’s not saying anything about his power, which is awesome and will inhibit Alvarez, which in turn means Sergey will have more and more opportunities to impose his will as the match unfolds. Kovalev by TKO.     — Michael Carbert    

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