THIS Saturday is September 14, Mexican Independence weekend, and Canelo Alvarez is not fighting. It has been a long time since the superstar from Jalisco did not fight on the date which he has made his own. A potential third fight with Gennady Golovkin was left for another year, the IBF middleweight title, which he only won in May, was stripped from him but Canelo was still obliged to wait. The Mexican, who is a middleweight, had been targeting Sergey Kovalev and on November 2, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas he will jump up two divisions to challenge the Russian for the WBO light-heavyweight title.
It is a meaningful fight. Kovalev is a three time world champion with an intimidating track record. “Kovalev is a dangerous puncher, and he’s naturally the bigger man, but that’s the kind of challenges and risks that I like to face,” Alvarez said. “The second phase of my career is continuing just as we had planned, and that’s why we are continuing to make great fights to enter into the history books of boxing.”
The last time Alvarez ventured out of his weight class came in December of last year, when he beat Rocky Fielding in three straight forward rounds at Madison Square Garden. This fight with Kovalev though is everything that one wasn’t. The WBA super-middleweight belt that Canelo won from Fielding was a secondary or ‘regular’ title, while Callum Smith was at the same time the WBA’s Super super-middleweight champion and widely regarded as the best in the division. Kovalev’s WBO crown however is one of the major titles at 175lbs and Kovalev is also a proven, long-term champion. He can count himself amongst the world elite. Even if he has passed the athletic peak of his career, he is still, as far as Boxing News is concerned, the number one ranked fighter in the light-heavyweight division. He’s bigger than Canelo, he’s skilled, experienced and has genuine punching power.
But Alvarez and his team are also clever. They are getting Kovalev at a time that suits Canelo. Age is starting to catch up with the Russian. He was stopped by Eleider Alvarez last year, although he regrouped impressively to win his world title back. He is beginning to creak. Anthony Yarde, a raw, inexperienced British fighter, took on Kovalev as recently as August 24. Although the Russian was victorious in his hometown Yarde did manage to hurt him. Not only has Kovalev shown vulnerability but he now has to go immediately into a hard training camp for the biggest fight of his career.
Alvarez could choose the date and though it was soon for Kovalev the offer was so good that the Russian had to “get himself together to go November 2” in the words of his co-promoter Bob Arum. “The money is such,” Arum previously told Boxing News, “that Kovalev will find it within himself to be ready.”
The small advantages, the little edges, as ever, are with Canelo. Kovalev is rightly the number one in the division, for his status and what he has accomplished in a fine career but he is probably not as dangerous for Canelo as either Artur Beterbiev or Oleksandr Gvozdyk would be. (Those two clash in a superb WBC and IBF 175lbs unification on October 18 in Philadelphia.)
Notably Arum said, “Listen, if I was betting on that fight. I would bet on Canelo even though he’s the smaller guy. Why? Because Yarde showed that Kovalev doesn’t take it good to the body. That’s how Andre Ward beat him and one thing about Canelo, right, he’s a hell of a body puncher.”
It is a good fight and it will be a milestone in Alvarez’s career for all the right reasons. But Canelo is still expected to win it, and look good in the process too.
“In order to be the best you have to beat the best,” Kovalev said bluntly. “I have always tried to fight the toughest opponents in my division, but many have ducked me throughout my career. Canelo wanted to fight me; to step up to higher weight and challenge for my belt. I will be ready on November 2.”