LAS VEGAS – The widespread expectation among boxing fans and reporters prior to Saturday night was that Canelo Alvarez would beat Sergey Kovalev by battering him to the body.
Mexico’s Alvarez is one of the sport’s most committed, effective body punchers. Russia’s Kovalev had shown vulnerability to the body, thus that presumption made sense.
Alvarez landed a few flush, noticeable body blows in their light heavyweight title fight. It was harder than the vast majority of boxing observers envisioned, however, for Alvarez to attack the taller, longer Kovalev downstairs.
Kovalev threw 577 jabs in 10-plus rounds, which helped keep the shorter, stouter Alvarez away from his body. Eventually, Alvarez blasted Kovalev with a left-right combination that knocked Kovalev unconscious in the 11th round of their scheduled 12-round fight for Kovalev’s WBO 175-pound championship at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
“As I said in past interviews, that was the intention, to go to the body,” Alvarez said during a post-fight press conference at MGM Grand. “However, once you’re there, that’s when other strategies must be placed. It was hard to get to his body, so it was unpredictable, and it was towards the face that we won.”
Entering the 11th round, Alvarez was ahead by the same score, 96-94, according to judges Julie Lederman and Dave Moretti. Judge Don Trella had their encounter even through 10 rounds (95-95).
CompuBox credited Alvarez for landing just 18 more punches overall than Kovalev (133-of-345 to 115-to-745). Alvarez connected on exactly twice as many power punches (104-of-217 to 52-of-168), but Kovalev had the advantage in jabs (63-of-577 to 29-of-128).
Alvarez (53-1-2, 36 KOs) eliminated any possible scoring-related controversy by knocking Kovalev cold with a right hand that left Kovalev slumped against the ropes. Referee Russell Mora immediately stopped their fight.
“We had to have patience,” Alvarez said. “We knew we had to have patience. It went farther than we thought, but in the 11th round [trainer] Eddy [Reynoso] sent me to close it out, and that’s what we did.”
The 29-year-old Alvarez acknowledged that beating the 6-foot Kovalev (34-4-1, 29 KOs), a career-long light heavyweight, was more problematic than he expected.
“Everything was difficult,” Alvarez said. “What we tried was to go to the body, but obviously that was very difficult for me, to get to the body. So, we practiced for many other strategies to have, and thank God. Because of practicing many other strategies, we were able to do what we did.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.