Canelo Alvarez (Saúl Álvarez) vs Sergey Kovalev
In early September, Canelo announced on social media that he would be moving up two weight classes to challenge the WBO Light heavyweight titleholder Sergey Kovalev. Kovalev had just come off an impressive 11th round: knock out win vs Anthony Yarde on August 24th in Russia.
This will be Canelo’s attempt at winning a title belt in four divisions. He has held world titles in the light middleweight, middleweight and super middleweight division. As for Kovalev, he is looking to win his third straight title fight, and is hoping to retain his WBO gold against one of the biggest names in the sport.
Tale of the tape:
Wins by KO: 29 Wins by KO: 35
Wins by KO: 35
Kovalev is the older fighter at 36, but has just 38 fights to Canelo’s 55. Canelo has 17 more pro fights than Sergey, so as far as miles goes – these two may be closer than what the public thinks.
For Kovalev, at 6ft and 183cm’s reach, he has 2inches and 5cm’s on Canelo’s most successful opponent in memory – Gennedy Golovkin. With that, you would think that the strong, commanding jab of Kovalev is going to have a harder effect on Canelo, than what Golovkin was able to do to him – with only a 1inch height advantage.
Kovalev is also significantly taller than Golovkin,he has 2 inches in height and 5cms in reach over GGG. For me, that is a huge factor here, we saw how GGG was able to operate in those fights against Canelo, regardless of both decisions, he was still able to put damage on Canelo. In both fights we saw Canelo take as much damage as he has in almost any of his pro fights, at least since fighting Floyd Mayweather in 2013.
Kovalev is a career light heavyweight, he is the longer fighter here, and has fought at this size his entire career. Kovalev’s career has also been rejuvenated by his new trainer, American boxing legend Buddy McGirt.
Buddy McGirt, has come to a crossroad in his training career. He was the trainer of Russian fighter Maxim Dadashev, who died on July 23rd of this year, after suffering a subdural hematoma from his fight against Subriel Matías a few days earlier on July 19th. McGirt has been clearly affected by this, and has not stepped in as a corner man for a major boxing event, since the death of Dadashev in July. McGirt will be in Kovalev’s corner on November 2nd and has been training him since the lead up to the Anthony Yarde fight.
McGirt believes the short layoff for Kovalev, who fought Anthony Yarde just 10 weeks ago in Russia – will benefit him in the long run. McGirt believes that because Kovalev was already in shape for the Yarde fight, and didn’t need to take much time off for recovery, he was able to get back to fighting shape with ease. With that, McGirt believes the extra focus on technique and execution will be the difference between these two fighters come Saturday.
As we have seen with older fighters, the more active they are – the more success they have. It is the long layoff that hurts the guys reaching the twilight of their careers, especially in the upper weight divisions. Kovalev and his camp believe this is the perfect set up for him. A fresh fighter with nothing to lose, against a fighter in Canelo – who hasn’t really had any major fight competition since taking on GGG in September of last year.
With a simple analysis of the odds for this fight, it is actually quite stunning that Canelo comes into this fight as a 1-4 favorite, with Kovalev being a +300 underdog.
To put it bluntly, Kovalev is coming off a fight where he looked impressive against a very highly touted prospect at Light-Heavyweight in Anthony Yarde. There was only about 45 seconds of that fight, where Kovalev looked to be having problems with Yarde. Yarde is a big strong kid with a lot of punching power. Kovalev looked to be out on his feet at one point in the 8th round, but was able to comeback and assert his dominance as the fight went into the later rounds. Kovalev ended up being able to take out Yarde with a straight jab that proved to be too much for him, ending the fight in the 11th round by TKO.
As we saw with Gennedy Golovkin vs Canelo, that straight “walking forward’ jab has seemed to be problematic for Alvarez. It was the most consistent punch thrown by GGG in 24 rounds of fighting against Canelo and it seemed to be giving Canelo fits at times in the two fights they had.
Kovalev is a tall, long, rangey guy, who has fought the top guys in this division. He is not the Sergey Kovalev that we saw fight Andre Ward in 2016 and 2017, but if he is anything like what we saw vs Anthony Yarde just a few months ago – I think it will be enough to cause Canelo a lot of problems. This fight is not as cut and dry as the odds may have you believe.
Kovalev’s jab is going to come down the pipe fast and hard, so if Canelo is looking to put some hurt on Kovalev’s body, he’s going to have to go through that hard jab first – and that’s something I don’t think Canelo will be able to do very easily.
Kovalev has a career knock out rate of 76% (29/38), and in his last 16 fights has knocked out 9 of his opponents. In his 14 fights in which professional odds were posted, Kovalev has an ROI of +0.09% per fight, with a record of 11-3 +0.52u. Kovalev has also gone the distance in 4 of his last 16 pro fights, and has a career ‘to the distance’ rate of 18% (7 of 38 fights). The fight has gone under in 8 of Kovalev’s 15 fights in which professional odds were posted. Kovalev under backers have gone 8-7, +0.95 units for an ROI of +0.16% per wager.
In Canelo’s 19 pro fights in which professional odds were posted, Alvarez has a record of 17-2, +2.31 units. Alvarez has a career knock out rate of 63% (35/55) and in his last 16 fights, a knock out rating of 44% (7/16). Canelo has gone the distance in 32% of his fights (20/55) and has gone to decision in 56% of his last 16 fights (9/16). The over has hit in 13 of Canelo’s 18 booked fights. Giving over backers in Canelo fights a record of 13-5, +3.88u. An ROI of +0.54% per wager. Canelo Alvarez has never been knocked out in his professional boxing career.
In the big boxing scheme of things, it was Canelo that wanted this fight, not Golden Boy promotions or DAZN. This is a fight that Canelo has so much more to lose than Kovalev if he can’t win, and because of that – I think Kovalev has the distinct advantage. These two guys are not as far apart as the odds would have you think; and in reality, Kovalev is going to fare far better than what his expectations are.
It is one thing for Canelo to fight Rocky Fielding at 168lbs, but to jump up to 175 – where the cream of the crop rises as you get closer to the heavy weights, is a complete different task. Canelo Alvarez is venturing into uncharted waters here. If i’m apart of team Canelo, this is not a fight I want.
Canelo’s path to victory
If Canelo starts getting inside on Kovalev, and is able to put some pain on him; than this fight might go to the cards. Kovalev might get slowed down and that jab might stop coming – which will allow Canelo to fight his fight, and Canelo’s fight is going to be on the inside. I don’t think Canelo is going to have the power to take out Kovalev, but if he is able to overwhelm him, like what we saw Yarde do to Kovalev in the 8th round of their fight, I think there is a small chance Canelo may be able to end this fight within the distance. The most likely path to victory for Canelo, is for him to get inside on Kovalev, and for him to work that body and stop Kovalev from extending out, limiting his reach and what we will probably see is a slower paced, stalking match – which will go 12 rounds and in favor of Canelo. I am just not completely convinced that will be so easy for Alvarez here. I do not want to underestimate Canelo, because he continues to get better every single fight, but even with that impressive physique at Light Heavyweight, I still think people are seeing something I’m not with this one.
Kovalev’s path to victory
If Kovalev is able to keep Canelo on the outside, by using his reach and that powerful jab – than we might be in for a more competitive fight than what the so called experts may be expecting. I am not sure how Canelo is going to react, if he is unable to get inside on Kovalev. If Kovalev starts countering, and starts coming forward on Canelo, the same way we saw him come forward against Anthony Yarde. If we see that straight jab landing on Canelo consistently, I’m not exactly sure how Canelo is going to react. What I think will happen is that it’s going to stun Canelo, because as mentioned – Alvarez has not fought a guy of this size and with this power, at any point in his career. As Kovalev’s trainer Buddy McGirt has said, Canelo may have chose to fight the wrong old man here. The jab is the key for Kovalev’s path to victory. The common expectation among the boxing experts, is that when Kovalev gets hit to the body, he’s going to fold like a table. In my opinion, that will not be the case. Canelo is still going to have to get past that jab, and there will be no opening for him to do so early in this fight. For Canelo to get inside on Kovalev, he is going to have to take some damage first. I think Kovalev’s hitting power is going to overwhelm Canelo, and if this fight doesn’t go 12 rounds, I think Kovalev can win this thing inside the distance.
Buyer Beware: Boxing has it’s quirks.
As we have seen before, countless times, boxing is not the most honest sport in the world. So don’t be shocked if Kovalev seems to have the advantage on the score cards, and ends up losing this fight by a close decision. It is the nature of the sport. Golden Boy and DAZN are not going to let their prized Mexican Champion – go out easily to an aging Russian. If Kovalev is going to win this fight, he needs to do it within 12 rounds of boxing and not let the judges decide for him.
AlMac’s Best Bets (via Bet365)
2.5% – Kovalev +300
2.5% – Kovalev (By KO) +550
1.35% – Canelo/Kovalev (over 10.5 Rounds) (-200)
1% – Kovalev (Wins in Rounds 10 – 12) +2800
1% – Either Fighter (Wins in Rounds 10 – 12) +850
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