By Sean Bastow – This Saturday night on DAZN, Canelo Alvarez moves up to the light heavyweight division to face Sergey Kovalev. It could be a career defining night for the Mexican superstar or a final way for “Krusher” to cement his legacy as one of the best light heavyweights of recent times.
Kovalev (34-3-1, 29 KO) is defending the WBO light heavyweight title, whilst for Alvarez (52-1-2, 35 KO) each fight signifies a step in the direction of being considered one of the greatest fighters to have come out of Mexico.
It feels like Canelo has been around forever, in fact it has been nearly a decade. It all started with an HBO pay-per-view co-feature win over Jose Miguel Cotto in May 2010 on the Mayweather-Mosley undercard.
After racking up win after win, Alvarez then faced Floyd Mayweather in a massive money fight in Sept. 2013. Mayweather that night schooled Alvarez and taught the young upstart that there was more to this game than bulldozing your way through opposition.
The loss to Mayweather has never really hurt Canelo, in fact if anything it only enhanced the reputation of Floyd given what Canelo has gone on to achieve thus far. Canelo would then bounce back. He then took on Alfredo Angulo and a serious risk against Cuban southpaw Erislandy Lara, a guy considered to be the boogeyman of the 154lb division. Alvarez won that fight via split decision one which many observers felt could have gone the other way.
After dispatching of James Kirkland in May 2015, Canelo secured the first real marquee pay-per-view main event win of his career in November of that year, beating Puerto Rican legend Miguel Cotto by decision. Canelo would then go on to face and beat the likes of Amir Khan and Liam Smith, and then he took a 164-pound catchweight fight with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, beating an opponent who was bigger but essentially a shell of a fighter we had once seen.
In Sept 2017 Canelo made the decision to step up to 160lb to face Gennadiy Golovkin, a highly-anticipated bout that many felt Canelo and Golden Boy had avoided for some time. Alvarez fought well showing he could hang it with the elite of the division. The result was a draw in a fight that many thought Golovkin deserved to win.
The two were supposed to meet in an immediate rematch in May 2018, but Alvarez failed a VADA drug test, blaming contaminated beef. The fight was cancelled, but was rescheduled for four months later. The fight was again a tight and close knit affair but this time Alvarez got the majority decision
Since the Golovkin saga, Canelo has moved up 168 pounds and picked up a “regular” version of the WBA title beating Rocky Fielding in three rounnds, before most recently moving back down to middleweight in May 2019 to face Daniel Jacobs in a three-belt unification.
Alvarez won a competitive but clear decision. After the victory over Jacobs there has been talk of a third Golovkin fight and also of a unification with Demetrius Andrade, none of which materialised which has led to the decision take the step up against Kovalev.
For Kovalev this is a question of how far past his prime is he and Is the size difference enough to fend of the challenge of the younger, smaller man.
The Russian broke through on to the world stage in 2013. The night against Nathan Cleverly, Kovalev showed his brutal climb to stardom with a fourth round stoppage of Cleverly, taking the WBO light heavyweight belt for the first time.
Defenses against notable names such as Bernard Hopkins and Jean Pascal put Kovalev to the top of the light heavyweight mountain with Adonis Stevenson the WBC champion seemingly the only threat to the Russian’s reign. This much anticipated fight never materialised so Kovalev was left to beat whatever was put in front of him, that was until a certain Andre Ward made the jump from super middleweight.
Ward wound up winning a decision in the first meeting between the pair having suffered the first knockdown of his career in the second round at the hands of Kovalev The fight was scored 114-113 across the board Ward, despite going down in the second round. It was a decision many disagreed with, and a rematch was signed.
In the rematch, there was again controversy as low looking body shots were repeatedly getting to the Russian who complained of dirty tactics from the American. This was not to be Kovalev’s night as he was stopped in the eighth round thus seemingly signalling the beginning of the end.
Since those fights with Ward, Kovalev has had an inconsistent couple of years, he’s had issues outside the ring, disagreements with trainers, and what looks like a natural decline given his age. He did win a pair of fights over Vyacheslav Shabranskyy and Igor Mikhalkin, who weren’t top-tier opponents, but he was stunned and upset in Aug. 2018 by Eleider Alvarez, who rallied to knock Kovalev out in the seventh round of a fight the Russian was winning on the cards.
After taking some time away Kovalev returned with new trainer Buddy McGirt, winning the rematch with Alvarez in February of this year, to regain the WBO light heavyweight title.
Kovalev returned home to Russia to make a mandatory defense against Anthony Yarde in August, and despite a game effort from the inexperienced challenger, Kovalev overcame a scare in the eighth round and managed to get him out in the 11th round.
This is a fascinating contest because when a fighter moves up a weight it is normally in the lighter division. Canelo is moving up not one, but two weights to take on Kovalev.
Kovalev is a proud champion and has served the light heavyweight division well for many years, but it is evident that his skills that once made him a feared fighter are starting to decline and he looks ready to be dethroned once again.
Canelo has something that was very noticeable in the last fight [with Daniel Jacobs] and it was his waist movement, Kovalev is big and strong, he is going to try to jab [Canelo] and he is not going to find him, and they are going to hit Kovalev’s body hard.
Whatever happens on fight night it is sure to be an exciting and intriguing affair and a case of can a great little man beat a good big man.