Buddy McGirt will get the chance to add to his storied coaching career when he corners WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev, 34-3-1, (29 KOs), against world middleweight champion Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez 52-1-2 (35 KOs) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada this Saturday night.
McGirt, who was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame earlier this year, could well be the x-factor that gets the veteran slugger over the line in what promises to be a tightly contested fight.
“I believe that boxing has no teachers. The teachers that there used to be there are not around anymore,” said McGirt in an exclusive interview with The Grueling Truth.
“Just cause you can hold the mitts doesn’t make you a good trainer. The mitts are the best choreography in boxing. You gotta tell a guy what to do and he knows what to expect in return.”
At the initial press conference to announce the fight the size difference between the Kovalev and Alvarez couldn’t be more pronounced. The six-foot tall career light heavyweight towered over Alvarez who, at five-foot-eight and with a two-inch deficit in wingspan, will need to box clever to close the distance and force the fight inside.
But while conventional wisdom suggests that Kovalev will seek to use his greater size to impose his will on the diminutive Alvarez, McGirt insists this is not the case.
“This is my plan, to not go in thinking we’re the bigger guy, the stronger guy,” McGirt said. “Our plan is to go in and be the better guy.”
Three years ago Kovalev dropped a contentious 12-round decision to Andre Ward, losing by a single point on all three judges’ scorecards after having the future Hall of Famer on the deck during the second frame.
The immediate rematch seven months later was another close affair until Ward secured the victory via eighth round TKO before retiring from the sport undefeated.
Kovalev recently paid Alvarez the ultimate compliment, saying he believes the Mexican superstar is a better fighter than the superlative Ward.
McGirt admits it’s a tight run race but stresses there’s little point in comparing the two.
“It’s tight. If you want to know the truth, I don’t even look at it,” McGirt said. “I really don’t study them like that to be honest. I just think they’re both good fighters. I’m not going to compare because they’re two totally different fighters.”
McGirt took over the training reins following Kovalev’s upset seventh-round knockout loss to Eleider Alvarez in August last year amidst widespread speculation that the Russian was a difficult student to work with.
Nothing could be further from the truth, according to McGirt.
“His attitude was the exact opposite of what I was told,” said McGirt. “His attitude was he took the blame for his loss. He didn’t blame nobody. Most fighters they blame the trainer, they blame everybody. But he took full responsibility for his loss.
“He said ‘there’s some things I need to do, just tell me what you think’. Two days later he sent me one of his amateur fights. He was smart, he was using his jab, instead of knocking everybody out. He said, ‘I got away from what got me here’. He said, ‘I’m known as the Krusher’. I said, ‘you can be known as the smart Krusher. You can still be the Krusher but be smart about it’.”
Kovalev – who is entering his 17th straight world title bout dating back more than six years – expressed his satisfaction with his new team in comments to the media this week.
“From the last fight I had just a small rest, like three weeks, three to four weeks, and I’m ready,” said Kovalev, who is coming off an 11th round stoppage of previously undefeated Brit Anthony Yarde in August.
“I’m back again to training camp. Now it’s really, really good under control with Buddy McGirt and Teddy Cruz. Right now, I’m feeling good.
“I have a great team with great coaches – Buddy McGirt and Teddy Cruz – and right now I’m feeling really comfortable with my team. I’m really happy that I found this coach.”
McGirt believes it will be the 36-year-old Kovalev’s underrated boxing ability that holds the key o victory on Saturday night.
“Oh yes, without a doubt. I said listen man, take your time, muscle up,” McGirt said.
“You know the story about the father bull and the son bull? They’re coming down the hill and the son bull says, ‘there’s one of them cows down there, let’s run down and get her’. The father bull says, ‘let’s walk down the hill and get ‘em all’.”
McGirt breaks into a laugh before adding: “You gotta be old and crafty!”