The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / TGTN Boxing Writers’ Predictions: Sergey Kovalev vs. Saul Alvarez

TGTN Boxing Writers’ Predictions: Sergey Kovalev vs. Saul Alvarez

How do you see it?

Whether you hate him or love him, every time Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, 52-1-2 (35 KOs), fights it’s a big deal and this is one of his biggest, both in terms of physical size and scope of the challenge. While Alvarez has been in prime time fights before and comes in a clear betting favorite against Sergey Kovalev, 34-3-1 (29 KOs), the question marks surrounding how he will adjust to a higher weight against a formidable, hard-punching technician like “Krusher” persist.

We won’t know the answers until round one has been signaled a go, but once again we pack the house full of those in-the-know to get their insight on the matter.

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Jason Goldstein (USA) – TGTN Writer: Alvarez

This Saturday November 2nd, Canelo chases after his 4th title in as many weight classes* (more on the * down below). There is only one truth in boxing, one constant and that’s money! Canelo has the highest visibility of any fighter in boxing on the North American continent with a rabid legion of fans that feel he can do no wrong. They happily bend themselves into pretzels to explain and justify the last three or four problematic years of his career. The accusations of weight bullying, protection by the Vegas commission, overly friendly judges & ‘tainted meat’ all conspire to sully the burgeoning legacy of the most popular and one could argue – most successful Mexican boxer since Julio Cesar Chavez. All that said the dialectic of boxing is the purest of all sports, if not the most reductive; two men (or women) each alike in weight and countenance get in a ring with nothing more than their fists to attack and defend. In that sense Canelo is a singularly compelling character. 

Troubled though Canelo may be, before him is a bit of an unknown quantity in the former unified light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev, seven years (and they are seven hard years) older than Canelo. It is the Mexican who is technically the more experienced with 55 total pro fights for Canelo and 38 for Kovalev, however Kovalev’s more than 200 amateur fights cannot be dismissed. 

Most fans and pundits see Kovalev as nearly shot having lost two fights if somewhat controversially to Andre Ward, getting KO’d by Eledier Alvarez and struggling in moments with Anthony Yarde, and it’s hard not to agree on the surface. However, consider that since moving up to middleweight Canelo has no stoppage victories – not even knockdowns – don’t tell me about the shellacking he gave to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at catchweight or the TKO of Rocky Fielding, neither of those fighters on their best day come close to the level of ability, toughness or achievement that Kovalev has. 

What Canelo does have is some of the best all-around technique in the sport, his left hook to the body is one of the best punches in boxing, his head and upper body movement is also next level and it is these technical intricacies more than any other intangible that gives Canelo the edge. For Sergey, it is hard to see a path to victory for him, he has a lot of miles on the odometer, the rumors around his off-season lifestyle (particularly heavy drinking) are troubling, however we’re talking about a fighter who has never pulled out of fight or struggled to make weight, so perhaps let’s not bury him yet. For those that think this is just a cynical cash grab by the Russian – I say so what! Sergey made his name in this sport fighting in America for buttons, often losing money just to get in the ring to try to make a name for himself so good on him,  he’s going to be set for life, win or lose, but in a season of shocking upsets, is it so hard to believe the naturally bigger man could beat Canelo?

Prediction time: here’s where I do have to side with the majority of fans and my colleagues – a Kovalev win is just a bridge too far. What’s more Canelo does not need the Vegas judges either. The consensus is that Kovalev is weak to the body and can be hurt there, though Ward landed several low blows in the second fight not all of them where and the counter right hand to the head that Ward threw to set up the TKO was perfection – face it, Ward would have stopped Kovalev – if not that round then it was not far off. Kovalev’s best chance is a busy jab. GGG’s jab gave Canelo trouble in both fights, however Canelo adjusted and sought to counter Govlovkin’s jab by slipping to attack the body. Kovalev also has a potent right hand but so did GGG and we can split hairs but can we say for certain that Kovalev is a harder puncher than GGG, I’m not so sure. In the first bout with GGG, Canelo tried to set traps along the ropes in an attempt to counter punch and ate several hard right hands, in the rematch he largely walked through many of GGG’s punches thanks to a sustained body attack. Kovalev has shown that he fades down the stretch and he can’t possibly live with the pace and pressure Canelo brought to the second GGG fight, mixing that strategy with a vicious body attack and Kovalev will not last all 12 rounds, I think that’s precisely the strategy Canelo will bring: attack the body, pressure, turn Kovalev, make him miss, tire him, then press for the TKO late.

On the off chance it goes the distance, barring Kovalev scoring an unlikely knockdown or two Canelo starts the fight two rounds up before he even steps in the ring – that’s just a fact. The best Kovalev could hope for would be a draw or controversial decision that sets up a lucrative rematch, but that’s unlikely. 

I think it’s pretty clear, Canelo is trying to build a legacy, even if it’s a house of cards, rather than face ‘Boo Boo’ Andrade at middleweight or give GGG the trilogy he deserves, Canelo moved up to 168 to beat Fielding for the WBA ‘Regular’ title avoiding Callum Smith and Caleb Plant. Rather than face Oleksandr Gvozdyk or the nightmarish Artur Beterbiev or even Dmitry Bivol, Canelo sets his sights on the most shopworn light heavyweight titleholder with a one-dimensional fighter who he matches up with very well stylistically. That said Kovalev is no cherry pick – but it is a strategic one – years from now it’ll be up to the rest of us when the less obsessed fan looks at the win/loss column and only reads the victory on the scorecard and sees only the photo with the champ and his shiny new belt, it is we who will have to be boxing’s living memory to educate and tell the truth. 

My Pick: Canelo by TKO round 9-11.

Michael Atkins (USA) – TGTN Writer: Kovalev

On paper, even being on the back nine of his career, Sergey Kovalev should “Krush” little Canelo Alvarez. He is much bigger. Taller, great reach advantage. His, near-best in sport, jab alone should be very difficult to get past. That jab is very stiff, considered a quasi-power punch against other light-heavyweights, let alone a middleweight. Theoretically, Kovalev might be able to win his fight with Alvarez with that punch alone. Then there is the power. It’s true, Kovalev seems to have dropped some velocity on his fastball, but some of that is him approaching opponents more as a boxer—cautiously—lately. Kovalev remains one of the most potent punchers in boxing. At his best, he had all-time level power at 175. He didn’t possess any one punch as hard as Bob Foster’s left hook, but overall, Kovalev was heavier handed than Foster. That is against other light-heavyweights, not middleweights. Yes, Kovalev is vulnerable to the body, and was KO’d by Elieder Alvarez. But Canelo hasn’t stopped any top notch opponent over 154 pounds. Alvarez is not likely to be a big puncher at 175. Less resilient or not, Kovalev will take a much better punch than Amir Khan. I can easily see Kovalev establishing the jab early and touching Alvarez enough to convince the Mexican hero and his team right away, that a grave mistake in opponent selection had been made.

I’m picking Sergey Kovalev. Either by a decision in which he beats Canelo widely, inflicting the worst punishment of Alvarez’s career, or by a surprise, embarrassing stoppage. I could see Kovalev getting him early, but more likely, Kovalev busts him up with the jab during the first three rounds and puts him on the defensive, progressively over the next three, setting up a mid-rounds stoppage. Kovalev, KO-8

Roy Bennett (CN) – Independent Writer: Alvarez

Maybe Canelo Alvarez and Golden Boy Promotions have misread the tea leaves with this fight. Maybe Sergey Kovalev has more left in the proverbial tank than they think. And maybe working with trainer Buddy McGirt might see a revitalised Kovalev put on a clinic and seal the deal like the Krusher of old…. but I doubt it.

If the stories about Kovalev’s alleged drinking problem are true, the Russian light heavyweight titleholder is damaged goods. His confidence, physical presence, energy and punch resistance seem to have diminished in recent fights.

Tiring early on and showing signs of distress when tagged, as he did against the British greenhorn Anthony Yarde, do not bode well, especially when he’s about to face a still fresh, strong and supremely confident champion at the peak of his powers. Size will not be an issue here. Alvarez is fluid enough defensively to avoid getting caught with anything major and quick enough to the draw to return fire. While the Mexican star isn’t a pressure fighter, he’s a skilled counterpuncher who likes to invest heavily in the body and therein lies the danger for Kovalev. There is a fragility about Kovalev now that I can’t ignore. Alvarez will make him miss and make him pay. I think he can do it often enough to force the referee’s intervention or a corner stoppage by the 9th round.

Erich Edmonds (USA) – TGTN Writer: Kovalev

On November 2nd Saul “Canelo” Alvarez will jump up two weight classes to take on light heavyweight titlist Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev. This is the third week in a row where boxing fans are treated to a 50/50, potential Fight of the Year candidate. I’ve gone back and forth dozens of times trying to decide the outcome of this fight and I’m still finding reasons for either fighter to walk away with the win. Ultimately, it comes down to if Canelo can achieve something great and be just as effective at a much heavier weight, against a much bigger opponent, especially against one as dangerous as the Krusher. Yet on the other hand, does Kovalev still have enough in the tank at this stage of his career and at age 36 to take on a prime pound for pound champ.

For Canelo to have success he’s going to have to work his way inside and hammer Kovalev to the body. We’ve seen Kovalev have issues with fighting on the inside and folding under heavy body shots, so we’ll have to see if Canelo’s power can give Kovalev issues. However, Canelo has stated that leading up to this fight he’s been lifting more weights than before and one thing Canelo has struggled with over the years is his stamina. With his newly added weight and muscle, plus the added pressure of a larger, stronger opponent, Canelo could find himself fading the longer the fight goes on.

On the other hand, for Kovalev to come out on top he’s going to have to keep Canelo on the end of his piston like jab to prevent Canelo from working his way inside. Since Kovalev started training under Buddy McGirt we’ve seen Kovalev focus on using his jab and boxing his opponents as opposed to trying to beat them into submission with his concussive power. So far it’s been a recipe for success, as we’ve seen in his impressive rematch win against Eleider Alvarez and most recently his TKO win against Anthony Yarde. While Krusher still possesses that fight changing power in either hand, something Canelo will constantly have to be wary of, I think Kovalev needs to continue to be patient and stick to jabbing and boxing Canelo on the outside. While a lot of predictions I’ve read seem to be leaning towards Canelo to walk away with the win, I’m going to side with the old lion on this one and pick Kovalev to win by either late stoppage or split decision. Let’s hope that the outcome of the fight is left to the fighters and not the Vegas scorecards. Regardless of the outcome this Saturday it’s us, the boxing fans, who ultimately win with this fight.

Kovalev by late stoppage or split decision.

Zakwaan Shaukat Ali (UK) – TGTN Writer: Alvarez

Mouthwatering clash of two future Hall of Famers and pound-for-pound stars. A matchup of intrigue with so many variables, which makes it extremely difficult to predict.

Will Canelo’s power carry to 175lbs? How will Canelo deal with Kovalev’s power and probably the best hot-rod jab in boxing? Will Kovalev be able to sustain Canelo’s body attack? Kovalev will be trying to catch the constantly kinetic head movement of Canelo?

Canelo is in his prime at 29 and has been formidable since his only loss against Floyd Mayweather Jr. Since then he’s won a belt at 154lbs, moved up to 160lbs and unified, taking the scalps of GGG and Jacobs, clearly, his current trajectory and ascension is admirable. Kovalev, contrastingly, is on the decline at the age of 36 with his record reading as 4-3 in his last 7 fights.

I feel like Canelo and his team has strategically picked Kovalev “at the right time”. You can’t Kovalev out just yet, even through adversity he finished a game Yarde and put a clinic on Alvarez in the rematch.

Canelo will certainly pierce the body which is Kovalev’s kryptonite, and utilise his upper body head movement to slip Kovalev’s multiple jabs. Kovalev will do what he does best, fight on the outside, fight behind the jab and follow up with his 1-2 straight right hand. I feel this fight will be fireworks from the start, both predators instincts will kick in if they see an opening and will seize the opportunity.

I boldly predict Canelo TKO 10th round in a tough bout for both guys. If Canelo wins in convincing fashion, even as his staunchest detractor, he will comfortably be Fighter of the Year and P4P #1.

Sean Bastow (UK) – TGTN Writer/BTR Boxing Podcast: Alvarez

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 Alvarez is going to hit Kovalev’s body hard.

I think that Canelo will stop Kovalev between rounds 7-10 to secure another title in yet another weight class thus cementing his legacy in the sport.

Carlos Ortenblad – Fan: Alvarez

Canelo’s youth, skill and speed will serve him well to offset Kovalev’s aggressiveness, power and size. Canelo will escape many difficult moments through his guile and will outbox Kovalev, who will land some good punches to keep Canelo cautious. Canelo might even be knocked down by round 6 or 7 due to getting a little overconfident, but will get up and will stick and move until the final bell, never allowing Kovalev to get that close again, who will get increasingly frustrated. Canelo UD12 Kovalev in the end, with no controversy.

Jack Sumner (UK) – TGTN Writer: Alvarez

Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez attempts to win a title in a fourth weight class this weekend (if you include his dubious claim to a super middleweight title), when he jumps to light heavyweight to try and rip the WBO crown from fearsome ‘Krusher’ Sergey Kovalev.

Back when Alvarez was negotiating catch-weights into middleweight title fights and Kovalev was an unbeaten destroyer headed for two fateful nights with Andre Ward, this is a bout you simply would never have envisaged happening, let alone giving the smaller guy in Canelo much of a chance.

But much has changed sinced then. Kovalev is 36 now and since his defeats to Ward, the Krusher appears to be no more. Canelo has not only grown into a full-blown middleweight but has cemented his status as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport. As a result, the Mexican enters Saturday’s bout as a considerable favorite.

And for my money, I think the bookmakers have got this pretty much right. Kovalev’s perceived Achilles heel at this stage of his career is his susceptibility to body shots, which are arguably the most devastating aspect of the redhead’s considerable arsenal.

It’s easy to see Canelo hurting the Russian to the body and for that reason many are leaning towards a stoppage win, but while I see Canelo having success to the body I think the fight will go the distance. Kovalev’s size and Canelo’s respect for it will mean that the Mexican has to settle for taking this one on the cards, and it’s unlikely Alvarez will be in any danger there.

Canelo by decision.

John Einreinhofer (USA) – TGTN Writer/Podcaster: Alvarez

I lean towards the fight going the distance, but there is intrigue there as Kovalev gets hit with a lot of right hands and the two guys who stopped him were not big light heavyweight punchers.

Christopher Carlson (USA) – TGTN Writer/Podcaster: Alvarez

Official prediction here

Jeremiah Preisser (USA) – TGTN Editor/Writer/Co-Host: Kovalev

There’s been a ton of talk about Kovalev’s weakness downstairs and maybe more importantly, his susceptibility to right hands. It’s all valid and may prove Kovalev’s undoing. He seems sort of soft there and will bite on feints, allowing for exploitation. Canelo is adept at body banging and misdirection. But it may also prove a misreading of the state of affairs, as Kovalev is the bigger and longer man, the better adjusted, and the more powerful, along with being a capable body puncher himself.

Sure, much of the crushing has come via right hands, but I’d be damned if his jab to the stomach wasn’t deadly, as well. It’s not a shot meant to finish the job, yet it has (see: Cedric Agnew bout), and it would almost make too much sense as a repeated weapon here. I figure Kovalev could do as he has with it, boil everything down and merge it into the basics, and then coast to a competitive decision. His power should be enough to keep Alvarez at bay, unless Alvarez has James Toney’s chin.

Am I confident a 36-year-old man can accomplish that against a prime pound-for-pounder? Not particularly, but I’m also unsure that Alvarez’s ability, added poundage, and lack of big power at 160 translate well in the traditional division of 175.

Mike Goodpaster (USA) – TGTN Owner: Kovalev

Everybody was quick when this fight was made, including me, to immediately think that Canelo would win this fight. Why? Youth? Kovalev’s seeming inability to take body punches? The more I have thought about this fight though I have a hard time getting past the size issue and the fact that I saw Kovalev with my own eyes beat Andre ward in there first fight and Ward is better than Canelo. I look for Kovalev, instead of looking to land a knockout punch, to instead stick that jab in Canelo’s face all night. Kovalev is the owner of a great jab and the big thing here is how powerful that jab is when he is using it. I look for him to slowly breakdown Canelo with that jab. As long as Father time has not slowed down Kovalev too much I feel that Kovalev will win a clear decision, now, of course, the big question will be can he get even a clear decision in Vegas?

Kovalev by SD


The Final Tally

Alvarez – 8/Kovalev – 4

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