Canelo Alvarez Grows Legacy With Knockout of Sergey Kovalev

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Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

LAS VEGAS – Three thoughts on Canelo Alvarez’s 11th round knockout win over Sergey Kovalev 

Canelo's Hand Speed Overwhelms Kovalev

Regardless of what you thought about the stakes—Golden Boy billed it as Canelo’s attempt to win a title in a fourth weight class; the reality is Alvarez’s 168-pound belt is a secondary title—this was an impressive performance. The 5’9” Alvarez took the fight to the 6’0” Kovalev, hunting the bigger man around the ring. Kovalev was effective with the jab early, snapping it out in the early rounds, landing scoring blows as Alvarez worked his way inside. But Alvarez was patient. He parried many of Kovalev’s punches. He swiped at the body. He was willing to take a few jabs to land a power punch of his own. Alvarez’s speed was a factor. While Kovalev was willing to throw the jab, he was reluctant to throw what was once a devastating right hand, knowing that if he left himself open, Alvarez would fire back. And he did. A right hook in the 11th round stunned Kovalev. A left hook wobbled him. A straight right hand finished him. Canelo’s hand speed—as fast as ever at 175-pounds—was just too much for Kovalev to overcome. 

The Canelo Legacy Grows

Only two fighters—Sugar Ray Leonard and Tommy Hearns—who began their careers at 147-pounds won a world title at 175. Only three fighters—Leonard, Hearns and Mike McCallum—won titles at 154-pounds and again at 175. Canelo was accused of cherry-picking when he tabbed Kovalev, a 36-year old titleholder who appeared past his prime. But Kovalev was riding a two-fight winning streak entering this fight and had been reinvigorated by his union with trainer Buddy McGirt. He had a sharp jab and crushing right-hand power—and Canelo walked right through it. There were shades of Canelo—Gennadiy Golovkin II in this fight, with Canelo taking it to the stronger fighter, working his way through the longer jab to get inside and land the bigger punches. Canelo’s defense was on point, per the CompuBox analysis, with Kovalev landing just 15.4% of his punches (115/745) all night. Kovalev stuck the jab in Canelo’s face—577 of his punches were jabs—but Canelo was effective at parrying them. There was near fear in Canelo in his maiden voyage at 175-pounds, but rather a confidence that his power and skill would overcome Kovalev. 

"The plan overall was patience,” Canelo said. “That was basically it - to have patience. We knew it was going to be five, six rounds and it was going to take some time for me to get him. But honestly he's a great fighter. I'm new at this weight, new in this division. Much credit to him, he's a great fighter. But we stuck to our game plan. It was delayed a little bit but overall it was successful." 

What’s Next? 

Canelo doesn’t know boxing politics; who he wants to fight, he fights. He expressed an openness to continuing at 175-pounds, though it’s hard to see him willingly stepping in with light heavyweight unified predator Artur Beterviev and Dmitry Bivol brings no money to the table. DAZN—the host broadcaster that has invested as much as $365 million in Canelo—badly wants a third fight with Golovkin, something Canelo sounded open to after the fight. While it’s unlikely Canelo drops back to 160-pounds in his next fight, he could defend his 168-pound belt against Golovkin. There continues to be strong interest in another fight between two rivals who have fought two razor-close fights. "It's really not a challenge to me,” Canelo told me in the ring. “We've fought 24 rounds and I beat him. It's really not a challenge for me, but if it represents business, why not?