Alvarez vs Kovalev 2 : At long last, Atlantic City will once again be the center of the boxing world. The popular New Jersey resort town will host its first major boxing event since 2014 on Saturday night, as Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev defends his WBO light heavyweight title against undefeated challenger Eleider Alvarez. On the undercard, Isaac Chilemba will challenge Dmitry Bivol for the Russian’s WBA light heavyweight belt. The TV portion of the card is set to begin at 10 p.m. ET on HBO.
Alvarez vs Kovalev 2
Rematch, 12 rounds, for Alvarez’s WBO light heavyweight title
Saturday, February 2
10 p.m. ET, full card streaming on ESPN+ beginning at 7 p.m. ET ESPN / ESPN+
Ford Center at the Star , Frisco, Texas
The 35-year-old Kovalev (32-2-1) first won the WBO light heavyweight belt back in 2013 with a TKO win over Nathan Cleverly, and held the strap until 2016 when he lost it — along with the WBA and IBF light heavyweight belts, which he picked up in a 2014 win over Bernard Hopkins — to Andre Ward in a bit of a controversial decision. Their rematch a few months later was once again fraught with drama, as the ref stopped the bout in the eighth round when Kovalev believed he was hit with multiple low blows.
Kovalev, who now thanks God for his two losses to Ward for the ability to change trainers, has rebounded nicely with consecutive knockout wins as he heads into this latest challenge.
“I’m happy that we’re working together because he has helped me a lot,” Kovalev said in an interview with ESPN. “When I came to America, I came with all my amateur baggage. When I lost twice, I lost because of that amateur baggage and because of my coach. He was my coach but he didn’t really work with me. He was like a passenger in the car and I was driving. Now I’m the passenger and my coach is the driver. [Tursunpulatov] sets up my workouts every day and tells me what I should do and what I shouldn’t do. I’m happy.”
As for his opponent, the 34-year-old Alvarez (23-0) comes in undefeated and with his first chance at a major belt. He currently holds the WBC silver light heavyweight title, but most view the “silver” belts as somewhat of a sham. Though that is to take nothing away from Alvarez, who has continued to rack up victories. Plus, it’s not exactly Alvarez’s fault that he hasn’t had a title shot yet.
The Colombian Alvarez was the mandatory challenger for Adonis Stevenson’s WBC light heavyweight belt for over two years but twice Stevenson paid Alvarez a step-aside fee in order to avoid him. It’s not entirely clear why the fight between the two never happened — as if anything is ever clear in boxing promotion — but Alvarez finally has his chance against Kovalev. Though, even that didn’t come until the original opponent, Marcus Browne, was arrested for domestic violence.
In any case, Alvarez finally has his title fight, and it should be an interesting one. While Kovalev is surely the more widely-known of the two fighters, and currently the best in the division, Alvarez is no slouch. He hasn’t fought the same level of competition as Kovalev, but you don’t remain undefeated through 23 fights without having some skills, and Ring Magazine currently ranks Alvarez fifth among all light heavyweights. Plus, Alvarez enters the fight with a 3-inch reach advantage on the taller Kovalev.
Still, it’s Kovalev who understandably comes in as a fairly heavy favorite. Despite his two losses to Ward, Kovalev remains one of the pound-for-pound best in the world, and has the kind of devastating power that should keep Alvarez cautious. If there’s anyone in boxing you can call a knockout specialist, it’s Kovalev, who has picked up 28 of his 32 wins by (T)KO. He is simply relentless with his attack and will out-punch Alvarez to keep the challenger on the defensive.
He’ll have to work to put another knockout victory to his name, however, as Alvarez is pretty technically sound and will be willing to try and slow this fight down. The Colombian is much more of a boxer than a puncher, with only 11 of his 23 wins coming by way of knockout, and most of those came early in his career. Of his last 10 wins, only three have been knockouts. His path to victory here isn’t by standing and trading blows with Kovalev. He’ll need to try and keep the Russian at bay with some sharp counter attacks and hope to do enough to win on points