By Dan Ambrose: Trainer Virgil Hunter isn’t ruling out a win for Sergey Kovalev in his title defense against Saul Canelo Alvarez on November 2. The bigger, stronger WBO light heavyweight champion Kovalev (34-3-1, 29 KOs) is the underdog against the younger fighter Canelo Alvarez (52-1-2, 35 KOs) with the boxing public and the odd-makers. However, Hunter thinks that the outcome of the fight will be determined on simple factors.
Can Kovalev keep Canelo at the ends of his punches? If he can, then Canelo won’t win the fight because he needs to be able to get inside to land his shorter punches.
Kovalev wins if he keeps Canelo at the end of his punch
“No, I don’t have a prediction at all. I expect it to be a strategic fight,” said Hunter. “It has to be strategic for Canelo to fulfill his purpose. If that’s to get inside for him to fulfill his purpose is, and for Kovalev to keep him out. It’s a matter of if Kovalev can keep Canelo at the end of his punch, he’s going to win the fight.
“If Canelo can close the distance at mid-range in close, he has a good chance of winning the fight. I think it boils down to those simple factors,” said Hunter.
This is going to be an awfully tough fight for Canelo because he’s giving away so much size to Kovalev. Unlike Sergiy Derevyanchenko, Canelo is a classic counter puncher, and he’s horrible stamina. He’s not capable of pressuring Kovalev with continuous body shots the way that Derevyanchenko did against Gennady Golovkin last Saturday night in New York.
Canelo has the talent to throw excellent body shots, but he doesn’t like getting hit, and he lacks the conditioning. Canelo isn’t going to win the fight in a real sense by charging forward to throw single body shots. He might get the decision in controversial fashion, but he’s not going to win the fight in the eyes of the fans. Kovalev is all wrong for Canelo. Too much size, and too good of a jab.
Canelo-Kovalev not showing animosity towards each other
Canelo, 29, is looking to win his 4th division world title by moving up to light heavyweight next month on DAZN on November 2 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Kovalev, 36, is the champion that Canelo chose to fight. The two are familiar with each other, and they appear to be on friendly terms.
Some would say that Canelo and Kovalev are TOO friendly, and they looked like buddies in their kickoff press conference recently. For boxing fans used to seeing an unsmiling Canelo glaring at his opponents during his press conference, it was kind of jarring to see Canelo smiling and laughing with Kovalev during their face off.
When fans see two fighters that aren’t openly hostile with each other, they wonder whether the fight is just a business deal, For fans to take fights seriously, they have to believe that there’s an element of bad blood between them. Look at the Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Conor McGregor fight as an example. Both guys trash talked each other the entire time, and it got the fans excited about the fight. We’re not seeing that with the Canelo Alvarez vs. Kovalev fight. The guys look like close chums.
Canelo giving up a lot of size to Kovalev
Kovalev, 6’0″, is four inches taller, and has a two inch reach advantage over the 5’8″ Canelo. With Canelo moving up two divisions to fight Kovalev at 175, it could prove difficult for him to carry that extra weight that he puts on in the second half of the contest.
Kovalev is used to fighting at 175, so he’s going to be laboring from carrying around extra weight like Canelo. We saw Canelo gas out in the second half of his two fights with Gennady Golovkin and in his last match against Daniel Jacobs. There’s nothing Canelo can do about his limited size other than to try and go on the attack as much as possible. That’s not going to be easy for him to do, because he doesn’t like to get hit. Canelo isn’t fearless like Derevyanchenko, and some of the other top fighters at 160.
Canelo picking the right time to fight Kovalev
“I think if there’s any time to get Kovalev, it’s now,” said Hunter . “He’s [Kovalev] coming off a pretty tough fight with a quick turnaround, and not having much time to recuperate, and he still has to take weight off. So I think strategically, it’s the best time to beat Kovalev so you have to favor Canelo slightly,” said Hunter.
This might not necessarily be the right time for Canelo to be fighting Kovalev. Now that Kovalev has Buddy McGirt as his trainer, he’s using his boxing skills and his powerful jab to win his fights. Kovalev is a much better fighter now than when he was trained by John David Jackson. Back when was with Jackson, Kovalev was just trying to knock everyone out. That led to him taking losses to Andre Ward, and Eleider Alvarez. With McGirt, Kovalev is using his jab a lot more, and staying on the outside to dominate using his superb boxing skills.
McGirt is perfect coach for Kovalev
“I think it was a strategic performance,” said Hunter about Kovalev’s recent victory over Anthony Yarde last August. “Kovalev is showing that he’s going into the second phase of his career, and not relying on his power so much. Buddy [McGirt] has got him boxing now.
“Buddy is actually the best coach for him at this stage in his career where he’s taking his mind off of being the ‘Krusher’ and just exhibiting his boxing ability. Kovalev can really box well. I think at this stage in his career, Buddy is doing good. For him to be a threat to Canelo, Buddy is going to makeup the difference,” said Hunter.
Hunter has pegged it correctly in pointing out how good Kovalev is with McGirt in his corner. Canelo is counting on being able to get in close, and working over Kovalev with body shots the way that the 6’0″ Andre Ward did in his fights with him, but he may not be able to accomplish that.
Kovalev’s mobility will make Canelo fight competitive
“Come in at the best weight for you, and don’t force any weight on you,” said Hunter. “But don’t deny yourself the calories and the natural weight gain. I don’t know what he naturally puts on between fights. I think when we [Andre Ward] fought him [Kovalev] a second time, Sergey weighed around 190.
“So being an older age, he’ll put on about 10 or 12 pounds. But whatever weight he puts on, I don’t think he should deny himself any surplus weight just to be light. To be light or what? I think he still has his legs so to speak, and his footwork, and he’s got the jab. Right there that’s going to make it a competitive fight,” said Hunter.
Kovalev is a lot lighter on his feet than Golovkin, and Canelo might be surprised at how quick and difficult he is to nail down.
Hunter says Canelo will take Kovalev’s power shots
“No, I think Canelo has a low sense of gravity,” said Hunter when asked if Canelo will be able to take Kovalev’s big power punches. “He took Golovkin’s best shot. He did get hurt in his last fight, but he did recover quickly. He’s got a low sense of gravity. It just depends on where he gets hit, and what stage of the fight he gets hit. So anybody can get knocked out, but Canelo has proven over the course of his career that he can take a good punch,” said Hunter.
We don’t know how well Canelo will be able to handle Kovalev’s shots, because was hurt TWICE by Golovkin in their rematch last September. Kovalev will likely soften Canelo up with his jabs before he unloads on him with his left hook and right hand shots. With Canelo coming forward, he might walk into one of Kovalev’s big shots, and that’ll increase the power on his punches.
Don’t be surprised if Canelo tastes defeat against Kovalev, because this guy has the ability to do the same thing that Floyd Mayweather Jr. did in beating the Mexican star in 2013.
— Sergey Kovalev (@KrusherKovalev) October 6, 2019