Former Unified Champion Sergey Kovalev fights for his career and livelihood amidst legal troubles and open lawsuits. Will Eleider Alvarez FINISH Krusher Kovalev’s career?

Eleider Alvarez 24 (12 KOs)-0-0 defends his WBO Light-Heavyweight title in a rematch against Sergey Kovalev 32 (28 KOs)-3 (2 KOs)-1 this Saturday at the Ford Centre at the Star in Frisco, Texas on ESPN+.

Fights like Bellew Haye 2, Degale Eubank Jnr and now Alvarez Kovalev 2 always have some air of anticipation, not just for the quality of the fight but how important the fight is for their respective careers. Sergey Kovalev is now 35, facing an assault charge, coming off three losses in his last five fights, and if he loses this fight against Alvarez retirement looks to be the only option. Kovalev is not the fighter he once was, but sceptics of Alvarez will say he will not need to be if he is going to get the win on Saturday because although he lost the first fight, there were positives the Russian can take heed from.

The first fight between the pair resulted in a 7th round TKO victory for the Colombian in what was a weird fight to analyse. Alvarez did well in the opening rounds, boxing on the back foot using the jab, and looking faster on the inside, but Kovalev brute forced his way into the fight being ahead on the scorecards after 6 rounds. Kovalev in recent times has had questions about his gas tank, mentality, and chin and the stoppage that Alvarez got in the 7th started by a right hand has not helped the doubters. Kovalev is what you can call a bully fighter, not to say that he doesn’t have skills, you don’t go 12 with Andre Ward in a razor close fight without them, but he tends to be at his best not only skill wise but mentally on the front foot, not necessarily swarming all over Shawn Porter style but educated pressure similar to Gennady Golovkin.

It is therefore not too much of a surprise that the turning point in the first fight was in the 4th when Kovalev decided he was going to put it on Alvarez and try and get the stoppage. While Kovalev took control of the fight and won rounds there was always a sense that when Alvarez regrouped and found the energy to stand his ground Kovalev would start to unravel because in truth Kovalev seems like a fighter who when he unloads on his opponents, he expects them to fall.

In the rematch then Kovalev has two options, he can either go out more aggressive and look for the stoppage in the knowledge that at 35 he isn’t going to make the distance or with his new trainer Buddy McGirt try and box not on the back foot but try and not overextend himself in the same way as the first. As for Alvarez the plan will most likely be the same, plenty of foot movement, pump the jab, and do work to Kovalev’s body up close. Kovalev isn’t really a fighter who does well up close, he likes medium to long distance work and it was when Alvarez was outboxing him from the outside that the warning signs started to appear since even though Kovalev is a bully fighter he has never been so clearly out boxed at his own range.

To pick a winner then in is genuinely difficult, yes Alvarez got the win in the first fight, but he was losing the fight at that point, would Kovalev’s stamina been his undoing anyway, and was Kovalev’s defence exposed on the night as opposed to a freak shot leading to the knockout. There are so many questions and as I mentioned previously that’s why the fight is so interesting, in a truly stacked division with Badou Jack recently been tossed by the wayside will Kovalev too bow out against a young hungry fighter.

To therefore draw a conclusion to the fight one must look at what can change in the rematch or maybe more importantly what can’t change. Kovalev will still have difficulty dealing with Alvarez’s superior hand speed, and while I predict he will fight more cautiously Kovalev will have the same stamina and chin issues that he always has. Alvarez will have gained confidence from the first fight and rightly so, but the power of Kovalev is still real and still dangerous. Alvarez was very close to being dropped in the first fight, and so he can’t stand in front of Kovalev and let the sweeping right round his guard, he’s going to have to box and move at least initially. If Alvarez gets through the first six, Kovalev starts to run out of options, being the older man and not having the gas tank to maintain bombs for the full 12 Alvarez should take over slowly but surely and start winning the jab exchanges. From here if Alvarez lands something big as he did in the first and like Andre Ward did in their rematch Kovalev should unravel quickly if Alvarez has put in his body work early, probably resulting in a 10th round knockout for the Colombian.

It will be sad for Kovalev to bow out the way he has, being a pound for pound fighter as recently as 2017 but it does show that in boxing you can take nothing for granted, especially if you’re not living the lifestyle that an athlete should, but even if he does turn the tables and win the rematch on Saturday the Russian will be at a point in his career achieving redemption in a division full of killers and so now even perhaps the Krusher should enjoy a nice soft retirement.

On the undercard Oscar Valdez 24 (19 KOs)-0-0 defends his WBO Featherweight title in his first outing since the Scott Quigg win facing off against unbeaten but untested Italian Carmine Tommasone 19 (5 KOs)-0-0 with Teofimo Lopez 11 (9 KOs)-0-0 also on the bill against Diego Magdaleno 31 (12 KOs)-2 (1 KO)-0.

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