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Dougie’s Monday mailbag (Kovalev-Alvarez, Dmitry Bivol, Wilder vs. Fury)

Sergey Kovalev (left) is nailed on the inside by Eleider Alvarez. Photo courtesy of HBO Boxing
06
Aug

BOXING AT ITS BEST

Hey Doug,

I just wanted to write in to comment on the great light heavyweight showdown we got in Atlantic City.

I’ll be honest, I had no idea that Alvarez was that good–the hand speed difference between him and Kovalev was immediately noticeable, and the timing and snap on his jab was impressive. Even though I had Kovalev winning most of the rounds, Alvarez was landing clean, head snapping shots every round, and he showed a lot of veteran composure under Kovalev’s heavy fire.



Some observers are likely to say that Alvarez won this fight because Kovalev “was broken” by Ward. While I agree to an extent that the back to back Ward fights probably damaged his momentum and confidence, I think that narrative takes away from what Alvarez did Saturday. Kovalev was looking like a beast in there; he was feinting, letting his hands go, ripping to the body–I thought he looked like an offensive force in there. He was just in there with a composed and determined fighter who knew this

Photo: Twitter @HBOboxing

was his night. That counter right hand landed directly on the Krusher’s temple and would’ve messed up anyone’s equilibrium. And the Krusher didn’t fold–he went out on his shield when he probably should’ve pulled a Geale and told the ref he’d had enough after the second knockdown.

Overall, that was a great fight–the younger contender finally gets his shot at the belt, the champion gives him hell, the contender weathers the storm and slays the monster. Boxing at its very best in my opinion. – Jack

I agree, it was a quality matchup on paper (despite the official odds, which had Kovalev as a 4-1 or 5-1 favorite) that turned out to be a hotly contested fight in the ring. I thought Kovalev was the better ring general, the boxer who controlled the pace with smart pressure and the more consistent offense, but Alvarez was always a threat because of his greater speed, size, mobility and overall athleticism. The abrupt turnaround in Round 7 is one of the things that makes boxing such a special pro sport.

Both fighters showed why they were considered top-five light heavyweights coming into the HBO-televised main event: they can box with intensity and composure, they can punch, and they’ve got heart. The Colombian “Storm Cloud” is a welcome addition to the 175-pound titleholder circle. Hopefully, we’ll be treated to some unification showdowns – with at least one taking place in the great fight town of Montreal – in the next 12 months.

I’ll be honest, I had no idea that Alvarez was that good–the hand speed difference between him and Kovalev was immediately noticeable, and the timing and snap on his jab was impressive. Now you know why he was the mandatory challenger for Adonis Stevenson’s WBC belt for something like two years. Kudos to the Krusher for accepting the fight with Alvarez without hesitation after his original bout against Marcus Browne fell out.

Even though I had Kovalev winning most of the rounds, Alvarez was landing clean, head snapping shots every round, and he showed a lot of veteran composure under Kovalev’s heavy fire. Yes, he did, especially in Rounds 4 and 6 when Kovalev really put it on him with smart power-punch combinations. A lot of light heavyweights – even world-class dudes – would have wilted under that assault.

Some observers are likely to say that Alvarez won this fight because Kovalev “was broken” by Ward. Those would be the insecure Ward fans or the American boxing xenophobes that have felt threatened by the success of Eastern European/Central Asian fighters in recent years. They’re a funny lot, aren’t they? Hey, they gotta say whatever they gotta say in order to convince themselves that Ward was better than Kovalev (and didn’t receive a gift in that first bout or preferential refereeing in the rematch). I’m not mad at ‘em. I feel sorry for ‘em.

While I agree to an extent that the back to back Ward fights probably damaged his momentum and confidence, I think that narrative takes away from what Alvarez did Saturday. I agree. But that’s boxing and boxing fans for ya.

Kovalev was looking like a beast in there; he was feinting, letting his hands go, ripping to the body–I thought he looked like an offensive force in there. I agree. I thought they went tit for tat in the first three rounds, but Kovalev got his jab off well and seemed to control the pace. But in Rounds 4 and 6, I thought the Russian veteran looked like the vintage Krusher. Kovalev got with a nice punch selection as he pushed Alvarez back in those rounds, and he slipped in some sneaky body shots in close. However, Alvarez refused to be overwhelmed and I thought his trainer, Marc Ramsay, did a good job of keeping him relaxed but also focused and motivated between rounds.

He was just in there with a composed and determined fighter who knew this was his night. I agree 100%. It’s silly to piss on Kovalev and the Russian’s legacy because of this loss. Alvarez is a badass. He proved it on August 4, 2018. Who knows what would have happened had he got a shot at Stevenson (or even Ward).

That counter right hand landed directly on the Krusher’s temple and would’ve messed up anyone’s equilibrium. And the Krusher didn’t fold–he went out on his shield when he probably should’ve pulled a Geale and told the ref he’d had enough after the second knockdown. I agree 100%. Kovalev got up too quick after the first knockdown, but you could tell that he knew that his legs and reflexes were gone. Still, he tried to hang in there and there’s honor in that. He deserves some credit.

 

KOVALEV-ALVAREZ

HI Dougie,

Hope you and the family enjoyed (or are enjoying) your vacation. That was quite the shocker, seeing Sergey getting KTFO in the 7th round but not a total surprise after watching the first round. Kovalev had a look of confusion on his stool between rounds, also after the second, and I suspected we were in for an upset.

After Alvarez survived the 4th, I thought he’d win. What a right hand! I can see why Stevenson has been ducking him. Looking back, and recalling his trainer’s excuses, I don’t think Kovalev really put the Ward fights behind him. Looking at both fighters’ body language, Alvarez never lost his focus, even when in survival mode in the 4th. Kovalev adjusted after the opening rounds, but never seemed locked in like in his pre-Ward fights.

Where do both fighters go from here? Is it time for Krusher to hang up his gloves, or can he make another run? Does an Alvarez-Bivol fight make sense? Bivol didn’t seem to have a lot of passion in his bout with Isaac Chilemba. I was expecting to see a stoppage, but Bivol slowed down and gave the last 2 or 3 rounds away. Speaking of Chilemba, his trainer, RJJ, changed clothes and got on the broadcast team pretty quickly. Wasn’t it his place to be with his fighter? – Ken Kozberg, Oakham, MA

Hey man, Jones follows his own rules, you should know that by now. Thanks for the kind words about the family and our vacation (which is over – thank God – I need another vacation to recover from the past four days). The kids had fun. That’s what matters.

That was quite the shocker, seeing Sergey getting KTFO in the 7th round but not a total surprise after watching the first round. I don’t think it was a shocking outcome. Alvarez was/is a threat to any of the top light heavyweights. Props to Kovalev for fighting him when the other 175-pound titleholders were content to ignore his existence.

Kovalev had a look of confusion on his stool between rounds, also after the second, and I suspected we were in for an upset. Yeah, you and the HBO commentary crew, who love to pull out their psychology degrees whenever Kovalev fights. I thought Sergey looked fine after the opening two rounds, and I thought he was in command of a competitive fight after six rounds. He just got caught in the seventh. It happens. It doesn’t mean he’s mentally or psychologically fragile.

After Alvarez survived the 4th, I thought he’d win. How much money did you bet on him?

What a right hand! I can see why Stevenson has been ducking him. Me too.

Looking back, and recalling his trainer’s excuses, I don’t think Kovalev really put the Ward fights behind him. It’s all about Ward, and Kovalev’s mental state, eh? It’s not about Alvarez clipping him in the temple with a great shot?

Looking at both fighters’ body language, Alvarez never lost his focus, even when in survival mode in the 4th. I noticed that. The Colombian has character. He will be hard man to beat.

Kovalev adjusted after the opening rounds, but never seemed locked in like in his pre-Ward fights. It’s ALL about Ward, huh?

Where do both fighters go from here? I think Kovalev should consider retirement, especially if he’s invested his ring earnings well. But if there’s still some fire in his belly, I wouldn’t mind seeing him challenge any of the current titleholders (Alvarez, Bivol, Stevenson and Beterbiev). If he wins a fifth major world title, he remains in the mix. If loses again, I think it’s definitely time for him to hang up the gloves.

Artur Beterbiev

Alvarez could feast on the top WBO contenders – Anthony Yarde, Marcus Browne and Mike Lee are the sanctioning organizations top three – in bouts that would be be solid attractions in his adopted hometown of Montreal, but I’m hoping he goes for a unification showdown with either Dmitry Bivol or Artur Beterbiev (a Montreal-based Russian who is promoted by Yvon Michel as is the Colombian), provided the IBF beltholder defeats mandatory challenger Callum Johnson on Oct. 6.

Is it time for Krusher to hang up his gloves, or can he make another run? Kovalev hinted at retirement in a Russian-language Instagram post [insert story link], but he’s going to give himself some time before making that big decision. If the desire is still there, I think he should give himself one more go at it.

Does an Alvarez-Bivol fight make sense? It does to me. It all depends on if Bivol and his team believe the young Russian standout is ready.

Bivol didn’t seem to have a lot of passion in his bout with Isaac Chilemba. I was expecting to see a stoppage, but Bivol slowed down and gave the last 2 or 3 rounds away. Chilemba is very had to look good against and despite his amateur background and natural talent, Bivol is still learning. It’s never a bad thing for an up-and-comer to go the full 12-round distance. Bivol will grow from this experience.

 

CONGRATS TO ELEIDER ALVAREZ

Hey Doug,

Just a quick email to applaud Eleider Alvarez in his stunning KO of Sergey Kovalev. It’s hard to be a genuine boxing fan and not be happy for the guy. He’s been avoided, ignored for much of his career, and probably not made much money. When he finally got his title shot, he made the most of it! The look in his eyes between rounds as he sit on his stool defines “Eye of the Tiger”. Kudos to the Storm!

Sad to see Kovalev on the wrong end of that fight, but Lord knows that he’s given out plenty of beatings in his day, and I thought he was doing pretty damn good up to the first knockdown. Don’t ya know he was setting on his ass thinking, “WTF?!?”.

Dmitry Bivol – it appears to me that he needs to learn some inside game.

All in all, some good fights on Sat. night.

Hope ya enjoyed your time away. Blue Skies. – Brandon

I did. I got a little too much sun and trying to keep up with my kids, my nephew and niece on the San Diego beach and the water park at Legoland had me looking like The Krusher in Round 7 against The Storm, but it was time well spent.

Just a quick email to applaud Eleider Alvarez in his stunning KO of Sergey Kovalev. It’s hard to be a genuine boxing fan and not be happy for the guy. I’m happy for him. I’d almost forgotten about him before the Kovalev fight was worked out. Had Saturday’s bout not been made, I think Alvarez was in danger of “dying on the vine,” as the old timers say.

He’s been avoided, ignored for much of his career, and probably not made much money. True.

When he finally got his title shot, he made the most of it! Yes, he did, and his victory did not come easy.

The look in his eyes between rounds as he sit on his stool defines “Eye of the Tiger”. Kudos to the Storm! He’s got character. He proved it against Kovalev.

Sad to see Kovalev on the wrong end of that fight, but Lord knows that he’s given out plenty of beatings in his day, and I thought he was doing pretty damn good up to the first knockdown. What’s the old saying? You live by the sword, you die by the sword. Getting old is a bitch. And although Kovalev is only one year older than Alvarez (35 to the Colombian’s 34), the Russian has a lot more mileage on his fighter’s odometer.

Don’t ya know he was setting on his ass thinking, “WTF?!?”. No shame in that. Most of the fighters enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame have been in that very same position.

 

MAILBAG MUSINGS

What’s up Doug,

Hope and trust you and your family had a great vacation.

Few things:

Congrats to Tevin Farmer getting the proper nod this time and winning a world title. Nice scene after between he and Dib and their respective corners. Happy retirement to Billy Dib.

Man, what a sudden and conclusive (if not somewhat concussive) ending to Kovalev/Alvarez. Do you think the TKO was a combo of a perfectly timed and placed right and mental exhaustion from Kovalev? Whatever the case, terrific job by Alvarez and he appears to be a real player at LHW.

Not sure what to make of the Berto/Alexander tilt but then again, maybe there isn’t anything to make of it.

MMs:

SSM/Meldrick Taylor @135

GGG/Carlos Monzon

Usyk/Bob Foster @Cruiser

Later brutha. – Regi Woodard

Hmmm, assuming we’re doing previous day weigh-ins, I’ll go with Mosley by late stoppage in a sensational fight, Monzon by close, maybe majority decision, in a grueling battle of attrition, and Usyk by close, maybe split decision in an intense chess match, which features knockdowns suffered by both boxers.

Tevin Farmer

Congrats to Tevin Farmer getting the proper nod this time and winning a world title. Perseverance pays off. Farmer is a welcome addition to the competitive 130-pound mix. I’d love to see him in unification bouts against any of the other beltholders (Berchelt, Machado, and, of course, the grudge match with Tank Davis).

Nice scene after between he and Dib and their respective corners. Happy retirement to Billy Dib. Dib is a class act. I wish there were more prize fighters with his character.

Man, what a sudden and conclusive (if not somewhat concussive) ending to Kovalev/Alvarez. That’s boxing, man.

Do you think the TKO was a combo of a perfectly timed and placed right and mental exhaustion from Kovalev? I don’t assume that there was any “mental exhaustion” with Kovalev. I think he just got clipped by a perfect shot and wasn’t able to recover. It doesn’t need to be analyzed (or PSYCHO-analyzed) as much as it has been.

Whatever the case, terrific job by Alvarez and he appears to be a real player at LHW. He is, there’s no doubt about it.

Not sure what to make of the Berto/Alexander tilt but then again, maybe there isn’t anything to make of it. I haven’t seen the fight yet, but from what I’ve heard, Alexander deserved the nod.

 

LOW BLOWS, WILDER VS. FURY

Dear Doug (unless you’re still on vacation),

No arguments about Saturday’s main event, an epic fight with a thrilling conclusion. But it put me in mind of Kovalev’s previous “loss” to Andre Ward, which was no more a legitimate knockout than Roberto Duran’s over Ken Buchanan. In both cases the “victor” should have been disqualified. At least Duran scored only one nut shot. Ward landed a series of them.

On Fury vs. Wilder, I’m reminded of my high school basketball coach (Wingate High School, in Brooklyn, which no longer exists). In my senior year, 1960, our team got to the all-city finals against the perpetual champions, Boys’ High School. Our coach came up with what he thought would be a winning strategy and instructed our team to apply every delaying tactic they could get away with. He sort of achieved his goal, as the game was extremely low-scoring, but we still lost 21-15.

I think this is similar to the way Fury won over Klitschko. Does everyone forget what a low-action fight that was? Fury will never succeed with the same tactics against Wilder and I expect him to get creamed. Best. – Leslie Gerber, Woodstock, NY

These big showmen are good for boxing.

It doesn’t matter who wins Wilder-Fury (if that matchup is actually made), provided it’s not an uneventful draw, the outcome will be good for the heavyweight division and the sport. If Wilder sparks Fury (as you expect), he will add the lineal championship to his WBC title and heavyweight credentials and will make the case that he’s the real champ that Joshua should challenge (rather than the other way around). A victory over Fury gives Wilder more momentum going into a Joshua showdown. If Fury takes Wilder to school (which isn’t out of the realm of possibility), a Joshua-Fury unification bout instantly becomes the biggest boxing match that can be made (and perhaps the most significant all-UK showdown of all time).

Don’t be so sure that the tactics Fury used against Klitschko won’t be effective against Wilder. We haven’t seen Wilder in with a mobile, unorthodox, switch-hitting giant like Fury. And we haven’t seen Fury in with a tall, rangy, explosively athletic puncher like Wilder. We don’t know how those styles will mesh until both big men share the ring.  

(Saturday’s light heavyweight main event) put me in mind of Kovalev’s previous “loss” to Andre Ward, which was no more a legitimate knockout than Roberto Duran’s over Ken Buchanan. In both cases the “victor” should have been disqualified. The winner of those bouts could have been DQ’d with different referees (or had those bouts taken place in different locations), but while I view both bouts as somewhat controversial, there’s no doubt in my mind who was in command at the time of the stoppages – Duran and Ward.  

 

LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT SHOCKER

Hey Dougie,

Interesting card this weekend. I was intrigued to see how Bivol would fare against the difficult Chilemba, it turned out to be exactly what I expected, a tough 12 round fight that will make Dmitry a better fighter. I don’t think he’s overhyped, I just think styles make fights and this is what always happens when somebody fights Chilemba. I still think Bivol is the future and favor him to beat anybody in the division.

Alvarez and Kovalev also delivered exactly what I expected, a tough fight between contrasting styles. What I didn’t expect was Kovalev taking over the fight with his underrated boxing skills (don’t know why since he pretty much outboxed Ward for at least 10 rounds between both fights) only to get shockingly KO’d. Kind of reminded me of James Toney when he beat Michael Nunn, yes, he was losing but he was there competing and suddenly boom! It’s always shocking to see a good fighter lose for the first time in that way, but hey, he lived by the sword and died by the sword, that’s why I wasn’t surprised when he got up that he didn’t try to clinch, he went directly to what he know best, punching. He immediately tried to turn it around with his own punch which was probably not the smartest thing to do, but it is who he is. I respect that.

I don’t think he’s done. He has good enough boxing skills to be a little bit conservative and outbox anybody if he focuses. He just needs to understand who he is now, an older fighter with a fresh crack on his chin, who happens to have a great jab and very good boxing fundamentals. We all know that a broke chin never heals; once you get KO’d you are now susceptible to that. So as long as he understands that he may still be a player in the division.

As for Alvarez, wow, that’s how you do it! It was very exciting to see his moment arise and then hearing how happy and emotional he was after the fight made it even better. Hey, that’s why we love the sport! Overall a pretty good card. It delivered what I expected and had a good time.

P.S.  Does Kellerman have a crush on Ward? Really, it’s getting reaaaally weird.

Thanks, Dougie. Enjoy the week. – Juan Valverde, San Diego

I will, Juan, even though the last week of summer break of my girls will be a busy one for me. I’m not complaining. I’m doing what I love.

Does Kellerman have a crush on Ward? Yeah. It’s probably in his contract. He’s supposed to be obsessed with Ward. Creepy “man crushes” are an HBO commentator tradition. The great Larry Merchant was rather sweet on Shane Mosley and Wladimir Klitschko. (Does anyone remember Joe Mesi, the Caucasian heavyweight hopeful from Buffalo, N.Y.? Merch was hot and heavy for Baby Joe.) Lamps was in love with all the U.S. Olympians, but he got especially juicy for Roy Jones Jr. Come on, man, can ya blame him?

I was intrigued to see how Bivol would fare against the difficult Chilemba, it turned out to be exactly what I expected, a tough 12 round fight that will make Dmitry a better fighter. Bivol has a good amateur background, plus natural boxing and athletic talent, but he’s still a young dude with only 14 pro bouts. The Lomachenkos, Usyks and Inoues of the world are few and far between. Bivol is still learning and in need of pro seasoning. He’s not ready to be a unified champ or a pound-for-pound player, but he might be one day soon.

I don’t think he’s overhyped, I just think styles make fights and this is what always happens when somebody fights Chilemba. Agreed.

I still think Bivol is the future and favor him to beat anybody in the division. I think he could lose to Alvarez, Stevenson, Beterbiev, Gvozdyk and even the damaged Kovalev. Those are all difficult fights for him at this stage of his career. He might be the future of the division, but the future is not now.

Alvarez and Kovalev also delivered exactly what I expected, a tough fight between contrasting styles. What I didn’t expect was Kovalev taking over the fight with his underrated boxing skills (don’t know why since he pretty much outboxed Ward for at least 10 rounds between both fights) only to get shockingly KO’d. I expected Kovalev to be busier and the aggressor, and I expected Alvarez to be dangerous throughout. Both men had better form than I expected.

Kind of reminded me of James Toney when he beat Michael Nunn, yes, he was losing but he was there competing and suddenly boom! That’s a good analogy.

It’s always shocking to see a good fighter lose for the first time in that way, but hey, he lived by the sword and died by the sword, that’s why I wasn’t surprised when he got up that he didn’t try to clinch, he went directly to what he know best, punching. Good point.

He immediately tried to turn it around with his own punch which was probably not the smartest thing to do, but it is who he is. I respect that. Me too.

I don’t think he’s done. He has good enough boxing skills to be a little bit conservative and outbox anybody if he focuses. I’m not sure if being “a little bit conservative” works for Kovalev, but if he’s still got the desire to be champ, he’s still a threat to any world-class 175 pounder.

He just needs to understand who he is now, an older fighter with a fresh crack on his chin, who happens to have a great jab and very good boxing fundamentals. He’s got solid fundamentals, but he’s not a complete fighter. He would not have made it as far as he did (and I consider him one of the best overachievers of the 2010s) if he didn’t have world-class punching power.

We all know that a broke chin never heals; once you get KO’d you are now susceptible to that. So as long as he understands that he may still be a player in the division. From now on, any light heavyweight that can punch (or has accurate hands) who faces Kovalev is going to be gunning for a knockout.

 

 

 

Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @dougiefischer

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