Monday, May 20, 2024  |



Sergey Kovalev regains title by avenging defeat to Eleider Alvarez via unanimous decision

Fighters Network

FRISCO, Texas — Sergey Kovalev’s ability to still compete like, well, Sergey Kovalev, was in serious doubt entering Saturday night.

The last time Kovalev was in the ring, he was dropped three times and brutally knocked out by Eleider Alvarez. He elected to go straight to an immediate rematch amid whispers that he was a shell of his former self, a boogeyman who vanquished opponents before they even entered the ring.

Kovalev (33-3-1, 28 knockouts) again switched trainers after a defeat, this time linking up with Buddy McGirt. He again made excuses, just like he did after consecutive losses to Andre Ward, and blamed overtraining on the three defeats. None of the optics bode well for Kovalev, but none of it mattered.

He stuck to the game-plan devised by McGirt, a hall-of-fame fighter, and utilized his excellent jab to keep Alvarez at bay and avenge his defeat from six months ago with a unanimous decision victory Saturday at Ford Center in the main event of Top Rank Boxing on ESPN+. One judge scored it a shutout, 120-108; the other two scorecards read 116-112.

“We worked a lot on my jab,” Kovalev said. “Right now, I am working with Buddy the way I was when I was an amateur. After this, I want unification fights.”

This time, Kovalev didn’t fade down the stretch. Instead, he prospered as the fight wore on. “Krusher” stunned the Canadian several times in the final round to punctuate the upset victory.

While Kovalev boxed and moved, Alvarez (24-1, 12 KOs) instead searched for one fight-changing shot that never materialized. The 34-year-old Colombian was looking for the right hand over the top and connected flush on a number of occasions, but Kovalev absorbed the shots and didn’t waver.

The 35-year-old Russian outhustled Alvarez over 12 rounds and connected on more than double the punches (213 to 111). Kovalev made his name on power-punching, but he displayed impressive boxing ability, just like he did in outboxing Bernard Hopkins in 2014.

Alvarez caught many of Kovalev’s punches with his high guard, but he was far too inactive to win the judges over. When he plowed forward and exerted his superior size and strength, Alvarez found success, but he couldn’t consistently hold his ground.

“I don’t see myself as a loser tonight, but I do give him credit, especially in that 12th round,” Alvarez said. “I think that he went out and proved that he wanted to win.”

Kovalev’s resurgence came one month before he’s due in court. He was arrested in June and charged with felony assault for allegedly attacking a woman he met at a party in Big Bear, California. Even though the alleged incident came two months before his first meeting with Alvarez, the arrest didn’t come to light until a TMZ Sports report published on January 18.

His longtime promoter, Main Events CEO Kathy Duva, told The Ring she felt more comfortable about her fighter’s innocence after being made privy to some of the evidence.

“I think he was distracted by that in August, he hadn’t been charged yet,” Duva said. “Now he knows that he has a good lawyer. He’ll get his chance to defend himself and he will.”

Top Rank holds options on Kovalev and the promotional company is deep in the loaded light heavyweight division. Dmitry Bivol fights exclusively on DAZN, but the other two titleholders in addition to Kovalev — Oleksandr Gvozdyk and Artur Beterbiev — compete on ESPN. Super middleweight titleholder Gilberto Ramirez, who is promoted by Top Rank, is moving up to light heavyweight for his next fight, so there’s a bevy of options for Kovalev.

“He’s never going to be what he used to be. When you quit like (he did in the rematch against me), there’s a piece of you that’s left there in the ring. But he’s good enough to deal with a lot of guys in the light heavyweight division,” said Ward, who worked the ESPN+ broadcast as a commentator. “He’s in every one of those fights. He can win every single one of them. He was enough left in the tank.”

Kovalev’s psyche appeared badly damaged by the pair of knockout defeats, but he proved Saturday that he possesses the mettle to rebound from a soul-crushing defeat. At 35, he’s no longer the devastating puncher who ran roughshod over the 175-pound division, but he’s still pretty damn good.

Kovalev isn’t finished just yet — far from it. McGirt reinvented another Main Events fighter, the legendary Arturo Gatti. It seems he’s done it again.


Mike Coppinger is the Senior Writer for Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger