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Dougie’s Friday mailbag (Canelo-Kovalev)

With the Canelo-Kovalev light heavyweight showdown being only one day away, some fans are picking the underdog (but naturally bigger man) to win.
01
Nov

CANELO VS. KOVALEV

Hi Dougie,

Here we are! Canelo vs Krusher! I have an ambivalent point of view toward the Mexican.

On one side, I must congratulate Canelo for his big balls. He has probably the best resume of all active boxers not named Pacquiao or Gonzalez. Kovalev is past his best, looks sometimes vulnerable, but he’s still a very effective and skilled boxer-puncher and the biggest and most powerful guy that Alvarez has fought. I feel like this challenge is worthy of the old-time champions.



On the other side, it’s difficult to forget the judges’ bias toward the Golden Boy’s diva. It’s not that the fights vs. Trout/Lara/GGG II are robberies, they were very close fights but it’s like Canelo cannot lose a close fight by decision. So, this bias and Canelo’s stone chin reduce really Kovalev’s odds.

Many people assume that Canelo will have only to walk to Kovalev and target the body to win. It’s a good plan but it will not be easy to get past the Russian’s elite and powerful jab. I am curious to see if Alvarez will be stronger now that he will not have to cut weight. Alvarez’s youth make him the favorite but it’s still a risky (and calculated) gamble.

Thank you for your good work! – Antoine Aubin 

You are most welcome, Antoine.

I agree with your take on the fight. It’s a calculated gamble for Team Canelo. Kovalev is past his athletic peak but not yet faded. He’s got technical flaws (such as his lack of in-fighting prowess) that can be exploited, but there’s a price to pay to get in close enough to take advantage of them. He’s no longer a “Krusher,” but he can still punch.

In a nutshell: Kovalev looks vulnerable but he could still be very dangerous. And on Canelo’s side, we don’t know if the added weight will have a positive or negative impact on his athleticism.  

I’ve said this before about the fans that think all Canelo has to do to beat Kovalev is tap his body to earn a KO, but I have no problem repeating it: They’re either Canelo detractors that don’t want to give him any credit, Kovalev haters, or boxing nitwits.

Canelo vs Krusher! I have an ambivalent point of view toward the Mexican. Oh, come on, Antoine, you can say that you don’t care for the redhead. You’re a fan, not a media member, you don’t have to pretend to be objective or balanced about anything related to this whacked-out sport.

Kovalev is past his best, looks sometimes vulnerable, but he’s still a very effective and skilled boxer-puncher and the biggest and most powerful guy that Alvarez has fought. True.

I feel like this challenge is worthy of the old-time champions. Of course it is. There are plenty of old-time middleweight champions who didn’t do what Canelo is attempting on Saturday. Carlos Monzon and Marvin Hagler are universally recognized as two of the five best 160-pound champs of all time (some fans and historians rate them No. 1). They didn’t f__k with light heavyweight. The only middleweight champs with Canelo’s build (a stocky 5-foot-8) that dared to take on the top light heavyweights were Harry Greb, Mickey Walker and Dick Tiger. (Tiger lifted the 175-pound title from Jose Torres. Walker beat some top light heavyweights – as well a few rated heavyweights – but he fell short against Tommy Loughran for the title. Greg faced and beat several top light heavyweights, including Loughran, Tommy Gibbons, Maxie Rosenbloom and future heavyweight champ Gene Tunney, but the world title was never on the line in those bouts. Regardless, that’s hall-of-fame/ATG company for Canelo.)

On the other side, it’s difficult to forget the judges’ bias toward the Golden Boy’s diva. It’s not that the fights vs. Trout/Lara/GGG II are robberies, they were very close fights but it’s like Canelo cannot lose a close fight by decision. I don’t think the Trout fight was VERY close. It was competitive but Canelo was the clear winner in my view (I don’t care what Showtime’s commentators thought). However, there was an egregiously wide scorecard among the three official judges and, apart from the Golovkin rematch, it seems like there’s always one official judge bending over backwards for Canelo, which is pitiful and one of the reasons so many fans hate the Mexican ginger.

So, this bias and Canelo’s stone chin reduce really Kovalev’s odds. I think Canelo’s boxing ability – the same thing that gave Trout, Lara and GGG difficult fights – is what reduces Kovalev’s chances.

 

ORDERING THE UPSET SPECIAL

Hi Dougie,

Hope all is good at your end – thanks for keeping the mailbags coming!

Just a quickie to say I’m a bit surprised that so many people are picking Canelo to beat Kovalev with a lot basically writing off the surly Russian and expecting him to wilt after Canelo hits him to the body for a few rounds. Canelo will have to pay a price for coming in to get to the body and I’m not sure he can afford it.

I can’t see an easy night for either guy and I’m picking Kovalev to pull the ‘upset’. Dude isn’t washed up just yet.

Enjoy the fight! Cheers. – Cogs

You’re on the record, Cogs. If you’re correct, you’re a genius, and everyone who picked Canelo is a biased idiot. I’ll buy you one of those Roger Mayweather “You Don’t Know S__t About Boxing” T-shirts to wear at big fights, just to help you rub it in our faces.

 

FIGHT PICKS

Mr. Fischer,

I’m just running through the fight picks for Canelo vs. Kovalev. I understand that only one pick was UD for Kovalev (because it is impossible to win vs. Canelo on points – they will never accept two judges who would – just in case – be willing to vote against Canelo). But what I do not understand:

  • Why are so many thinking that Canelo can win by KO / TKO? He was not able to take out Jacobs or GGG. What makes these people believe he can just do so with a legitimate Light Heavyweight?
  • Why is only one pick a KO for Kovalev? Is it that Canelo could stand the fire of GGG? Does it mean those people don’t rate the punching power of Kovalev over that of GGG? And would you agree to that assessment?

Enjoy the fight weekend. – Matthias from Germany

I think the lack of KO predictions for Kovalev has more to do with Canelo’s defensive prowess and solid whiskers than it does with the light heavyweight’s punching power.

However, I believe the number of KO predictions for Canelo has more to do with the biases against both fighters than it does with the Mexican star’s punching power or Kovalev’s inability to take a punch (to the head or body). I think some fans are saying Canelo will blowout Kovalev to discredit him regardless of the outcome. They don’t want to give him credit for stepping up to light heavyweight, so they claim that Kovalev is “shot.” They don’t want to give him credit for beating Kovalev (if he’s able to), so they say he’ll blast the light heavyweight veteran out early (or easily). If he does that, they can say “See, we told you Kovalev was a spent bullet.” If Canelo doesn’t stop Kovalev, or if he struggles to stop him, they will say “Alvarez sucks, he had a hard time with an old, shot fighter.” And if Kovalev loses a decision, but legitimately wins four rounds, they’ll score it a draw or 7 rounds to 5 for Kovalev, and say that Canelo got a gift.

And they’re all mad at me for seeing through their bulls__t and calling them on it. And guess what? Those fools can stay vexed.  

 

KOVALEV SHOULD BE THE FAVORITE

Hello Doug,

Well, the time has come to prove if I was right or wrong about Kovalev-Canelo. I’m really excited about this fight, I think it’s a legitimate test for Canelo and a fight that can elevate him to the next level, at least in my eyes. Even though I have given my take in the past, I want to make it official and tell you why and also tell you how I see the fight turning out.

I believe Canelo is jumping to this fight way too fast without trying out the weight first against an easier opponent. I think they’re underestimating Kovalev’s power, size and boxing ability and overrating his weakness to the body. Sergey is a terrific boxer that has often been underrated because he’s believed to be this puncher with no technique, much like some of the Ex-USSR boxers out there (GGG, Derevyanchenko, Korobov, etc). Ever since these guys started appearing in the boxing world, a lot of Latin and American fans have dismissed them and doubted their ability by stating that their style is too simple or they lack certain things they’re used to with fighters they know. The fact is, that these guys, much like the Cubans, used to dominate the amateur circle and have adapted very well to the pro game. Guys like Kovalev and Golovkin have underrated technical and subtle defensive skills that seem to be overlooked because they don’t look like Floyd. These guys manage distance in a very interesting way, often using their jab to measure their position in the ring. Now, they’re not perfect of course, but they aren’t a “Donkey that only walks forward” (like Eddie Reynoso said about Golovkin).

I think Kovalev will make it very hard for Canelo to get inside, he will overwhelm him with volume punching and punish him with well-timed jab-right cross combinations using his size, reach and speed to neutralize him. Canelo will find it hard to get to Sergey and will eventually get to the body but not before getting punished for doing so, maybe even dropped as he’s not used to the division’s power. He will think twice to go to the body after this happens. Canelo will also be a little sluggish with the added weight.

Now, I do see a scenario in which Canelo is successful, and that’s if he can gain Kovalev’s respect with his power and speed. I think Kovalev’s biggest weakness is not his body but his lack of good lateral movement.  For all the good things he does technically, he has that weakness and Canelo is a very smart boxer that can exploit those things. He did it brilliantly vs Jacobs and I can definitely see him doing it, he is that great.

As of now, I don’t think that will happen though, I think Kovalev will prevail. I may not know something or may be overrating Sergey, but hey, that’s my take, has been from the beginning and won’t change it.  I’ll stick to my original stance. If Canelo beats Kovalev, he will beat a tough big guy who, yes, is no longer in his physical peak, but is still a very good fighter who is two weight classes above him. I will give him all the credit in the world, and I will eat crow. If Sergey wins…..

Alright Dougie, that’s all I got, hopefully we get a great fight this Saturday, you know I love these kinda fights and can’t wait to see what happens.

Thanks, and have a great weekend! – Juan Valverde, San Diego

I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s main event (as well as much of the undercard). Knowing boxing history as I do, I understand how rare and difficult what Canelo is attempting must be. It was the same deal when Mikey Garcia stepped up to welterweight early this year. When I tried to find examples of reigning lightweight champs who challenged and dethroned reigning welterweight champs, I couldn’t find any. Same deal with reigning middleweight champs challenging reigning light heavyweight champs. So, if Canelo can pull it off, I’m not going to pooh-pooh the accomplishment. Like you, I’m going to give him his due credit (I won’t have to eat any crow, though).

I believe Canelo is jumping to this fight way too fast without trying out the weight first against an easier opponent. In other words, he’s not doing it the Andre Ward way; he’s trying to pull a Chocolatito or Lomachenko. Props to him. (Editor’s Note: Dre can do no wrong.)

I think they’re underestimating Kovalev’s power, size and boxing ability and overrating his weakness to the body. The Reynosos don’t seem like the kind of trainers/managers to underestimate or overrate anything about a prospective Canelo opponent, but you might be right.

Sergey is a terrific boxer that has often been underrated because he’s believed to be this puncher with no technique, much like some of the Ex-USSR boxers out there (GGG, Derevyanchenko, Korobov, etc). Go back and read my mailbags from before the first Ward fight. This is what I was telling people. Don’t call him a puncher. He’s an excellent boxer with very heavy hands. I hate it when certain fighters are pigeonholed as “punchers,” “brawlers,” “sluggers,” etc., because when they’re matched up with fighters recognized as “boxers” the skills and technique they display during the fight are often ignored by broadcast commentators (caught up with the “story of the fight”), much of the media, and way too many fans.

Ever since these guys started appearing in the boxing world, a lot of Latin and American fans have dismissed them and doubted their ability by stating that their style is too simple or they lack certain things they’re used to with fighters they know. I don’t have much respect for those so-called fans.

The fact is, that these guys, much like the Cubans, used to dominate the amateur circle and have adapted very well to the pro game. They (and their management) are smart. Many of the standouts are relocating to boxing hotbeds in the U.S. and seeking the guidance of top American trainers (some of African descent, some of Latin descent) and they’re soaking up the knowledge of those teachers and the experiences from training at world-class gyms like sponges. Looking at the Canelo-Kovalev undercard, I can see examples of

Bakham Murtazaliev. Photo: Twitter @Main_Events

this dynamic. The card begins with Bektemir Melikuziev (2-0, 2 KOs), a light heavyweight body snatcher from Uzbekistan who’s trained by Joel Diaz in Indio, California. If you don’t know who “Bek Bully” is yet, you’ll take notice in 2020. Then there’s Meiirim Nursultanov (12-0, 8 KOs), a middleweight from Kazakhstan who’s trained by Buddy McGirt in Northridge and Oxnard, California; and Bakhram Murtazaliev (16-0, 13 KOs), a junior welterweight from Russia who’s trained by Virgil Hunter in Hayward, California. Murtazaliev is facing Jorge Fortea (20-1-1) in an IBF 140-pound title elimination bout. He and Nursultanov are promoted by Main Events. Melikuziev recently signed with Golden Boy. Very soon, these dudes (and many others like them) are going to be kicking ass at the world level the way Kovalev and GGG were five or six year ago.

Guys like Kovalev and Golovkin have underrated technical and subtle defensive skills that seem to be overlooked because they don’t look like Floyd. How sad and pathetic is that!? It’s f__king ridiculous.

These guys manage distance in a very interesting way, often using their jab to measure their position in the ring. Yep, and Kovalev does a very good job of this (see his first fight with Ward and second fight with Elieder Alvarez). The Russian is at his best when operating from the outside or middle distance.

I think Kovalev will make it very hard for Canelo to get inside, he will overwhelm him with volume punching and punish him with well-timed jab-right cross combinations using his size, reach and speed to neutralize him. Kovalev can do this IF he can maintain the proper distance with his footwork and lateral movement. I don’t think he can do it if he stands in front of Canelo or allows the smaller man to back him up. If he doesn’t move around Canelo, he’ll need to back the Mexican star up (which is probably his best bet).

Canelo will find it hard to get to Sergey and will eventually get to the body but not before getting punished for doing so, maybe even dropped as he’s not used to the division’s power. I was a guest on the Boxing Rant podcast (with co-hosts Kenny Keith and Vince Cummings) yesterday and Kenny compared Canelo-Kovalev to Loma-Linares, hinting that maybe Alvarez gets dropped at some point because he’s not used to the weight and the so-called faded/chinny veteran that he’s facing is not only naturally bigger, but also happens to be an experienced world-class boxer. I told him that it was a good analogy, and hey, we’ll be lucky if Canelo-Kovalev turns out to be a 175-pound version of Loma-Linares.

He will think twice to go to the body after this happens. We’ll about that. I don’t think Canelo is easily discouraged.

Canelo will also be a little sluggish with the added weight. We’ll see about that. What if Canelo weighs in between 167-169?

Now, I do see a scenario in which Canelo is successful, and that’s if he can gain Kovalev’s respect with his power and speed. Yeah, but I think he’s got to earn that respect EARLY in the fight.

I think Kovalev’s biggest weakness is not his body but his lack of good lateral movement. If that’s true, he’s going to have problems with Canelo – unless he’s committed to applying pressure.

For all the good things he does technically, he has that weakness and Canelo is a very smart boxer that can exploit those things. He did it brilliantly vs Jacobs and I can definitely see him doing it, he is that great. Jacobs utilized a lot of lateral movement vs. Canelo. It’s part of the reason the fight was so uneventful. I think Team Canelo knows that Kovalev won’t move as much.

 

BLESSED AS BOXING FANS

Hey Doug, what a fight we got out of Prograis and Taylor on Saturday.  I know boxing fans tend to be grouchy and cynical, but I think we’ve gotta take the time to be thankful for the string of great fights we’ve gotten: Spence vs Porter, GGG vs SD, Beterbiev vs Gvozdyk, and now Taylor vs Prograis. We’ve been blessed with some high-level fisticuffs lately.

What do you make of Shakur Stevenson? I was not at all impressed with him initially (everybody’s gotta kind of start from scratch in the pro ranks) but in his last few fights I’ve started thinking he could maybe be something special. Even though he won his last fight by near shutout (he clearly took one round off) I was disappointed by his lack of varied offence and killer instinct. Joet Gonzalez seemed to me like the kind of good but rote and predictable fighter that a guy of Shakur’s skill level should be lighting up and knocking out. Despite that I think his defense, speed, and ring generalship look on point, and I’ve liked the glimpses we’ve seen of him on the inside in other fights. I look forward to watching him progress.

I’m also looking forward to seeing the progress of young Ryan Garcia. Do you know if his opponent is good enough to really test him?

As I’ve said before, I favor Canelo to beat Kovalev, and to do it by KO. That being said I’m anticipating a fun, tense sort of fight, one where Canelo has to adjust to Kovalev’s jab and eat a few big powershots, but in the end I see the ginger breaking the Russian down with sharp accurate shots to the chin and body, with Krusher folding between rounds 7-9. Regardless, hopefully we get another great fight that keeps up the streak of headliner fights delivering.  – Jack E.

I hope you’re right about the competitive and dramatic nature of tomorrow’s main event. I don’t care who wins as long as there’s heated exchanges and some give and take during the contest. If Canelo has to walk through fire to get the KO victory, he deserves respect and accolades. If Kovalev is able to impose his size, power and woefully underappreciated skills on Canelo to pull off the upset, I think the Russian veteran is due strong consideration for Fighter of the Year.

What a fight we got out of Prograis and Taylor on Saturday. Fight of the Year candidate and boxing at its highest level. Matchups like that are how RING MAGAZINE champions are crowned.

I know boxing fans tend to be grouchy and cynical, but I think we’ve gotta take the time to be thankful for the string of great fights we’ve gotten: Spence vs Porter, GGG vs SD, Beterbiev vs Gvozdyk, and now Taylor vs Prograis. We’ve been blessed with some high-level fisticuffs lately. Four high-level fight-of-the-Year candidates within the span of 40 days; it might be unprecedented. And what happens tomorrow might add to the streak, as could Inoue-Donaire/Oubaali-Inoue (Nov. 7), Wilder-Ortiz II/Nery-Rodriguez (Nov. 23), Ruiz-Joshua II (Dec. 7), Shiro-Alvarado (Dec. 23) and Briedis-Dorticos (whatever date it lands on; I think it will happen this year).

What do you make of Shakur Stevenson? I think he’s proven that he’s a world-class professional talent. He’s got a world title now, and I no longer believe that it’s premature to pit him against other world titleholders.

I was not at all impressed with him initially (everybody’s gotta kind of start from scratch in the pro ranks) but in his last few fights I’ve started thinking he could maybe be something special. Same here.

Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Even though he won his last fight by near shutout (he clearly took one round off) I was disappointed by his lack of varied offence and killer instinct. Well, in Shakur’s defense, he didn’t need a varied offense or killer instinct against Joet Gonzalez, who has to take SOME of the blame for the uneventful nature of the matchup. The Californian was the definition of hapless. It takes two to tango, Jack.

Joet Gonzalez seemed to me like the kind of good but rote and predictable fighter that a guy of Shakur’s skill level should be lighting up and knocking out. Gonzalez was bewildered by Stevenson’s skill, talent and athleticism but that doesn’t mean that he could be wiped out by the more-gifted-and-mature featherweight contender. Stevenson saw that he could control the fight with his speed and lateral movement. There was no need for him to give Gonzalez a chance by trying to force a KO. I’m sure if one of the flush shots that Stevenson landed hurt or even buzzed Gonzalez, he would have pounced on him, but that didn’t happen.

Despite that I think his defense, speed, and ring generalship look on point, and I’ve liked the glimpses we’ve seen of him on the inside in other fights. I look forward to watching him progress. Me too.

I’m also looking forward to seeing the progress of young Ryan Garcia. You’re not alone. Garcia has the potential to be one of the sport’s future stars along with Stevenson, Gervonta Davis, Vergil Ortiz Jr., Devin Haney and Teofimo Lopez. These young boxers (Tank is the oldest at 24) are not only gifted but they’re able to move the needle in terms of fan and press attention, ticket sales and social media.

Do you know if his opponent is good enough to really test him? Romero Duno doesn’t have the highest ring IQ out there, but he’s young, determined, athletic and he can punch. Garcia could be in for a long night.

 

 

Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter and IG at @dougiefischer, and watch him on Periscope every Sunday from SMC track.

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