Eleider Alvarez (standing) vs. Sergey Kovalev. Photo courtesy of HBO Boxing
FRISCO, Texas — Eleider Alvarez waited a long time for his title shot.
He watched other challengers receive a crack at Adonis Stevenson for years, even though he was the mandatory challenger. Finally, after talks to match Sergey Kovalev and Marcus Browne fell apart, Alvarez received the call.
The Canadian survived a rocky Round 4 to knock out Kovalev in the seventh in an upset victory that made him a light heavyweight titleholder at long last. Alvarez finally arrived, but now, he needs to do it one more time.
He meets Kovalev in the rematch Saturday at The Ford Center in the main event of Top Rank Boxing on ESPN+, and Alvarez promises he’ll prove there was nothing fluky about his breakthrough performance, even though his foe keeps referring to it as “an accident.”
“It’s weakness,” Alvarez (24-0, 12 knockouts) told The Ring during a one-on-one sit-down at The Omni on Wednesday. “When you’re a confident fighter, you’re able to look at reality and make adjustments and come back. You don’t look for excuses.
” … I can admit that I’m a very proud fighter but I want to show the world that it wasn’t an accident; that I’m here for real. … What Kovalev called an accident, I worked very hard to make happen again.”
The 34-year-old immigrated to Montreal from Colombia with designs on becoming a world champion. He’s been well-regarded for years up North, but it wasn’t until his victory over Kovalev that the rest of the world started to talk stock of just how good he is.
Alvarez is now The Ring’s No. 1 light heavyweight, and his tools are abundantly clear. He possesses a snappy jab, underrated power and he’s immense for a 175-pounder. He weighed 195 pounds during his physical last week.
Alvarez was able to dictate range against Kovalev, and when he hurt the Russian, he didn’t let him off the hook. After the single right hand that produced the first knockdown, Alvarez patiently picked his spots and about a minute later, he deposited Kovalev on the canvas again. Referee Harvey Dock curiously allowed the fight to continue, and two more hammer-like shots through the jaw ended matters swiftly.
That patience with his foe hurt, he said, was a product of experience. Previously, he’d hurt his opponent only to start “going crazy and I wasn’t able to finish the guy and now I know how to do it.”
Kovalev isn’t what he once was. After dropping a controversial decision to Andre Ward in November 2016, Kovalev was knocked out in the rematch. Excuses followed both defeats. Kovalev said he overtrained for the first fight; he blamed the second defeat to Ward on low-blows.
He changed trainers after each defeat, going from John David Jackson to XX. After Alvarez knocked him out, the excuses reemerged. Again, Kovalev claimed he overtrained. And again, he switched trainers, this time linking up with hall of fame fighter Buddy McGirt.
Alvarez chalks up that Round 4 where he was hurt to a departure in strategy. He was boxing and moving most of the fight, but began to take the fight to Kovalev during that frame.
“I wanted to show him I have balls, I wasn’t like these other fighters that were already beaten before they stepped into the ring,” Alvarez said. ” … I’m well-prepared to win a decision if I have to, but if Kovalev shows any kind of sign of weakness, he’s going to the shower right away.
“In my head, I know the same ‘accident’ is going to happen again. … It’s my time to be a star at the top level.”
Mike Coppinger is the Senior Writer for RingTV.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger
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