“I wanted to show him I was strong, had a good chin, and was ready for big things…” – Eleider Alvarez
Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland/Main Events
ATLANTIC CITY — There is a new kingpin at light-heavyweight. Undefeated Eleider Alvarez weathered a fourth-round storm to stun Sergey Kovalev with three massive knockdowns in the seventh to win the WBO title.
EARLY EVEN TERMS: Kovalev received a rude awakening in the second when Alvarez cracked him up-close with a corkscrew right hand. The speed of the shot rattled Kovalev and he immediately adjusted tactics by working conservatively from the outside. But even from range Alvarez’s timing allowed him to crash home neck-snapping jabs.
While the rounds were fairly even in terms of punches landed, Kovalev’s power had him landing with more authority.
WEATHERING THE STORM: Kovalev pounced in the fourth after buzzing Alvarez with a right hand. Alvarez waved him on and the Krusher obliged with power shots downstairs and around the Colombian challenger’s high guard. But unlike previous opponents, Alvarez looked sturdy under the assault. He gave ground at times but kept an intensity in his eyes that later made perfect sense — he was waiting for his opportunity to strike.
SEVENTH ROUND EXPLOSION: Going into this stanza I had Kovalev ahead 58-56 by taking the last three rounds. They were all competitive with Kovalev landing the harder shots but looking less and less physically imposing every minute. The pace was getting to him and the lingering (bad habit) of keeping his guard low became more pronounced.
Kovalev made the fatal mistake of pulling straight back after Alvarez feinted a left jab. The true shot was a crushing overhand right that short-circuited the champion’s legs.
— HBOboxing (@HBOboxing) August 5, 2018
This was different from the trouble Ward’s right hand inflicted in their second fight. Kovalev was now hurt far worse than at any point in his career. With senses glazed over and legs wooden, he could do nothing but come forward and accept the inevitable.
Alvarez put him down again within seconds from a left hook followed by another right. Kovalev toppled forward then sideways on his left shoulder, his arm bent awkwardly behind him. The pitiful sight should have been enough for the referee to call it, but a tenured champion who rises to his feet usually gets the benefit of the doubt.
Alvarez erased any lingering hope with a final whipping right hook for the merciful stoppage.
UNIFICATION?: Most people acknowledged that Alvarez’s skills made him a live dog. The thing about Kovalev’s power is it fades in the later rounds as noted by the fact he has no KOs after the eighth. As Alvarez did with Lucian Bute, the new champ let the aging vets shoot their loads before putting them out to pasture.
On the undercard, WBA title-holder Dmitry Bivol won a pedestrian unanimous decision over Isaac Chilemba. The idea coming in was a unification would happen later this year should Kovalev and Bivol win.
With 13 fights, Bivol was not ready for Kovalev and certainly isn’t for Alvarez. The new champ hasn’t been in the ring for over a year so he’s not a well-known HBO commodity. This means we’ll likely see both Bivol and Alvarez get a few more showcase fights to build to a big unification showdown in early 2019.
KRUSHED: Kovalev’s a prideful guy so it’s going to be tough when he realizes there’s no excuse this time. With Andre Ward, he could blame his former trainer, the low blows, and controversial scoring. I could see Kovalev pushing for a rematch but he’s essentially been “figured out” at the top level and no longer possesses the ferociousness of his previous title run.
He has 60 days to enforce an immediate rematch clause in Canada. If he goes for a slow rebuild, an in-house bout against Sullivan Barrera would be an acceptable option.