By Allan Fox: Sergey ‘Krusher’ Kovalev (32-2-1, 28 KOs) will be defending his WBO light heavyweight title on August 4 against Eleider ‘Storm’ Alvarez (23-0, 11 KOs) on HBO at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The news of the date and venue for the fight was released today. The Kovalev-Alvarez fight will be televised on HBO World Championship Boxing.
The 35-year-old Kovalev’s last two fights had been at Madison Square Garden in New York. Four years ago, Kovalev fought in Atlantic City for his fight against Bernard Hopkins on November 8, 2014. Kovalev beat Hopkins by a one-sided 12 round unanimous decision during better times in his career.
Two years later, Kovalev’s problems started in losing to Andre Ward by a close 12 round unanimous decision in November 2016. In their rematch in June 2017, Kovalev was stopped in the 8th round. Kovalev has won his last two fights since then in beating Vyacheslav Shabranskyy and Igor Mikhalkin.
Kovalev’s time as a world champion likely would have been over if Ward had continued fighting, but he decided he’d had enough last year and retired shortly after beating the Russian fighter. This left Andre Ward’s IBF, WBA and WBO titles vacant. Kovalev moved in and scooped up the WBO title in beating Shabranskyy by 2nd round knockout on November 25, 2017. Ward’s vacated IBF belt was won by Artur Beterbiev last November with his 12th round knockout win over Enrico Koelling, and Ward’s WBA title was captured by Dmitry Bivol last October.
Kovalev has lost a step since the prime of his career in 2014. He’s slower, easier to hit, and he’s shown problems with his engine. Andre Ward exposed Kovalev in both of their fights by showing that he tires after 5 rounds, and he can’t fight on the outside at all. Ward also showed that Kovalev doesn’t handle body shots well. It’s been lucky for Kovalev that his last two opponents Shabranskyy and Mikhalkin chose not to throw body shots. It’s as if they failed to study Kovalev’s fights against Ward at all, because they didn’t follow the Ward blueprint in how to beat him. 2008 Olympian Alvarez is a smart fighter, and you can bet that he’s going to be making sure he goes to the body of Kovalev to try and wear him down he way that Ward did.
Eleider Alvarez, 34, has had chances to fight for a world title against WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson, but he passed it up by taking a step aside fee to let the Canadian based champion fight other challengers. Alvarez has said to have stepped aside on a couple of occasions to let Stevenson fight other opposition. Finally after years of waiting for his chance at a world title, Alvarez will be challenging for the WBO 175 lb. title against Kovalev. It should be a good fight.
Alvarez has looking excellent lately in beating former WBC light heavyweight world champion Jean Pascal by a 12 round majority decision last June, and before that he defeated Lucian Bute by a 5th round knockout last year in February. Alvarez looks like he’s getting better with each fight. The one fight that Alvarez had problems with in his career was against Isaac Chilemba in November 2015. Alvarez squeaked out a 12 round decision.
If Kovalev loses to Alvarez, he may regret not taking a bigger fight against Beterbiev or Bivol. Those would likely be bigger money fights for Kovalev. He should have taken one of them because the money would be better, and he would have a built in excuse if he lost. Bivol and Beterbiev are highly respected fighters. Kovalev wouldn’t take nearly as much criticism losing to them than he would if he loses to Alvarez.