Danny Flexen weighs up the pros and cons of Sergey Kovalev facing Canelo Alvarez in November
Sergey Kovalev showed on Saturday night that he remains a world-class operator. Such an affirmation however generally comes at a price. While the Russian controlled the majority of his WBO light-heavyweight title defence against a spirited Anthony Yarde, he was badly hurt and not too far away from being stopped in round eight. Kovalev came back strongly in Chelyabinsk though and finally put away an exhausted challenger with a ramrod jab in round 11.
Kovalev was in negotiations to fight Canelo Alvarez in September before Yarde’s admirable refusal to accept significant step-aside money contributed to that clash being delayed. Now the superfight could be back on for November, so should Kovalev take it?
Kovalev would earn a career-high purse, well into eight figures, by taking on Canelo. For a man hugely respected in the game but who has never had a lucrative pay-per-view clash, this must be a sorely tempting proposition, especially towards the end of his career. His two biggest fights to date, both against Andre Ward, generated around 165,000 and 130,000 buys respectively. Kovalev’s purse was linked to profits the first time, ppv and live gate numbers the next, so he did not do as well as Ward, who received decent guarantees on both occasions. The Canelo fight would be on subscription channel DAZN but would surely be watched by over a million viewers.
One night only?
If Kovalev misses out on this contest for a second time, having cleared his mandatory obligations, the chance may not come again. The 36-year-old probably only has two-three fights left, while Canelo is only going to identify more opponents against whom he can make a mint. The Mexican’s willingness to consider bouts anywhere from middleweight to light-heavyweight helps, and a third fight with Gennady Golovkin and a unification versus Demetrius Andrade will almost certain happen before Kovalev retires. The biggest star in the sport today, Canelo will never be short of willing opponents and Kovalev, the bigger man and still with something left, should take it now or not at all.
Needs a rest
The sheer time scale is not favourable. 10 weeks is just about long enough to incorporate a training camp for the biggest match of your life, but it would mean Kovalev having no rest or break following the Yarde fight. While Sergey was mostly a step ahead there, he was hurt to the body, looked to be tiring - albeit at a slower rate than his adversary - and endured a torrid eighth round. Reportedly there is little flexibility regarding the DAZN date for Canelo so if he takes it, Kovalev may not be 100%.
Bad style match
While Yarde helped to prove Kovalev’s surviving qualities, he also underlined a few of his flaws. The WBO king is not great going backwards and struggles to work effectively on the inside. Canelo turned the tables on GGG in their second fight by coming forward and is a renowned body puncher; Kovalev is vulnerable around the midsection. Sergey had tremendous success with his superb jab against Yarde who was rather static and, from the middle rounds, slow on his feet. Canelo’s footwork has improved exponentially, while his upper-body movement - key to slipping the Kovalev jab and countering - is excellent.