By Marc Livitz at ringside: Sergey Kovalev may have had his future flash before him last summer. Tonight at the Ford Center in Frisco, Texas, he made certain that the memory of the WBO Light Heavyweight championship he lost last August by way of a shock seventh round knockout was effectively erased. He did just that with a resounding unanimous decision victory over Eleider Alvarez en route to regaining the title. Sergey was on the front foot early as he pursued Alvarez (24-1, 12 KO’s) and traded jabs with him.
Kovalev (33-3-1, 28 KO’s) absorbed a solid jab from Eleider in the closing minute. Kovalev opened the second with a few quick shots towards the champion’s head. Nerves had yet to completely subside, as each man appeared cautious yet eagerly looking for that one perfect chance. The third began as a different story, with the former champion from Russia using his left jab and hook, yet the Colombian champion answered in kind with his jab, right down the middle. Throughout the bout thus far, any highlights were dented by various periods of tie-up’s and clinches.
Kovalev kept on firing high with head shots, yet Eleider’s jab was ever constant. 35 year old “Krusher” connected with a straight left a few seconds before the fourth was brought to a close. Sergey’s output was on the rise in round five as he tried and tried to get around the Colombian’s tightly held defensive posture. “Storm” Alvarez would connect with a glazing overhand right in the closing minute, yet Kovalev closed the round with a quick left jab to the chin.
A hard right from Alvarez to the head of Kovalev came just as the sixth was underway. Sergey threw a few lefts to the body and he used much of the last minute to snap his jab and look for success with his power hand. Despite the early success, it should be noted that this was precisely the spot where 34 year-old Eleider began to flip the script last August. Alvarez looked to go to the body as the second half of the championship contest began. He appeared to be content with the approach of trading high with low. Round eight meant that the rematch would surpass their initial meeting, at least in rounds fought.
Kovalev was in pursuit as before and used his left/right plan once again. There were more close calls with potential headbutts which resulted in clinch up’s. The ninth would prove to be more competitive with Kovalev, at least early on with the lion’s share of success. He scored with with overhand rights and uppercuts, yet Alvarez kept looking for spots to counter with his left hook, which he did a few times. Shots were traded as the tenth commenced. Eleider just missed with a sweeping overhand right which only ended with another tie up.
A straight left from Sergey had Alvarez admiring the lights on the ceiling with about a minute to go and he followed up with a short right hook to the head.
The championship rounds roared to a start with Sergey staunchly remaining on the front foot, on the offensive and connecting with spurts of punches. Still, Alvarez fought like champion and at times countered up high whenever the Russian looked for a respite.
A brief show of respect was shown as they were brought to ring’s center for the last three minutes. They exchanged periods of aggression and traded shots until Sergey connected with another hard shot which sent Eleider’s head snapping back. The head shots landed by Kovalev in the last minute didn’t seem to bother the Colombian, who just kept coming back. Sergey closed the night with a right to the head just as the bell sounded. Unlike last summer in Atlantic City, Kovalev at least appeared to have the answers tonight in Frisco and perhaps did enough to halt Alvarez’s championship reign at six months. The judges happened to share this writer’s sentiments.
Both Levi Martinez and Jesse Reyes saw it 116-112 for Kovalev, while Lisa Giampa gave no rounds to the champion with a 120-108 wash for the new champion.
“I have no excuses because I knew that if it went the distance, then he’d get the win,” said the defeated champion as to why he threw less than 400 punches tonight. “I don’t see myself as a loser and I give him credit for coming out in the twelfth round and looking for the win.”
“This training camp, I was careful,” said Kovalev, the new champion. “They stopped me from overtraining and helped me keep my energy levels up. We worked a lot on my jab and power shots. I got the skills back that I had as an amateur.” “Who’s ready for a unification fight?’, he said in regards to unifying the division.