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The Sergey Kovalev dilemma: Should he fight Canelo Alvarez or Anthony Yarde?

WBO light-heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev was briefly the hot favourite to meet Canelo Alvarez in September but may yet take on Anthony Yarde in August, writes Danny Flexen

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Sergey Kovalev
Sergey Kovalev

It has been confirmed that unified middleweight king Canelo Alvarez will fight next on September 14, Mexican Independence Day weekend, despite a knee problem, as it will not require surgery. In recent times, WBO light-heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev had emerged as the favourite to meet the Mexican superstar, which would appear to place in jeopardy the mandatory challenge for the 175lb belt from Britain’s Anthony Yarde, touted for August. The Londoner’s promoter Frank Warren has

that should the Kovalev bout fail to materialise, the Russian would be stripped and Yarde would instead face former super-middleweight boss Gilberto Ramirez for the vacant strap. It has since been rumoured, however, that Yarde could instead accept step-aside money to allow Canelo vs Kovalev to take place, although it has been reported that the initial offer to the light-heavyweight champ was far from an amount he would accept and significantly short of the guarantee afforded Danny Jacobs for his May bout with Alvarez.

So who should Kovalev fight next?

Canelo Alvarez

Pros

  • Kovalev will surely garner a career-high payday for a Canelo fight, regardless of his success in negotiations.
  • Size advantage. The Russian has been a light-heavyweight throughout his career, whereas Canelo only flirted with genuine super-middle for the first time last year.
  • Sharing the ring with the biggest draw in world boxing can only enhance Kovalev’s profile and reignite a career that was rocked by consecutive defeats to Andre Ward and the surprise loss to Eleider Alvarez, later avenged.

 

Cons

  • Losing to a middleweight? If Kovalev loses – and I believe he will start as the underdog with the bookmakers – he will tarnish his light-heavyweight status by losing to an incredibly gifted though far smaller man.
  • Vegas or Texas. Kovalev, as the B-side, will be forced to travel to where Canelo is most popular, either Las Vegas or Texas, places where the judges have been kind to the Mexican in the past and could favour him in a close fight.
  • Styles make fights. The smarts, upper-body movement and fast hands of Canelo could be all wrong for a Kovalev who can be quite rigid and one-paced at times.

 

Anthony Yarde

Pros

  • Lower-level opponent. All due respect to the undeniably talented Yarde, but he has not fought anyone even close to the level of Canelo’s opposition and is largely untested.
  • Home advantage. All reports indicate that a Yarde defence would take place in Russia, where Kovalev can enjoy home comforts and, in all likelihood, any favouritism from officials.
  • Less pressure. Fighting on a comparatively small event at home, against an unheralded opponent he is expected to defeat, will be a far cry from the intense spotlight and pressure that comes with meeting Canelo on a huge show.

Cons

  • Hungry challenger. Yarde’s lack of experience could actually be an advantage for him. He is unbeaten, desperate for his shot at the big time and, while confident, has no idea just how good he can be.
  • Significantly less cash. A Canelo fight, win or lose, could set the 36-year-old Kovalev up for life and, if he wins, open the door for even bigger paydays in the future, not least a big-money rematch. A Yarde fight does little for Kovalev’s bank balance or future prospects.
  • Motivation problem. Kovalev may struggle to get up for a lower-profile contest, especially with the Canelo mega-fight having been so close to fruition. The Alvarez upset should force him to guard against any complacency, but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility.
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