Canelo vs Kovalev Live : The art of choosing an opponent is a complex one but Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, the Mexican superstar whose every decision has a domino effect on the rest of the sport, has got it right more often than he has got it wrong.
The call to fight him is a lottery ticket that arrives on his terms, not yours. Deal with it.
His great rival Gennadiy Golovkin finally got the opportunity that he wanted at the age of 35 and will never accept the result (a draw) – Canelo won the rematch, and the history books will say that the greatest middleweight rivalry of this generation went his way. Perhaps there will be a trilogy, Canelo will decide.
His selections of dates, cities, titles and weights means the onus is now on Sergey Kovalev to answer the call, but this is a game of Russian roulette unlike any other that Canelo has played.
The Mexican will step up two weight classes to challenge for Kovalev’s WBO light-heavyweight championship, in an attempt to add a major title in a fourth division. This is a career that is well on its way to becoming one of the finest of its time from the latest phenom from a nation that has produced so many classic boxers.
Canelo has cherrypicked Kovalev. He has stuck his finger firmly in the chest of a man much bigger than he is, and said: ‘I can beat you’.
The perception is that Russia’s Kovalev is ageing, creaking, slowing down – that he is teetering on the verge of retirement and a gentle nudge from whoever his next opponent is will usher him out of the ring for good.
Canelo is banking on this being the case but it is a severe test of his judgment.
The man called ‘Krusher’ being written off in this fight is the defending champion, until 2017 one of the best boxers in the world and a judges’ decision away from cementing his spot as No 1.
He was unbeaten and arguably the most feared and vicious puncher in the world when he first met Andre Ward – he knocked his fellow world champion down but the debatable scorecards favoured the American, and Kovalev’s aura of invincibility went up in a puff of smoke. He was the Oleksandr Usyk of the time until that fight.
Kovalev is 36, there are questions about the cleanliness of his lifestyle, he has changed trainers twice in a few years, he might have a problem with body shots and he is just nine weeks removed from a gruelling victory over Britain’s Anthony Yarde. Kovalev stopped the far-less experienced Yarde but took a pummelling in the process and it has been an inconveniently quick turnaround to get back into the ring.
Canelo, of course, knew that. His terms, not yours.
Canelo was once on the wrong side of these tricky negotiations – Floyd Mayweather made him shrink down to an unnaturally low 152 lbs before the only defeat of his 55-fight career. He learned from that and now Canelo is the sheriff in town.
If he pulls off this audacious heist of the 175 lbs gold he will have authority in three weight divisions and the queue to face him in May on Cinco de Mayo, the Mexican national holiday which has become a key date in the boxing calendar, will lengthen. He remains the world middleweight champion and could face Golovkin or Demetrius Andrade. Callum Smith and Billy Joe Saunders await at super-middle, while light-heavyweight’s newest Russian monster Artur Beterbiev will watch this weekend’s fight with interest.
Kovalev vs Canelo in Las Vegas is a fantasy fight, one that would have seemed absurd not so long ago when they were separated by over 20 pounds of muscle but is now reality.