Up until November 2016, Russian light heavyweight boxer Sergey Kovalev boasted an impressive record of 30-0-1, with his only blip a draw against Grover Young following an unintentional infringement. Since then, the 36-year-old may have retained his titles on multiple occasions but has suffered back-to-back defeats and more specifically, lost three of his last seven bouts. Questions are being asked whether ‘Krusher’ is past his best, or whether he can return to form and hold onto his titles again?

On November 2nd, the iconic MGM Grand Garden Arena opens its doors as Kovalev heads to Las Vegas to defend his WBO light heavyweight title from the reaches of Mexican boxer, Saúl ‘Canelo’ Álvarez. Looking at the Canelo v Kovalev odds in the lead-up to the bout, three-weight world champion Canelo is the favourite to add another division to his belt – despite stepping up two weight divisions.

The Mexican, who won the IBF middleweight title in his last fight by unanimous decision over Daniel Jacobs, boasts a record of 52-1-2, with his last loss coming against Floyd Mayweather Jr. back in September 2013. While ‘Krusher’ has a four-inch height advantage and a one-and-a-half-inch reach advantage over his opponent, his record which was untainted for so long currently stands at 34-3-1.

When Kovalev took on American boxer Andre Ward for the first time in November 2016, the bout was highly-anticipated and billed as ‘Pound for Pound’. Kovalev was ranked number 2 by The Ring magazine, with 26 knockouts in 30 wins, while Ward was ranked number 4, with a 100% winning record (30-0-0).

Ward hit the canvas as early as the second round and was saved by the bell, but from that point, each round was toughly contested. In the final rounds, Kovalev began to tire and while a knockout blow from either boxer would have won it, the decision was left with the judges. In what proved to be a controversial result, Ward won by unanimous decision – with all three judges scoring 114-113 in his favour – to wrest the WBA, WBO and IBF light heavyweight titles from the Russian.

‘The Rematch’ as it was billed, took place the following year in June, again in Las Vegas. The Ring title was also up for grabs, with Kovalev looking for his third reign with the WBO belt. The bout may not have gone the distance this time around, but it was marred by controversy once again. The American landed a huge right hand in the eighth round, sending Kovalev to the deck and unable to continue. Prior to this, the fight was evenly-contested and neither were able gain a foothold. Krusher later complained about a number of low-blows that were waved away by referee Tony Weeks.

His most recent loss came against Colombian Eleider Álvarez, also a light heavyweight, with 23 wins from 23 bouts, despite not fighting for many titles. Kovalev started strongly, but as with other matches in recent years, he began to tire. It was in the seventh round that he hit the canvas no fewer than three times before the fight was stopped. In their rematch, however, ‘Krusher’ was victorious and regained his WBO title.

Since then, Kovalev has fought British boxer Anthony Yarde, winning by technical knockout in the eleventh round. Again, this was by no means a formality and the ‘Beast from the East’ made things difficult in the early rounds. He could well have landed a knockout blow of his own in round eight, in what would have been a colossal shock, but hit the floor in what is his only loss to date.

If Kovalev wishes to retain his title, he will need to be on top of his game. A key factor to his success will be his stamina as by the midway point, fatigue will start to set in. He will want to impose his power over Canelo early on, but will also need to preserve his legs and energy for the later rounds. Canelo will be happy to weather the storm and play the long game, waiting for the Russian to tire. It could take one knockout blow from either boxer to settle this one, or else it’s going to go down to a decision – which is likely to go against Kovalev.

 

 

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