Get used to the boxing odd couple: Canelo and Kovalev make Nov. 2 fight official
LOS ANGELES, Calif., September 19, 2019 – It must be similar to the moment someone first thought of putting chocolate and peanut butter together. Once it happens, it makes perfect sense.
When the concept of a championship fight between three-division champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and current WBO and former three-time champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev got floated, the boxing world’s initial reaction was “Say what?” “Really?” Then, “You know, I actually like this idea.”
Even Kovalev admits when the fight was presented to him by manager Egis Klimas, he asked if he was kidding. Then he asked, “In what division?” Upon finding out Alvarez was willing to come up to light heavyweight without any catchweight requests, Kovalev said to bring him the contract, “any time, any place, and we got it.”
Kovalev decided to wait until after his already scheduled fight with Anthony Yarde of Great Britain, a fight in which he was hurt in the eighth round, but leaned on his experience and came back to win by 11th round stoppage. When asked if he still would have fought Kovalev if he’d lost, Alvarez was clear: “No.”
Alvarez sees the fight as a career challenge in a way a third fight with his nemesis Gennadiy Golovkin can’t match. With a win, he would become only the second light heavyweight champion from Mexico, and just the fourth to win titles in four divisions.
November 2 matchup announced at historic LA crossroads
The official announcement took place on September 18 at Union Station in Los Angeles. The historic Art Deco building, the scene of multiple movie shoots and everyday commuter business at the same time was an odd location and oddly fitting.
The 29-year-old Mexican and 36-year-old Russian expressed their enthusiasm for the opportunity, showed respect toward each other as opponents, and produced the 30 seconds everyone came to see: the first official face-off.
Now Alvarez (52-1-2, 35 KOs) and Kovalev (34-2-1, 29 KOs) retreat to their training camps in Southern California to get ready over a quick five weeks leading to the bout, which takes place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Several hundred fans were on hand along with a significant number of boxing media to watch an oddly low-key presentation, cool by boxing standards or by anyone’s standards. Alvarez and Kovalev’s interaction was remarkably relaxed and low-key. No show of menace, no Tyson Fury style braggadocio. Even the teams and fans kept their powder dry.
Canelo and Kovalev: Respect box
The pair briefly crossed paths once in 2012 at The Summit Gym in Big Bear, California. Canelo and Kovalev have not seen each other in person since until Wednesday. Both expressed a rare and sincere respect for the other in interviews prior to their face-off.
Kovalev said he considers Alvarez the best fighter he has faced – better than his longtime foe Andre Ward. “Canelo fighting everybody,” said Kovalev. “He has stamina, he has good legs, he has speed, he has IQ, everything. He’s mentally close to my mentality. He follows his dreams. He took a risk, took a risk to get everything. We first met in 2012, and I saw him again since then for the first time today. I was glad to see him, and him the same,” added Kovalev.
When informed of Kovalev’s comments, Alvarez responded in kind. “Yes, of course. I’m very glad how he grew. We met in 2012. He was a four, six-round fighter, and he became the best fighter pound for pound. So I’m very happy to see this. But now it’s our turn to fight. I never mentioned we were going to fight (in 2012), but we are ready for this great challenge and this great fight.
“I consider Kovalev as one of the best in his division. He is a champion and he represents a great challenge for me. I don’t see it as pressure. I see it as motivation,” said Alvarez.
“You need to run risks in order to create history. It’s going to be a difficult fight for me, the most difficult of my profession. But to make history this is what you must do.”
Still wrapping our minds around this boxing odd couple
Canelo vs. Kovalev is the unexpected present boxing fans didn’t know they needed. Observers get five intense weeks to discuss strategy, styles, and potential outcomes. There is real meaning in this fight for both men in a win or in a loss. It’s fair to call it a career-making fight whatever happens.
Yet there’s an odd coolness pervading the early atmosphere surrounding this fight. The fighters and their teams are awfully polite. It’s not necessary to bring a flamethrower to a press conference, but even the fans were subdued. Not a Russian or a Mexican Tricolor in the house.
Perhaps everyone is still getting used to this outlandish, delightful surprise matchup, the sort of shakeup seen so rarely in boxing. There’s a little bit of shock that still needs to wear off over seeing the coolly elegant Alvarez in his dashing Dolce & Gabbana suit standing next to the jeans and a t-shirt simplicity of Kovalev. Neither man looked out of place.
Kovalev’s manager Egis Klimas may have said it best: “I don’t think this fight needs to be introduced. When you hear the names Canelo Alvarez, Krusher Kovalev, it says all that’s going to happen on November 2. I don’t need to talk about Sergey – everybody knows who he is in boxing, and regarding Canelo, they know what they mean when they say – grandes cojones.”
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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