It was a tight fight, no bombs away classic, but a strategic tango. And then, Canelo Alvarez went from patient predator, a measured ring general, to badass closer.
In round 11 at the MGM Grand on Sunday morning on the East Coast, a chopping right touched Sergey Kovalev. Then a left hook hurt the Russian champion, who’d played a jab-heavy style to have it close to this point, on my unofficial card.
A right hand as Kovalev’s legs went drunk finished him, he dropped to the ropes, out of it. The ref, Russell Mora, didn’t even start a count, Kovalev was out of it. At 2:15 elapsed, he’d waited…stayed composed…and then exploded hand grenades on the Russian’s head.
Canelo after to Chris Mannix said in Spanish that he thanked everyone for coming. Be patient, he asked, I will be legendary, basically. This is but another step in a storied career, he stated. The game plan, what was it? “The plan overall was patience,” he said. He called Kovalev a “great fighter,” but “we stuck to our game plan.” He called the fight close, and he said Kovalev was fighting to win on points.
Will he stay at 175? Canelo said that maybe he stays, maybe he goes back down. What challenges would he like? “We have to see what comes, what happens,” he said. No names…and the victory goes to Mexico. He hoored people who have passed on. And what about Gennadiy Golovkin, what about another battle with him? “I’ve said it before, it’s really not a challenge for me,” but, he said, he’d do it if it makes business sense.
Kovalev then spoke to Mannix. The loser said he tired a bit after round six. “Canelo is a really great champion,” he said. He congratulated Canelo for “making history” and thanked people for coming. Hey, where was the right hand? Kovalev said that that would open him up, to a counter. He said “I’ll be back,” and talked about his stamina. Canelo he said was “fresher” and had better stamina.
I had it 6-3-1 to that point, for the record, for Canelo, a champ at 154, 160, 168 and now 175.
But all the rounds, really, looked close to me. Canelo was ahead on two of three card, to that point. It was 96-94, 96-94, and 95-95.
The 36 year old Kovalev came to the ring with the WBO belt; he held a 34-3-1 record walking to the ring. This was his third fight with Buddy McGirt seconding him, after splitting with John Davis Jackson. He is promoted by Main Events and Kathy Duva. He needed extra time to get down to 175 pounds after being over the weight on Friday.
The Mexican heart-stopper Canelo, age 29, held a 52-1-2 mark. He’s been with Eddy and Chepo Reynoso, his tutors, for 14 years. Canelo has been promoted by Golden Boy and this week he dropped a harsh assessment of Oscar De La Hoya, the GBP leader.
The co-feature ended before midnight, and we waited for the UFC 244 main event to finish, before we did ring walks for the combatants. In round 3, the Nick Diaz vs Jorge Masdival bout was halted, because Diaz was cut. If you were on social media passing the time, you knew that many fight fans, on the East Coast, mostly, were quite irked that live fghts ended and so much time passed before the featured bout kicked off. This was made worse by the fact that no DAZN management shared why the decision to cater to UFC was made.
John Skipper and Joe Markowski have been given a long leash by media, for signing and spending decisions, but this deal, this might be spelling a change of tune in how people regard their acumen for production of the overall DAZN talent makeup, as well as the product presented on platforms.
Then, the decision was made to do three anthems, while the fighters, who both looked irked at the wait, got warmed up, again.
Then, as we saw Canelo walk to the squared circle, we again pondered the potential outcomes, not the bewildering pacing of the event. Was Canelo not looking to cross a bridge too far…Were his ambitions more out sized than his skill set, leaping from 154 not that long ago, to 175? Was he holding too much bravura for his own good? We’d soon see. OK, not soon, being that the main event should have started almost two hours earlier, if proper consideration were given to people living in the ET zone.
In the first, it was jab city, all jabs, all the time, from the Russian. He took the round with a steady diet of left hand leads.
In the second, a tighter round, because Canelo was busier with counters. Sergey opened up a bit more too. The Mexican backed up Kovalev, who looked to move and peck with the jab and not get whacked with a nasty counter.
In the third, the constancy of the jab won Kovalevthe round. He pecked and when he did and didn’t stop, Canelo wasn’t getting off enough. Kovalev worked some edging foward then later backed up.
In the fourth, the power came from the very selective Canelo. Kovalev was jab-happy.
In the fifth, Canelo’s rips to the body won him the round. He was sparse with his output, but focused and yes, it was another tight round.
In the sixth, a lack of power from Kovalev. Canelo stalked a bit harder, and his few power connects maybe won him the round.
In the 7th, Canelo’s counters were stiffer, even if they came more rarely than Sergey’s launches.
In the 8th, Canelo took the round off. Kovalev worked harder and Canelo backed up.
In the 9th, it was the best action round of the fight. A couple more power shots, for Canelo, did that edge out the volume edge from the Russian?
In the tenth, Canelo tried to land a bomb but he was too patient.
In round 11, a flurry landed and out went the light. The patient predator turned it up, when he needed to.