Countdown To Canelo vs. Kovalev: Promoter Duva Touches On Judges, How Her Man Gets The Win



Countdown To Canelo vs. Kovalev: Promoter Duva Touches On Judges, How Her Man Gets The Win

After 40 plus years of rodeos, Kathy Duva knows that if you are in that bull pen, for a decent length of time, you will get scuffed up, by judges who don't see things as you do–or maybe as they are.

The NJ-based promoter, who runs Main Events, has Sergey Kovalev fighting Canelo Alvarez Saturday night in Las Vegas….and knows full well what that equation means. It means, Canelo Alvarez is a Vegas fave….he puts butts in seats, he is a revenue-amasser, for himself, for the local economy a couple times a year, etc etc. And her guy is no bum, but she straight up told me during a Tuesday late afternoon chat, she knows it will be hard for Kovalev to get the W in a tight fight.

So, how does the 36 year old Russian with the 34-3-1 mark make sure that doesn't happen? Well, Duva isn't calling out a KO prediction, she isn't of the mind that Sergey has to drop and stop Canelo to win. But, she made clear, he has to win rounds with oomph, so there isn't that wiggle room for any judge to utilize.

Promoter Duva says Kovalev is loose, having fun, and is more confident than she'd seen in awhile. (Amanda Westcott picture)

Tuesday was grand arrival day, and Kovalev, Duva said, seemed to be having a grand old time at MGM Grand. “He looks terrific, he was so happy, I haven't seen him so happy since he fought Nathan Cleverly (in 2013),” she said. “He was happy, joking with the crowd. There were some boos, he said, ‘I like boos, I will turn the boos into cheers.” He did that when he fought Nathan Cleverly, Bernard Hopkins, Jean Pascal, she noted.

OK, so he seems loose…That is neccessarily a good thing? “It varies, fighter to fighter,” the rodeo vet stated. She still sees game face, he's edgier than he was a week ago, she read it on his face when she asked him how he was that morning. “I'm hungry,” he replied.

“I've seen guys look loose, and lose, and tight, and win…you just don't know.”

That is a Duva signature; she is more likely to offer a “Let's wait and see” or a “Who really knows?” than most promoters, who seek to control narratives, even on topics which they can't have any fore-knowledge of.

Kovalev has sounded more confident, and he speaks of being more confident, she continued. That, she said, is because he is collaborating with trainer Buddy McGirt. McGirt has taught him, and he responds to Buddy's brand of management. Buddy will explain WHY something needs to be done, rather than ordering it, and like a parent of a toddler, saying, “Because I said so.”

Duva also touched on perception, among pundits and the masses, of how this fight plays out. Reporters are now coming up to her and saying they see this not as a Canelo…

Canelo Alvarez arrives at MGM Grand the Tuesday before his bout against Kovalev.

Canelo looks like a Hollywood icon as he greets the crowd at MGM Grand. (Amanda Westcott picture)

..runaway, but a tight fight, she reported. Odds that say Canelo is a 4 to 1 favorite, no way, she says. “That's a good omen for the underdog,” the deal-maker said. “But he's still gotta deliver.”

We touched on the judges; New York’s Julie Lederman, Nevada’s Dave Moretti and Connecticut’s Don Trella will hand in cards. Is Duva happy with that crew? Lederman does a good job, Moretti is experienced and Trella seems solid, she said. But no, she's not expecting her guy to get benefits of doubts. Match-maker Jolene Mizzone spoke up for Kovalev as deliberations were made about possible arbiters, Duva told me. Ultimately, that team will seek to hold a mindset they've used before: Let's not let the judges have the last say. No, that doesn't mean gun for the KO. It means win rounds clearly, so they can't not give you the 10-9.

“Sergey has to control the action, round by round, and Buddy knows that,” she told me. “We feel like, ‘It is what it is.' He has to silence the crowd.” Yes, more so than judges going off the rails, a pro Canelo crowd, partisans sending subliminal messages about supposed effectiveness, that has to be headed off by the Russian. He gets it, he goes into many fights being a bit of a B side outsider.

No bull, she's not slinging it. Her guy has to be on message, and be the effective aggressor, and not let Canelo steal rounds with perfectly timed activity.

Talk to me, readers–who among you is picking the underdog Kovalev to pull off a win that wouldn't be as surprising as Andy Ruiz,' but might well provoke more shock and awe, being that Canelo is the pack leader of pugilists.

Here is the reader sent out to play up the grand arrivals:

LAS VEGAS (Oct. 29, 2019): Canelo Alvarez (52-1-2, 35 KOs) and Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (34-3-1, 29 KOs) made their grand arrivals today at the MGM Grand Resort and Casino in Las Vegas ahead of their 12-round fight for Kovalev’s WBO Light Heavyweight World Title. The event will take place on Saturday, Nov 2, 2019 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas and will be streamed live exclusively on DAZN.


Below is what the fighters had to say at today's grand arrivals:


Canelo Alvarez, WBC Franchise, WBA, Lineal, Ring Magazine Middleweight World Champion and WBA Super Middleweight World Champion:


“As always, I’m very grateful that everybody is here, I’m very honored and I’m ready. This is very important for myself, for my career, for my history, for my family, for my team. To be a world champion in four different weight classes would be another chapter of my story.”


“Everything has been different, the weight, the training, and I can’t wait to see how it goes on Nov 2. I’ll do my best.”


Does the fan support ever get old? “No, it’s very motivating. This motivates me and I’m ready for triumph.”


Sergey Kovalev, WBO Light Heavyweight World Champion:


“I feel great. I’m here for my glory. For my story. For my history. A couple fights ago, when I started to work with my new team Buddy McGirt and Teddy Cruz, they gave me back my belief in myself. With this team I can do more. You can see, with my last fights, a little bit of change to my technique and style. I’m ready to fight 12 rounds.”


“It’s not the goal to knock someone out, I just need to follow my instructions from the corner, from my coach, and everything will be fine.”


Is Canelo going from 160 to 175 a mistake? “You know, I respect his steps and his risks. This is boxing, but in boxing, only real men try to prove themselves, that they’re a real fighter, and Canelo is that. But this is my division, I have been in this division since my first fight, and I want to make my history, my story. He’s just trying. Right now, 175 has a lot of good fights right now, a lot of good fighters right now, even Canelo has come to 175.”


On all the boos from Canelo fans: “I want to disappoint a lot of people on Saturday. In England, everybody was going against me, but after the fight, everyone was asking for my autograph. Your boo is good!”


Ryan Garcia, Lightweight Contender:


“I’m here now, it don’t matter what he was thinking. I’m here now, I’m ready to do my thing Saturday night and prove that I’m the better fighter. Words are cheap, I’m just ready to show what I can do.”


On what a win Saturday would say to his naysayers: “I don’t know what it says to them, that’s up to their own judgment. I believe in myself and my team believes in me and that’s all that matters. This is a big moment and a big time in my life, so thank you all for your support.”


On his Fierce King jacket: “It’s just my new brand, so I wanted to rock it. I created the design and I just like the name, Fierce King. My nickname’s King and I’m fierce in the ring.”


On his social media presence: “It’s just an easy thing to talk about. I don’t really talk about it. I just focus on what I’m doing in the ring. Everyone else talks a lot, they like to mention my social media, but it’s an easy way to connect with my fans. With the click of a button, that’s 3.6 million fans, and I can update them and show them what I’m doing in the gym and with my training.”


Romero Duno, NABO Lightweight Champion:


“I’m feeling excited. This is a big card. A lot of people said that King Ryan is going to beat you, but I said to myself that maybe I can have a technique to counter that kind of speed.”

Was he upset that Ryan Garcia didn’t accept his offer to fight in Carson last month after Avery Sparrow was taken off the card? “No, I respect the decision because I know that King Ryan had already prepared for a different opponent, and that’s why he didn’t accept the offer.”


“It feels so good. I’m so thankful to Golden Boy Promotions and to Oscar for putting me on this big card.”


Seniesa “Estrada, WBC Silver Light Flyweight Champion:

“I’m feeling great, I had an amazing training camp and I’m just going to let all the work show in the ring Saturday night.”


“It’s very personal, even after I win I still won’t like her. There’s been a lot of talk from her for the past two years. I do my talking in the ring. Saturday night, we’re going to show who’s really the best.”


On Esparza saying she’s been ducking her: “That’s a lie, I’ve been wanting to fight her. I accepted this fight before she did and I was ready to go. I don’t fear anybody and Marlen Esparza will be the least one that I fear. I’m just ready to put on an exciting fight for women’s boxing and for the sport on Saturday night.”


Marlen Esparza, NABO Flyweight Champion:


Why is this fight finally happening now? “I forced it. I forced it for a long time, after I came back I really felt like I needed to go ahead and ask for it because I knew it was going to take a while. It was something that I was promised a long time ago but I’m back and I really want to fight.”


“It was really good, it was probably one of the best training camps of my life. I’m in a really good place mentally and when you get to this level of boxing, that’s what’s the most important. After so many years, you know how to box, it’s really the mentality and I feel like I’ve never been in a better place.”


“I don’t like her because she used my name to try to get signed before I turned pro. Before I turned pro, she said I used to run from her in the amateurs. And when I turned pro, a lot of the promoters were asking me if that was the truth. Anyone would get mad getting their name used, and completely not the truth too.”


“It’s such a big fight for women’s boxing. I feel like this will be a reintroduction into the boxing world and I feel like I’m in the best place to do it, and to represent women’s boxing with another girl who is Mexican-American. I couldn’t be in a better situation.”


“I just don’t like her. She’ll hate me even more after this. It is what it is.”


Blair Cobbs, Junior NABF Welterweight Champion:


“I was born with this confidence, I was born with this flair, I was born with everything that we have here. I was born for this moment. I am Blair ‘The Flair.’”


“It means it’s the opportunity for me to take over. Take over the show, the whole world. Millions around the world are going to see the baddest, the most exciting man in boxing today – Blair ‘The Flair’ Cobbs.”


“Shock and awe. You’re going to be shocked at everything that you see coming out of Blair ‘The Flair,’ you’re going to be raising to the edge of your seats every time you see Blair ‘The Flair.’ show. Look out for me because I am the best in boxing today.”



Canelo vs. Kovalev is a 12-round fight for the WBO Light Heavyweight World Title presented by Golden Boy, Main Events and Krusher Promotions. The event is sponsored by Tecate, “THE OFFICIAL BEER OF BOXING,” Hennessy “Never Stop. Never Settle” and Brand-New Grapefruit Crush, Knockout Flavor. The event will take place Saturday, Nov. 2 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas and will be streamed live exclusively on DAZN. The title clash is one of several highlights this fight season on DAZN – an entire fall featuring boxing's biggest matchups in one of the best schedules in boxing history.


Tickets for Canelo vs. Kovalev are on sale and are priced at $1,754, $1,254, $854, $654, $404 and $204, not including applicable service charges and taxes. To charge by phone with a major credit card, call 888-9-AXS-TIX (888-929-7849). Tickets also will be available for purchase at


For more information, visit and Follow on Twitter @GoldenBoyBoxing, @Canelo, @Main_Events, @KrusherKovalev and @DAZN_USA. Become a fan on Facebook at, and Follow on Instagram @GoldenBoy, @Canelo, @Main_Events, @SergeyKrusherKovalev, and @DAZN_USA. Follow the conversation using #CaneloKovalev.

Founder/editor Michael Woods got addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the then-impregnable Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist has covered the sport since for ESPN The Magazine,, Bad Left Hook and RING. His journalism career started with NY Newsday in 1999. Michael Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and for Facebook Fightnight Live, since 2017.