The guy is 36 and OK, it's not like he's in with the young lion on Saturday.
Sergey Kovalev is 36 and the dude he's fighting Saturday on ESPN+, Eleider Alvarez, on a Top Rank card which is a kumbaya co-promotion with Main Events and Yvon Michel, is 34.
The Russian is 36 and with a massive asterisk-y question mark next to him. No, not, the law enforcement matter that TMZ touched on. We're talking about the fact that the last time these men tangled, Alvarez got the better of Alvarez.
Right hands on the chin weren't properly defended by the ex light heavyweight champ, and the right hand, especially, was proving to be something he wasn't seeing, and something that was scrambling his neurons inside his skull.
Maybe this time, he slips those shots…maybe this time he comes in better, maybe this time his new relationship with a new trainer pays dividends, and brings Kovalev back to belt-holder and badass status. Lotsa maybes in the air was we tick down to Saturday.
Kovalev spoke to select media today, with the topic of his pending legal matter not so much on the table to traffic in:
“First, I am very excited to get the opportunity to get back my belt,” the 32-2-1 fighter, now being over-seen by Florida resident Buddy McGirt. “Thanks to God for this opportunity and thanks to my promoter and my manager to make this fight happen. Right now I must prove that I am the best in this division by this victory on Saturday night.”
So, what happened last August, then, against Alvarez (24-0; hold WBO 175 belt)?
“I didn’t have enough gas, enough power. You saw my condition. I was lazy it was like something was wrong with my body.”
Hm, maybe so..or maybe it was that sonuvabitch Father Time having his way with the guy. Thing is, he was having some good luck landing early. But were the reflexes what they were five years ago? Naw; and that isn't about laziness, it's about inevitability.
“Proving again that I always push myself more than needed and that was my biggest mistake in my boxing career. Always push further than needed. Right now Buddy has taught me a lot – saving energy for the fight and I listen to him 100% on his recommendations and I follow his instructions. I like this training camp but we’ll see Saturday what the boxing side will show,” he continued, delving into the theme of “over training” being maybe the main culprit in that August shit show, which ran on HBO.
“Right now at this time before the fight I am used to dieting. This time I wanted to be better for everything – in life and in the boxing gym and in life and my team change. I am happy working with Teddy Cruz my strength coach and Buddy McGirt my boxing coach. They are really a great team and they are great persons. We have a great understanding with each other and I like the team very much.” And, you might recall, those two had some decent luck with Arturo Gatti, promoter Kathy Duva pointed out to me on Wednesday late afternoon.
“Buddy McGirt and Teddy Cruz, the dream team that brought Gatti back after his disastrous loss to DeLaHoya, are working with Sergey. They are all very happy working together. Can they make the magic happen again? We will find out on Saturday.”
Duva is a promoter, so sometimes she can be a spinner…but BS, not so much. She's telling you, we don't know, she don't know. It has to play out in the ring, because we can all theorize, but the two principals have to hash it out.
“When I became pro I got three belts just by using my amateur experience because my fights went often my first two years as a pro I fought 5 or 6 times a year. Then later I fought two or three times a year and one year I fought only once. That’s crazy,” Kovalev declared. “Between the fight it was long rest and I didn’t work out. I was busy with my life. I was famous in my small group, in my circle. I was busy with my family and with my friends. Every fight I started my training from zero. No one was there to work on or remind me of my style. I fought every fight just on my memory from the amateurs. I had coaches but they didn’t help me with my boxing or my conditioning or anything. Everything I did myself. Everybody has seen the result. I am happy that I started working with Buddy and he has reminded me of my amateur style and using a lot of boxing – not the goal to knock somebody out, but boxing. It’s a good idea to not have to win by knockout, but by boxing. The will be, at one time, a punch that will catch him. If you can punch, you will. This time we have been working on defense too and with the shape I am in on Saturday it will be very interesting. I am excited in my last day of camp and I am excited for the fight to see what I can show. Right now I am really motivated because I know that I can beat this guy.”
And Duva, does she get the sense that many are feeling Sergey is the underdog…and does she think he thinks he is the underdog? Yep, she's been around long enough to know. Once that chin gets checked. And 30s head toward 40s, the sled ride gets rougher, so often….
“I don’t know,” Duva admitted. “I have found that the underdog usually feels less pressure. But Sergey knows his whole career is on the line. Gatti got chin checked pretty good by Oscar. Then he went on to sell out Boardwalk Hall 9 times after losing to Ward in the first fight of their historic trilogy. So I won’t count anybody out until I must.”
Hallelujah I say, she ain't wrong. Nobody rises from the near dead like a boxer, how often have we seen that, sequel after sequel in the realm of the theater of the unexpected…”Amen to that. We’ll see,” Duva said.
And Kovalev stirred that pot a bit when asked about what happened last August. “The last fight he got lucky. He got lucky of course. I lost concentration for just a couple of seconds – a lack of attention just for one second. Then I couldn’t get focused after the knock down. Maybe I wasn’t ready enough. I don’t want to use it as excuses but on Saturday I will prove that I am better than Alvarez. And that is my goal to get my belts back. That’s my goal right now and it is a big motivation.
So, he was asked, is he going to be a boxer on Saturday night?
“You never know what will happen tomorrow. I don’t even know what will happen when I go around this corner of the wall when I get up. I do have motivation and I should use it to get my belt back. I like belts. Right now I have a co-promotion with Top Rank and I am on ESPN and I can get to the highest level in boxing again. I am in Dallas, and Texas is a state that has a lot of boxing fans – a lot of Mexican fans and a lot of American fans. The site is very big and it looks great. And I am a Cowboys fan. My prediction is that I will get back my belt. I don’t know how, but I will get it back at any price or any cost.”