Sometimes Life Gets in the Way of Boxing – Jab Hook's Views on Alvarez-Kovalev-2
Ford Center at the Star, Frisco, TX, February 2, 2019, (ESPN): Eleider Alvarez 24(12)-0 vs. Sergey Kovalev 32(28)-3(2)-1 boxing 12 rounds in a rematch for Alvarez's WBO light heavyweight title.
“The Storm” vs “The Krusher,” Alvarez will be the third opponent with whom Kovalev has had a rematch.
From 2015 to 2017 he beat Jean Pascal twice and later lost two times to Andre Ward.
Then he stopped a pair of lesser opponents, picking up a vacant belt or two along the way. Kovalev stepped back up to world-class opposition when he fought Alvarez last summer. But his comeback looked more like a relapse, as he got himself KO'd in the 7th round.
Where did Jab's favorite light heavyweight go, what happened to the fear and loathing he had once brought to his adversaries?
Honestly, the last time he looked like the “Krusher” was three years ago in the second Pascal bout. Since then Kovalev has thrice become the Krushee at the hands of Ward and Alvarez. But his records and stats hardly tell the whole story behind the Kovalev's decline. Once we were all riding high on Kovalev's Klusters of KOs. When he outboxed Bernard Hopkins we thought, wow this guy's got it all.
Behind the scenes clouds were gathering and demons were chasing the champ again.
There has not been any shortage of references to alcohol being detrimental to his performance, and outside looking in, we consider that perhaps his most dangerous opponent of all is alcohol. He has said himself that drinking made him lose focus and motivation in his training camps. This led to trouble with his trainer John David Jackson, who said Kovalev never really trusted him anyway. But a switch in October 2017 to the Russian-speaking Abror Tursunpulatov, the successful boxing coach for the 2016 Olympic team from Uzbekistan, did not seem to help him much either when Eleider Alvarez stood up to the bully.
What do ex-champs do when they have had a string of losses? Get another, new trainer. So a dream team, the Arturo Gatti saviors Buddy McGirt and Teddy Cruz, will be in Sergey's corner this weekend in Texas. A great choice and if new trainers can really get to the problem, those two veteran corner-men will make the “Krusher” krunchy again. But McGirt et al cannot answer the relevant questions of heart, stamina, and skills that must be posed in any reassessment of Sergey Kovalev, the former standout light heavyweight. Jab is sadly convinced that the “Krusher” might be gone for good.
Can a former multi-champion change his game? Can he become “Special K” and rearrange his style under expert guidance based upon boxing? There is little chance that his performance in the ring will return to its former “Krusher” glory until Kovalev gets sober, if he hasn't already done so. His recent serious legal situation could very have happened “under the influence”. Most telling is that it occurred only weeks before his last defeat.
Was it a factor? Is it not a sign of loss of control? “Living in the bottle” has become the fight where the rounds literally never end. Jab hopes he is wrong, and that this next performance from Kovalev will turn back the hands of time. If that were to happen, it might mean he has his most dangerous foe of all on the ropes. If Sergey can keep him there, it would be the biggest victory of his life and would completely upstage any boxing legacy.
OK, so now the WBO Champion Eleider Alvarez finally gets a few, well-deserved words, too. The undefeated Colombian hero had been a contender for so long, just a mandatory, the B-side opponent. No more my friends, the proud belt-holder calls the shots now and says he is ready to take Kovalev out again in a welcomed rematch.
Last August in the steamy Atlantic City summer, Alvarez was one round behind on Jab's scorecard in the middle of the bout. But he had been the more focused boxer and the more confident man for most of the bout. Alvarez showed superior boxing and faster hands from the start, but it was the fact that his chin handled Kovalev's power that worried his opponent most. Alvarez remained competitive and Sergey could already sense “The Storm” gathering in the 6th round.
But as the 7th opened, Sergey was using his normal leaky defense with his hands half down. In contrast, the tighter, more classic defensive stance of Alvarez allowed him to block much of what was being thrown at him. Eleider was holding his ground and even backing Kovalev up in the first half of the round. Then it happened. It was the opening Alvarez had recognized before and waited to exploit. With a slow jab towards the body to drop Sergey's low hands further, he followed with a quick one-two, jab to the body and right to the head. It was more than the irony of a puncher getting dropped, Kovalev was rocked and shaky when he got up from that right, a punch he had not seen coming. Alvarez did not rush his work and Kovalev failed to clinch. It did not take much longer for “The Storm” to blow him away with two more knockdowns and a KO.
In this championship rematch we will all see if anything has changed for either side in this repeat contest. Their first bout showed that Alvarez's boxing skills are at least as good as Sergey Kovalev's and his defense is visibly better. “The Storm” has proven he can weather the legendary puncher's power. Alvarez worked long and hard to be called a “Champion”. If his resolve and purpose are again apparent in the ring in Frisco, Texas, Kovalev's second chance could turn out to be his last.
Jab picks Eleider Alvarez to win by unanimous decision. If Kovalev's fitness and conditioning has not improved, he might also lose by late round KO
Please check NYFights.com tomorrow for Jab Hook's Epilogues on the bouts from the Ford Center at the Star, Frisco, TX
“Jab Hook”, aka “Brooklyn” Joe Healy is a boxing expert commentator for DAZN.de, a professional cutman from the BOXWERK gym, and a licensed referee/judge in amateur boxing. A lifelong aficionado born in Brooklyn and living in Munich, “The Sweet Science” is his passion. Please feel free to contact him as Jab Hook on FaceBook, at [email protected], or on Twitter https://twitter.com/BoxAficionado