The crowd at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino expected to see a good fight in the main event that would eventually end in a knockout. What they got was a result that many did not expect.
Eleider Alvarez (24-0) knocked out Sergey Kovalev (32-3-1) in the seventh round to win the WBO and IBA light heavyweight championships in front of a sellout crowd which had some fans from Russia and from Colombia cheering on their fellow countrymen. The KO was just the 12th one scored by Alvarez in his nine-year career.
It was a very good fight from the start, as both fighters were testing each other’s attrition early. Kovalev had been connecting well with his right hand while Alvarez seemed to want to use his reach. A few tie-ups in the first couple of rounds showed Alvarez being a little aggressive and Kovalev was being pushed to the ropes very hard. This caused a good number of fans to boo Alvarez.
After the 3rd round, Kovalev was taking the lead in the fight and had damaged the eye of Alvarez to where blood was visible on his face. Even with that as a deterrent, Alvarez was able to continue on and stick with the gameplan of going at Kovalev to see if he would tire in the later rounds. The 4th round was a good back and forth encounter between the two with Kovalev having the advantage and getting the right hand through the guard of Alvarez. This continued through to the 6th round, with Kovalev theoretically having the advantage in the scorecards.
The 7th round seemed to show Kovalev have the slightest advantage, as he was throwing the jab and connecting on a couple of combinations in the first half of the round. However, Alvarez responded with a left jab to the body and then a right over the top that put Kovalev to the canvas. Sergey got up before the count, but then took a serious combination that had him in trouble again before a left hand sent him down to the mat again. Kovalev got up from the second knockdown but was on bad legs and walked to his corner first before heading to a neutral corner during the standing 8 count. Alvarez came in and landed a right hand that went around Kovalev’s guard, and that ended the fight.
Alvarez had been the #1 contender for the WBC light heavyweight title for years. However, he could never get a fight with Adonis Stevenson (current champ). While being unbeaten, he had become one of the top contenders in the division with wins over Isaac Chilemba, Lucian Bute, and Jean Pascal. Yet this was his first chance at fighting for a world title, and he took full advantage of it.
“I want to thank God and all my fans in Canada and Colombia. This was all for them,” the Colombian born Alvarez stated through a translator. “I wanted to show that I could stay strong and do good things.”
Kovalev had a couple of stoppage wins going into this fight, but many boxing pundits feel that they were light touches. It was completely different fighting Alvarez, a fighter that did not back down in tight situations and responded well to many of Kovalev’s punches even though he was cut during the fight. With the barrage that Alvarez had laid on Kovalev in the 7th round, Kovalev had to check in to the Atlantic City Regional Medical Center for testing but he was fine enough to go there without assistance.
“Thank you for your support,” Kovalev said to boxing fans after being checked in at the medical center. “I am okay…they are checking my health…I’m feeling good.”
Now with Alvarez’s win that shakes up the division as now we have a new title holder along with Stevenson, Artur Beterbiev (IBF) and Dmitry Bivol (WBA) holding titles. When asked about the possibility of unifying, Alvarez was all for it.
Cover photo by James Bell