Saul “Canelo” Alvarez was in a close fight with Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev for a while, but made sure that it would not be decided by the judges.
A left hand followed by a right hook put Kovalev down to the canvas by the ropes, and Russell Mora stopped his count at the 2:15 mark of Round 11 to give Canelo the victory. He is now the WBO light heavyweight champion, becoming a four-division world champion and only the second Mexican fighter ever to capture the 175 pound title. It is registered as his 53rd win of his professional career and he scores his 36th knockout (53-1-2, 36 KOs). Kovalev, who loses the title after getting it back in February with a win over Eleider Alvarez, suffered his fourth defeat (34-4-1, 29 KOs) .
It was a tactical battle from the start as Kovalev sought to follow the gameplan that he used in his fight against Anthony Yarde in August: throw the jab early and often, then follow up with the jab with his big right hand. However, that right hand was not much of a factor as he didn’t throw it that much due to Canelo throwing power shots to the body as a response. As the fight wore on, the power shots by Canelo were becoming more effective as he threw them to the body and to the head.
The strategy from Canelo’s side was for him to pursue Kovalev and throw body shots to break him down, then go to the head when Kovalev gets tired. That plan took some time as Kovalev was very active with the jab through the fight, but the power shots in the 11th round got the job done. Canelo was able to stun Kovalev with a left hand, and then a powerful right hand to the chin put Kovalev down in a heap to have Russell Mora stop the count.
After the fight, Canelo shared his thoughts on being a four weight world champion.
“I’m very thankful,” Canelo told Brian Kenny in the ring after his win. ” This is just a step in my career, in my history, and all I ask of you, is to be patient because Canelo will make history. That’s a guarantee.”
Canelo gave details on his approach to the fight against a taller and bigger man in Kovalev: “The plan overall was patience, that was basically it – to have patience. We knew it was going to be five, six rounds and it was going to take some time for me to get him.”
“It was a very close fight because he was defensive, he was closing up his guard. All he was doing was try to establish points, but we knew what was coming. Inevitably it would come, and everything came out the way we had planned.”
The point collecting that Canelo mentioned was Kovalev throwing a lot of jabs in the fight. According to Compubox statistics, Kovalev threw a total of 577 jabs but landed only 63 of them. With Kovalev missing all those jabs, it didn’t halt Canelo’s come forward approach that was in effect the whole fight. Kovalev admitted that it wore him down at the midway point.
“I was tired after round 6, because I had my last fight very close to this one, but it’s okay,” Kovalev stated after his loss. “I didn’t recover from my last fight (against Yarde). But it’s okay.”
The result brought up questions of what the next move would be for Canelo. While he is the new WBO light heavyweight champion, there are many options available for his next fight. He can stay at 175 and challenge the other champions Beterbiev and Bivol, go down to 168 and fight Callum Smith, or return to middleweight to defend his titles in that division. Canelo feels that he is going to look at what is available and choose what the best challenge is for him.
“We have to see what happens. We have to do what’s best for us. We have to look for the best fights, the big fights, but obviously give the victories to Mexico.”