Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev scored a dominating twelfth round unanimous decision via three scorecards (116-112, 116-112, and 120-108) over Eleider “Storm” Alvarez to obtain the WBO belt that he lost to Alvarez six months ago and reclaim his status as one of the best light heavyweight fighters in the world.
This bout was promoted by Top Rank Boxing on ESPN + from the Ford Center at the Star in Frisco, Texas.
This rematch appeared to be reminiscent of their first encounter as Kovalev dominated the first half of the fight. He was the aggressor who pressed the action. Kovalev threw and landed more punches than Alvarez and connected on the harder shots. Alvarez did not throw a lot of punches. Instead, he loaded up on his overhand right that had a lot of success in their first fight but did not really find its mark in this bout. Kovalev had his best round in the early going in the fourth as he landed several powerful combinations that pushed Alvarez across the ring.
Alvarez finally started to show more of a sense of urgency in the sixth round as he let his hands go. He bucked Kovalev’s knees early in the round with a big overhand right, however, Kovalev came back later in the round and landed a hard straight left that staggered Alvarez.
Unlike their first fight in which Kovalev faded badly in the seventh round and got knocked down three times en route to a knockout loss, he was the fresher and better-conditioned fighter down the stretch. Kovalev continued to press the action and outwork Alvarez in the seventh and eighth.
After the eighth round, Marc Ramsay, Alvarez’s trainer vehemently pleaded with his fighter to be more aggressive and take the fight to Kovalev. He also implored Alvarez after the tenth that he needed a knockout to win. Yet, Alvarez did not heed his instructions and inexplicably refused to engage with Kovalev in the last couple of rounds. Instead, it was Kovalev who pressed for the knockout as he finished strong and dominated the last four rounds. Kovalev snapped Alvarez’s head back in the tenth from a straight left followed by a one-two combination. He also landed a powerful overhand right in the twelfth that staggered Alvarez.
According to CompuBox punch statistics, Kovalev landed more punches than Alvarez (213 to 111). He also connected on more power shots (153 to 78) and jabs (60 to 33). Kovalev out landed Alvarez in eleven of the twelve rounds. Alvarez had the better connect percentage (30 to 26) but that was by virtue of throwing far fewer punches (816 to 369).
Kovalev upped his record to 33-3-1, 28 KOs. He became a three-time light heavyweight world champion, the third time that this has happened in this division and the first time since 1990. Kovalev improved to 12-3, 9 KOs in world title bouts and fought in his fifteenth consecutive world title fight.
Alvarez suffered his first professional defeat and dropped to 24-1, 12 KOs. He lost his world title in his first defense.
Kovalev’s new trainer, James “Buddy” McGirt, a 2019 International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee, deserved a great deal of credit for Kovalev’s impressive performance. He pressed Kovalev to use his jab which was extremely effective at preventing Alvarez from getting into any kind of offensive rhythm and made it difficult for him to land his overhand right. Kovalev’s use of the jab also prevented him from loading up on punches and looking for the early knockout which made him a stronger fighter down the stretch.
McGirt also greatly improved Kovalev’s much-maligned stamina which was a major concern heading into this fight and caused him to lose three of his last five fights. McGirt made sure that Kovalev did not overtrain for this bout which Kovalev stated was the reason that he lost his first encounter with Alvarez and he might have been right. After his third trainer in the last couple of years, Kovalev might have finally found his match.
Kovalev has proven with his surprisingly one-sided victory that he is far from being done as a dominating fighter in the 175-pound weight class. He stated after his win that he wanted a unification bout next and there are plenty of attractive options for him. He could box against Oleksandr Gvozdyk (WBC), Dmitry Bivol (WBA), or Artur Beterbiev (IBF). Kovalev could also fight against former super middleweight champion, Gilberto Ramirez, who moved up to the light heavyweight division or undefeated Marcus Browne, who recently defeated former super middleweight world champion, Badou Jack, and was originally supposed to fight Kovalev, instead of Alvarez in August of last year.