By Jake Donovan
Eleider Alvarez and Isaac Chilemba aren't the type of boxers to strike fear in the hearts of other top light heavyweights, but they proved to be hell for one another over the course of their 12-round title eliminator.
In the end, it was Alvarez who prevailed by majority decision in a hard-fought battle Saturday evening at Centre Videotron in Quebec City, Canada. With the win, Alvarez is now the mandatory challenger to World light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson.
The bout picked up steam as the rounds wore on, although aciton was tough to come by in the early portions of the Showtime Championship Boxing televised co-feature attraction. A matchup of counterpunchers always means that someone has to take the lead to prevent from a fight devolving into a posing contest.
Alvarez was motivated to play that role, though never for very long as he fought in spurts for much of the night. It was enough to shoeshine his way to stealing some rounds on the scorecards, while Chilemba took a few rounds to figure out a way to outwork the Colombia-born, Canada-based contender.
Once Chilemba - born in Malawi and now based in South Africa - was able to get untracked, the action picked up considerably while providing scoring nightmares for the three ringside judges. Alvarez appeared to tire over the second half of the fight, often fighting in 30-second spurts while Chilemba picked up steam.
The fight was seemingly on the table heading into the championship rounds, with both corners seeming to want it even more than the fighters themselves. Trainers Marc Ramsey were animated and vocal in their demands for more action from Alvarez and Chilemba, respectively.
Instructions from Alvarez' corner down the stretch was to go all in and fight as if the judges were going to steal the win. Meanwhile, Chilemba's marching orders were to make his unbeaten opponent fight for all three minutes rather than allowing him to get away with fighting and resting all within the span of an individual round.
Both did their best to carry out their trainer's instructions in an active 12th and final round.
In the end, it was enough for Alvarez to prevail, even if Chilemba's fate was already sealed on one scorecard. The fight was 114-114 even on the card of Richard DeCarufel, overruled by scores of 115-113 by Nathan Palmer and an unacceptable 118-110 turned in by inexperienced judge Peter Harry.
The win puts Alvarez in line for a title shot with Stevenson in a matchup of unbeaten transplants now based in Montreal, both of whom are advised by Al Haymon. Stevenson seems to have bigger game in mind, as he and undefeated, unified light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev spent the earlier portion of the evening discussing at ringside plans for a potential - and long-awaited - clash next summer.
We've heard that song before, but as they share the same promoter (Yvon Michel's GYM Promotions) and adviser it is conceivable that Alvarez is motivated to play the waiting game to allow the defending champion to take on the fight(s) of his choosing.
Meanwhile, Alvarez picks up the biggest win of his young career as he advances to 19-0 (10KOs). Chilemba sees a four-fight win streak come to a close as he falls to 24-3-2 (10KOs).
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox