By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Eleider Alvarez’s first name was misspelled on his credential that admitted him to a press conference Saturday.
The WBO light heavyweight champion smiled when a reporter pointed out that error to him. Alvarez was in no laughing mood, though, when he was informed Sergey Kovalev told a small group of reporters moments earlier that the Russian knockout artist over-trained for their first fight.
Kovalev repeatedly stated Saturday that he wasn’t making excuses for his seventh-round knockout loss to Alvarez on August 4 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. But by emphasizing that he trained too much and didn’t listen to his 35-year-old body when it required rest, Alvarez took offense to Kovalev’s explanation of what happened during his training camp prior to their fight.
“These are definitely excuses he’s making up,” Alvarez said through a translator. “When you’re a professional, you’re supposed to know what you’re doing. And if you feel bad, that you’re overtraining, you’re supposed to tell that to your team. So yeah, definitely, he’s making excuses for our first fight.”
Kovalev has changed trainers again for their February 2 rematch – from Abror Tursunpulatov to Buddy McGirt. Tursunpulatov trained Kovalev for three fights, once Kovalev parted ways with John David Jackson in the aftermath of his technical-knockout loss to Andre Ward in their rematch in June 2017.
The 34-year-old Alvarez was bothered by a lot of what Kovalev said Saturday.
The Colombian-born, Quebec-based champion sensed a lack of respect from the former IBF/WBA/WBO champion. Alvarez argued that he has always expressed respect for Kovalev, before and after their fight, and can’t understand why, in his opinion, Kovalev didn’t reciprocate.
“Those are the statements of people that don’t believe in themselves,” Alvarez said. “That’s someone that doesn’t give respect. I have always given him the respect of a champion. And he’s not supposed to be doing that. I’ve always given him the respect he deserves.”
Alvarez acknowledged that his limited English kept him from responding angrily during a press conference in The Theater at Madison Square Garden to formally announce their immediate rematch. When Kovalev spoke, he said he gave Alvarez “a gift” four months ago.
“Thank God that I didn’t understand what he said at the moment,” Alvarez said. “I just know a little bit of English. Because if I understood what he said at the moment, the press conference would’ve been a little bit more crazy.”
ESPN will televise the rematch between Alvarez (24-0, 12 KOs) and Kovalev (32-3-1, 28 KOs) from Ford Center at The Star, the Dallas Cowboys’ training facility in Frisco, Texas.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.