By Keith Idec
ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey – Kathy Duva fondly remembers Buddy McGirt rejuvenating the career of one of her aging former champions.
The veteran promoter hopes McGirt can have the same impact on Sergey Kovalev as one of her favorite trainers had when he worked with Arturo Gatti for nearly five years. Kovalev hired McGirt to train him following his seventh-round knockout loss to Eleider Alvarez on August 4 in Atlantic City.
They’re working together for Kovalev’s immediate rematch with Colombia’s Alvarez (24-0, 12 KOs). That 12-round fight for Alvarez’s WBO light heavyweight title is scheduled for February 2 at Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas (ESPN).
“I’m told they get along great. Buddy’s the right guy for the job if Sergey wants to listen to him,” Duva, Main Events’ CEO, told BoxingScene.com. “It’s certainly gonna be up to Sergey to decide if he’s gonna listen. Because Buddy’s the guy who extended Arturo’s career by 11 fights by teaching him a little defense. Sergey could use that. [McGirt] was an older fighter, he’s an older man and he understands the difference in how you have to train when you get older.
“Sergey, I don’t think, made any kind of adjustments or allowance for the fact that he’s older and I think that’s what got him in trouble his last few fights. And we’ll see if he can adapt and make the changes he needs to make. Who knows? He was beating Alvarez. It wasn’t even close, so he’s got the skill. He’s just gotta learn how to pace himself. His problem with stamina isn’t that he didn’t work hard enough. It’s that he was working too hard.”
McGirt got together with Gatti following his fifth-round, technical-knockout loss to Oscar De La Hoya in March 2001. That fight figured to be the end of Gatti’s career, until he got together with McGirt.
The late Gatti was 29 when McGirt began training him, but he had endured numerous wars before their partnership. Gatti stopped Terron Millet in his first fight with McGirt in his corner in January 2002, then fought three memorable bouts against Micky Ward, won the WBC 140-pound title and fought Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a pay-per-view fight that earned Gatti a $5 million guarantee.
Russia’s Kovalev is 35, but the former IBF/WBA/WBO champion hasn’t had to withstand the type of grueling slugfests that made Gatti famous prior to hooking up with McGirt.
Kovalev (32-3-1, 28 KOs) has resisted listening to his two previous trainers – John David Jackson and Abror Tursunpulatov – particularly regarding how he should train. According to Duva, Kovalev kept training harder and longer when his fatigued body didn’t respond during previous camps, rather than lightening his training regimen so that he would feel strong.
Duva knows that must change if Kovalev’s partnership with McGirt is going to pay dividends.
“I sure hope so,” Duva said. “The fact is the reason Sergey got where he is is because he didn’t listen when people told him in the amateurs that he wasn’t good enough, and when he was in the pros that no one wanted to sign him. Everybody said, ‘Oh, you’re a light heavyweight. Nobody’s interested in light heavyweights.’ If he had ever listened to anyone, he wouldn’t be where he is now. He’d be in Russia somewhere, driving a truck.
“So Sergey’s strength is that he never listens to anyone. And it’s also his weakness. What we have to see is if he listens. He says he’s going to, but that’s easy to say. You have to do it. And that’s gonna be what, to me, makes this fight in February intriguing. If he listens, if it works, he’s gonna be fine. If he doesn’t, then it’s time to think about another career. So hopefully it works.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.