by Cliff Rold

For years, the hopes at light heavyweight centered on a clash between Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev.

We never got that fight.

We’re not going to get it.

Along the way, Kovalev lost via highly debated decision and then stoppage to Andre Ward. Stevenson, thankfully now recovering, was surely retired late last year. Ward hasn’t returned to the ring yet either, holding to his retirement following the Kovalev rematch.

Kovalev’s loss to Eleider Alvarez, and Stevenson’s loss to Oleksandr Gvozdyk, seemed to signal the end of the last wave at light heavyweight. We may find out for sure on Saturday night (ESPN+, 12 AM EST). A win keeps Kovalev’s career alive, setting the table for a potential rubber match and extending his time near the top of the class.

A loss completes a makeover at 175 lbs. and fully opens the doors for a whole new run of possibilities.

Let’s get into it.

Stats and Stakes

Eleider Alvarez

Age: 34

Title: WBO light heavyweight (2018-present, 1stattempted defense)

Previous Titles: None

Height: 6’0

Weight: 174 ¾ lbs.

Stance: Orthodox

Hails from: Montreal, Quebec, Canada (Born in Colombia)

Record: 24-0, 12 KO

Press Rankings: #1 (TBRB, Ring, Boxing Monthly), #2 (BoxRec), #3 (ESPN)

Record in Major Title Fights: 1-0, 1 KO

Last Five Opponents: 141-19-4 (.872)

Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Lucian Bute KO5; Jean Pascal MD12; Sergey Kovalev KO7


Sergey Kovalev

Age: 35

Title: None

Previous Titles: WBO light heavyweight (2013-16, 8 defenses; 2017-18, 1 defense); IBF/WBA light heavyweight (2014-16, 4 defenses)

Height: 6’0

Weight: 174 lbs.

Stance: Orthodox

Hails from: Kopeks, Russia

Record: 32-3-1, 28 KO

Press Rankings: #4 (TBRB, ESPN), #5 (Ring), #6 (Boxing Monthly), #7 (BoxRec)

Record in Major Title Fights: 11-3, 9 KO

Last Five Opponents: 124-2 (.992)

Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Gabriel Campillo TKO3; Nathan Cleverly TKO4; Bernard Hopkins UD12; Jean Pascal TKO8, RTD7; Andre Ward L12, TKO by 8; Eleider Alvarez KO by 7

The Case for Alvarez: Alvarez was patient the first time around, weathering high activity storms from Kovalev in rounds three and four and staying within himself all along. From the beginning, Alvarez showed he could get his shots in. Part of that is an edge in reach. When Kovalev would land, Alvarez often was able to fire back and find the target pulling back. When Kovalev’s output came down a hair, Alvarez picked his up and showed a physical strength edge until the opportunity to put Kovalev down three times changed his life. Alvarez can look for similar opportunities this time but he probably wants to get started a littler earlier just in case. Without a knockout, or knockdowns, he needs seven rounds to win. The sooner he can remind Kovalev what went wrong last time, the quicker the rounds can start going to him.

The Case for Kovalev: If Kovalev is looking for a positive from the first fight, it would be in the first six rounds. Halfway through a scheduled twelve, he was well ahead on the cards. He built that lead in standard fashion. The Russian worked his long left jab, found a home for the right to the body, and landed over the top when he could. Kovalev has to be more defensively responsible and may want to sacrifice a little bit of early activity to focus on greater accuracy. He threw a lot of shots but often was lucky to land a third of them. Kovalev has more wear on him at the title level; he’s going to need a combination of energy and the wealth of experience to have a chance against a foe who already knows Kovalev can be defeated.  

The Pick: Without much quantification handy, let’s just assume some old thinking: most of the time, the fighter who wins the first fight wins a rematch and often does it faster. There are countless exceptions and conventional thinking often turns on its head in boxing. It could happen here. As long as Kovalev has a left jab that still rates with the sports best, and brings knockout power behind it, he can win. He just isn’t as likely to win as Alvarez is to repeat. Alvarez is fresher, physically stronger, longer, and will be riding the confidence boost of knowing he can knock Kovalev out. The thinking here is he does it again. His reach edge will allow him to land over the jab again and Kovalev’s punch resistance isn’t getting better with age. The pick is Alvarez by stoppage again.   

Additional Weekend Picks

Teofimo Lopez TKO Diego Magdaleno

Richard Commey Dec Isa Chaniev

Oscar Valdez TKO Carmine Tommasone

Rold Picks 2019: 3-1

Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.  He can be reached at