By Keith Idec
Eleider Alvarez appeared taller and thicker than Sergey Kovalev at their weigh-in Friday.
Those slight physical advantages aside, Kovalev clearly is the best opponent of Alvarez’s nine-year pro career. They’ll fight Saturday night in the main event of HBO’s “World Championship Boxing” doubleheader from the new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
The 35-year-old Kovalev officially weighed in at 174 pounds, one pound below the light heavyweight limit, in a ring set up on the Atlantic City boardwalk Friday afternoon. The 34-year-old Alvarez stepped on the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board’s scale at 174¼ pounds.
Alvarez (23-0, 11 KOs) figures to be the toughest of the three opponents Kovalev (32-2-1, 28 KOs) will have faced since Andre Ward stopped him in the eighth round of their rematch in June 2017 in Las Vegas.
The Colombian-born, Quebec-based Alvarez has beaten former light heavyweight champ Jean Pascal and ex-super middleweight champ Lucian Bute in his last two fights. The skilled contender hasn’t fought in 14 months, though, not since he out-pointed Pascal (33-5-1, 20 KOs, 1 NC) by majority decision in their 12-rounder in June 2017 at Bell Centre in Montreal.
Kovalev will make the third defense of the WBO 175-pound championship he regained by knocking out Ukraine’s Vyacheslav Shabranskyy (19-2, 16 KOs) in the second round of their November 25 bout in The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York. Kovalev won back the WBO title that night that Ward gave up when he retired two months earlier.
The card headlined by Kovalev and Alvarez will be the first high-profile boxing show in Atlantic City since Kovalev dominated Bernard Hopkins in November 2014 at Boardwalk Hall.
The two light heavyweights who’ll square off in HBO’s opener Saturday night also made weight Friday.
Kyrgyzstan’s Dmitry Bivol (13-0, 11 KOs) officially weighed 174.6 pounds for a 12-round defense of his WBA light heavyweight title against Isaac Chilemba. South Africa’s Chilemba weighed in at exactly 175 pounds.
The hard-hitting Bivol, 27, will make his second defense of the WBA’s 175-pound championship against the 31-year-old Chilemba (25-5-2, 10 KOs).
In his last fight, Chilemba bounced back from three straight losses to Alvarez, Kovalev and Oleksandr Gvozdyk by beating Australia’s Blake Caparello (27-3-1, 11 KOs). Chilemba defeated Caparello by unanimous decision in their 12-rounder March 16 in Melbourne, Australia.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.