LAS VEGAS – Sergey Kovalev obviously doesn’t consider himself the most beatable among boxing’s light heavyweight champions.
So no, the WBO light heavyweight champion doesn’t suspect Canelo Alvarez chose him as his first 175-pound opponent because the ambitious middleweight views him as a safer foe than WBC/IBF champ Artur Beterbiev and WBA champ Dmitry Bivol. Kovalev thinks Alvarez’s motivation is to beat the top light heavyweight in the sport Saturday night.
Kovalev contested a reporter’s hypothesis Tuesday that an opportunistic Alvarez actually picked him because the Mexican icon considers Kovalev vulnerable.
“I don’t think so,” Kovalev said following their “grand arrivals” at MGM Grand. “But if he wants to make history, who’s he gonna fight right now in the light heavyweight division? I’m the best in light heavyweight. I cannot say right now Beterbiev’s better. Yeah, he has two titles. But remember, one IBF title, it’s mine. He got this title from against a fight with nobody, you know? I don’t know this guy at all. And this title was vacated.”
Russia’s Beterbiev became a unified light heavyweight champion October 18, when he knocked out previously unbeaten Ukrainian Oleksandr Gvozdyk. The heavy-handed Beterbiev (15-0, 15 KOs) knocked down Gvozdyk (17-1, 14 KOs) three times in the 10th round before what was a highly competitive title unification fight ended.
Gvozdyk was ahead on two of three scorecards when referee Gary Rosato stopped their scheduled 12-rounder at 2:49 of the 10th round at Temple University’s Liacouras Center in Philadelphia. Gvozdyk was in front 87-84 and 86-85 on two cards, but behind 87-83 on a third entering the 10th round.
Beterbiev’s impressive victory enabled him to defend the IBF title he won nearly two years earlier. He also captured the WBC belt from Gvozdyk.
Kovalev referred to Beterbiev beating unknown German Enrico Koelling by 12th-round knockout in November 2017 to win the IBF belt Andre Ward vacated when he retired in September 2017. Ward won that title from Kovalev in November 2016, when Ward got up from a second-round knockdown and recorded a controversial unanimous-decision victory over him.
Kovalev hopes upsetting Alvarez leads to a bout between he and Beterbiev for three light heavyweight titles.
“This is a big motivation to get a victory over Canelo,” Kovalev said, “to fight with Beterbiev.”
The 29-year-old Alvarez (52-1-2, 35 KOs) is listed as a 4-1 favorite to beat Kovalev (34-3-1, 29 KOs), who’s four inches taller than him and a career-long light heavyweight. DAZN will stream their 12-round, 175-pound championship match as the main event of a nine-bout card from MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.