One seven five. 12 stone 7. Light Heavy. Words to illicit a quickening of the pulse in a boxing fan a century ago and words that still cause an extra frisson of excitement for their modern-day counterparts too.
From Fitzsimmons to Loughran, the Fighting Marine to the Ole Mongoose, Ezzard Charles to Bob Foster, through Michael Spinks and Roy Jones, Light Heavyweight has been ‘home’ to some of boxing’s greatest.
They, alongside a legion of other warriors there isn’t space to document, distinguished themselves in the division and decorated the sport’s history books with fights and rivalries still purred over today.
On Saturday night, boxing turns her gaze back to this touchstone division and two diverse characters pursuing their own legacy with the flickering embers of their youth. Sergey Kovalev, the Russian who fights out of Florida, is hoping to win this rematch and reclaim the portion of the world title Eleider Alvarez took from him in August last year.
As a high-profile contest in one of the sport’s greatest weight classes, bookmakers are eager to offer outright odds on the fight.
In an era when fighters box so infrequently, the stakes are always high, but with age against them both too, aged 36 and 34 respectively, and in Kovalev’s case, growing distractions outside the ring, the outcome of this fight will prove decisive as to how meaningful the remainder of their careers can be.
Until the upset outcome, their first meeting, despite the reverence afforded the division, didn’t represent a high watermark in the career of Sergey Kovalev. Merely, a routine defence against a second-tier fighter ahead of more lucrative contests with the emerging starlets at 175; Beterbiev and Bivol.
The opening rounds, superficially at least, validated the theory. Kovalev, known for his punching power, strength and ruthlessness, was the aggressor; working behind a single jab.
Alvarez’s quicker hands first came to the fore in the second when he found his range and began to time Kovalev coming in. Kovalev’s mistake was the slowness of the jab and failure to double it up.
Alvarez had increasing success with his own jab, jolting the head back of the Russian. Kovalev was still edging the rounds by forcing Alvarez back but there were signs of shock when he walked straight on to the jab and more strikingly as Alvarez added the right hook and straight cross too.
In the seventh, Alvarez found a perfect right to the temple and Kovalev was dropped heavily, a left hook and right cross repeated the trick and the arrogance drained from the champion. A moniker he would lose shortly after, with the third knockdown leaving him unable to continue.
There is much to point to Alvarez proving too quick, too athletic and too fresh and repeating the knockout win, so look to the Method of Victory betting markets for odds on the favourite to win by stoppage. I’m leaning toward a later stoppage in rounds 10-12 for the Columbian, who fights out of Montreal.
History suggests rematches tend to follow the pattern of the first encounter and whilst there is a case to suggest Kovalev was distracted last summer, having been charged with assault for an alleged offence in June, it is rare for 36-year-olds to improve.
The problems Alvarez presented may be more evident a further six months on and, with the on-going threat of a custodial sentence, one of the fight’s imponderables remains; how focussed can Kovalev be?
Alvarez meanwhile will benefit from one of boxing’s other truths – that the championship belt improves a fighter, increasing their confidence and altering the dynamics of what the officials observe. In short, this is a harder fight for Kovalev to win than the first.
And in the first he was made to look old and vulnerable. Which for the self-styled ‘Krusher’, appeared a galling experience. The safest investment is to opt for an Alvarez points win, which presumes improvement in preparation and focus for Kovalev but undervalues the stylistic nightmare Alvarez will always present to him.
Kovalev could still win this, power is the last asset a fighter ever loses after all, but I don’t think the odds available reflect his prospects. New bookmakers offer around 5/4 on him reclaiming his former glory. He feels more like a 2/1 to this observer.