Canelo vs Kovalev: Do GGG vs Kovalev sparring sessions suggest something?
Sergey retained his 175-pound belt by knocking out Anthony Yarde at the Traktor Sport Palace in Chelyabinsk, Russia on Saturday.
The fight served as Kovalev's first in his hometown and he didn't disappoint. After getting in trouble a few times, the Russian weathered a hellacious storm to finish his foe in the eleventh round.
Canelo vs Kovalev on November 2?
Golden Boy, Canelo's promoter, had hoped to schedule Canelo vs Kovalev in September but the latter had already agreed to face his mandatory opponent, Yarde, who refused step-aside money in order to get his crack at Kovalev.
With Yarde out of the way, the path is set for Canelo vs Kovalev.
So, why is Canelo vs Kovalev on tap instead of Canelo vs Golovkin 3?
Answer: Risk vs Reward
Both fights are intriguing and would be welcomed by the public but Team Canelo thinks a fight with Kovalev is the less risky option, even though Sergey campaigns two divisions north of middleweight.
A Canelo loss wouldn't tank his stock because he will have lost to a much bigger man. His promoters could always say, "Our guy, a puffed-up jr middleweight, had the balls to challenge the top rated light heavyweight in the world."
Legacy is what makes the challenge worthwhile. Canelo could win a world title in his fourth weight class while defeating the consensus top-rated light heavyweight in the process. Sergey Kovalev is no Rocky Fielding. He's a well-respected belt-holder with an impressive resume who has held a share of the light heavyweight title for the better part of 6 years.
A win over Kovalev would be huge for Canelo.
So, why does Team Canelo think the much bigger Kovalev would be an easier opponent than GGG?
Kovalev's fights with Andre Ward showed Sergey can be vulnerable to a body assault and that he's a bit out of his element when fighting at close quarters.
But Kovalev is polished, tactical and destructive in the ring. Moreover, he's much bigger than Alvarez. Why would Team Canelo want this fight?
When searching for answers, I remembered something trainer Abel Sanchez said a few years back.
Golovkin vs Kovalev sparring
Most fans are aware of Sanchez's successful 10 year run as Golovkin's trainer which came to an end earlier this year whenthey parted ways. What some aren't aware of is that Abel trained Kovalev, then a little-known newbie, for a brief stint. In fact, Sanchez proclaimed he guided the Russian to eight knockout wins and was happy to take partial credit for sculpting the style Kovalev used to become the concensus top light heavyweight.
"Doesn't Kovalev's style look familiar," asked the proud fight trainer in December 2013. "That's not a coincidence."
So, did Kovalev and Golovkin ever spar each other, Abel?
“Kovalev was afraid of Golovkin when he was in the ring with him,” recalled Sanchez. I couldn’t spar them too much because Kovalev showed Gennady too much respect in the ring."
"When he did spar Gennady, Sergey would fall apart and wouldn’t pose much of a challenge for Golovkin. It was either too much respect or too much fear.”
Was it the hand-speed? The movement?
Don't believe the hype?
"Did you see it [the sparring sessions] yourself?," retaliated Sergey via BoxingScene.com.
"I don't want to explain who said this trash talking. Somebody's coach, somebody's coach when I leave his training camp he was disappointed. He was very disappointed when I leave his training camp," Kovalev said.
Kathy Duva, Kovalev's promoter, also chimed in:
"During the period of time that this did or did not happen, Sergey was an eight round fighter and Golovkin was a world champion. Sparring stories should stay in the gym," Duva informed BoxingScene.com.
Team Canelo obviously sees something and believe its man, despite the size difference, can exploit Sergey. And if Canelo can get inside his shorter arms could work to his advantage.
Does Kovalev have trouble with smaller, elite-level guys who are naturally quicker and fight well on the inside? And would he be vulnerable to a fighter with Canelo's quickness, ring IQ and defensive prowess?