Saul "Canelo" Alvarez will fight in the 175-pound weight class for the first time on Saturday night in Las Vegas, when he challenges hard-punching World Boxing Organization light heavyweight champ Sergey "Krusher" Kovalev. The 36-year-old Russian has 29 knockouts in his 34 victories, and has fought at light heavy for his entire boxing career. Alvarez will jump two weight classes for the fight, and most experts are predicting a win for the younger Mexican, as ESPN reports.
Of the dozen boxing commentators surveyed by ESPN, only two predicted that Kovalev would prevail over the much smaller 29-year-old Mexican fighter.
Alvarez comes into Saturday's showdown at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas with only one loss and two draws in a 55-fight career. That lone loss came against Floyd Mayweather Jr. back on September 14, 2013. Kovalev's three losses have all come over a seven-fight span in the last three years.
The Russian was defeated twice by Andre Ward, first by unanimous decision, and then by technical knockout, in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Just three fights and 15 months ago, Kovalev was knocked out in the seventh round by Colombian Eleider Alvarez, losing the light heavyweight crown.
Kovalev won the title back in a rematch in February of this year, taking a unanimous decision over the Colombian.
ESPN commentator and former welterweight title holder Timothy Bradley expects the "finesse" of Alvarez to prevail over the larger, harder-hitting Kovalev.
"It's no joke moving up two weight classes," Bradley said in an ESPN interview. "But I've always said, when you have a more creative guy against someone who can punch, finesse will beat a puncher."
Another ESPN boxing expert, Dan Rafael, said that a younger version of Kovalev would have defeated Alvarez "handily." But not today's version.
"Given where each man is in his career, it's hard to pick against the younger, much fresher Canelo, who hand-picked Kovalev to fight," Rafael noted. "I like Canelo to wear Kovalev down and stop him late."
A possible distraction for Alvarez could prove to be his ongoing feud with his own promoter, former seven-division champion Oscar De La Hoya. According to SB Nation, Alvarez has felt slighted by De La Hoya for about two years, complaining that De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions moved too slowly to negotiate new fight deals for him, and even botched deals that eventually fell through.
Last year, Alvarez signed an unprecedented five-year, 11-fight contract with the DAZN sports streaming service, giving the online network exclusive rights to his fights — in exchange for a whopping $365 million paycheck.
De La Hoya did not show up to the press conference announcing the historic contract.