In the week leading up to his HBO clash with Sergey Kovalev (32-3-1, 28 KOs), Eleider Alvarez (24-0, 12 KOs) told the press, “I can’t stop smiling right now because next week, the whole world will know who is Eleider Alvarez.”
The 34 year old’s words proved to be prophetic, as Alvarez floored “Krusher” three times in the seventh round, claiming the IBA and WBO Light Heavyweight titles. Alvarez kept his undefeated record intact, which includes wins over veterans Jean Pascal, Lucian Bute and Isaac Chilemba.
Whereas Saturday’s main event boosted Alvarez’s stock immeasurably, it left Kovalev with difficult questions to answer about his future. Since pairing with new trainer Abror Tursunpulatov, Kovalev had encountered little resistance in wins over Vyacheslav Shabranskyy and Igor Mikhalkin.
A third-consecutive win since his battles against Andre Ward would have lead to the possibility of fighting Dmitry Bivol or Adonis Stevenson. Instead, the 35-year-old Russian will have to rebuild after a stunning upset defeat.
In the night’s co-main event, Kovalev’s Main Events stablemate, Dmitry Bivol improved to 14-0 with a wide unanimous-decision win over Isaac Chilemba. Bivol stymied much of Chilemba’s crafty attack, rocking the South African badly in the first round before settling into a more calculated approach over the following 11 rounds.
Bivol labeled Chilemba as a “tricky” opponent in the post-fight press conference, while voicing frustration at the amount of vaseline Isaac used during the bout.
Two judges rendered 120-108 scorecards, while one–George Hill–inexplicably scored the fight 116-112. The outcome was never in doubt for the 27-year-old World Combat Games medalist, using his superior athleticism and ring generalship to keep Chilemba pressed against the ropes.
Both Kovalev and Bivol’s camps alluded to a unification bout leading up to Saturday, which has run into a roadblock, as Bivol acknowledged.
“My team had negotiations regarding Kovalev being my next fight; I’m disappointed that my countryman lost tonight,” said Bivol.
The WBA champion also courted a showdown with Eleider Alvarez. “I would still want the same opportunity to unify in December.”
All photos by Ed Mulholland/HBO
Milo Taibi is a freelance journalist from Brooklyn, NY. His work has been featured in SLAM Magazine, Complex, Yahoo! Sports, and more. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @MiloTaibi.