Monday, January 20, 2020

Alvarez Back In Light-Heavyweight Mix

In August 2018 undefeated Light-Heavyweight contender Eleider Alvarez reached the pinnacle of Professional Boxing and shocked many in the Boxing world in the process by scoring a devastating knockout of multi-time Light-Heavyweight world champion Sergey Kovalev. Despite going into the fight unbeaten as a professional and rated the number one Light-Heavyweight in the world in the World Boxing Organization (WBO) Light-Heavyweight ratings, Alvarez was viewed as an underdog by some. This was largely due to the reputation that Kovalev had established as one of the sport’s feared “Knockout Artists.”

Even after suffering two consecutive losses to Andre Ward, the second of which ended in a somewhat controversial stoppage, Kovalev's reputation was still that of a devastating power puncher. In many ways however, Alvarez’ fifth round knockout of Kovalev was an example of the appeal and beauty that draws most fans to Boxing and by extension all combat sports. The fact that a fight can end at any given time. While Kovalev was seemingly in control of that fight prior to getting caught by Alvarez, the sudden nature in which the fight came to an end was head turning. Alvarez had successfully knocked out a fighter known for scoring quick knockouts and in the process took the WBO Light-Heavyweight world championship and ended Kovalev's second reign as a Light-Heavyweight world champion.

In an immediate rematch in February of last year however, the story would have a different ending as Kovalev would become a three-time world champion by defeating Alvarez. What was surprising about the second encounter between the two was Kovalev was not the seek and destroy fighter that he had been throughout his career. He instead implemented a more tactical approach and out boxed Alvarez over the course of the twelve round world championship bout to earn a convincing unanimous decision victory. 

The loss of his world championship would be the only time Eleider Alvarez would compete in 2019. As many fighters who have won and lost world championships throughout the history of Boxing have done, Alvarez took some time to regroup before beginning the rebuilding process. An injury to his right Achilles was also a reason why Alvarez was inactive after the loss to Kovalev. The rebuilding process that would begin however, on January 18th when he returned to the ring to face Light-Heavyweight contender Michael Seals at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, NY.

A question that is commonly asked when a fighter returns to the ring after losing their world championship is what adjustments, if any will the fighter make. In this case one might have wondered what effect the loss to Kovalev might have had on Alvarez mentally. Although it is understandable how a fighter losing can have an impact on them mentally, it is important to keep in mind that the second encounter between Alvarez and Kovalev was ultimately defined by the adjustments that Kovalev was able to make more so than any flaws in Alvarez' approach. Some might be justified however, to say that Alvarez was unprepared for the change in tactics that Kovalev was able to execute. 

In Michael Seals, Alvarez faced a fighter who had won twenty-four of twenty-six professional fights prior to facing the former world champion.Of those twenty-six bouts, Seals’ most notable opponent came in the form of former world title challenger Edwin Rodriguez, who stopped him in three rounds in November 2015. A fight that saw Seals knock Rodriguez down twice in the first round before suffering three knockdowns of his own before the fight was stopped. Seals also suffered a disqualification loss to journeyman Michael Gbenga in May 2018 where he was disqualified for hitting Gbenga while he was down after being told by the referee to stop punching.

The native of Mobile, AL did go into the fight with Alvarez on a wave of momentum in winning his last four fights with three knockouts in those four wins. An argument could be made however, that those wins, which came against fighters with a combined record of 66-25-2, with 44 Knockouts, were the type of victories that can be described as a fighter in a rebuilding process simply going through the motions. One may have wondered with no victories coming against a notable opponent going into this fight, what type of challenge Seals would be able to pose for Alvarez.

A tactical fight from the outset, there was not much to separate the two fighters due to both displaying a healthy respect for each other and not being quick to engage. Though this was not the most entertaining bout to watch for much of the early rounds, what did stand out was the success Alvarez was able to find in landing his right hand on Seals. With neither fighter being aggressive, small details such as that can make a difference in determining which fighter has an edge over the other.

Seals was able to have a solid fourth round in landing some solid right hands of his own as well as being able to mix some combinations into his offense. Alvarez was able to stagger Seals at the end of the fifth round with a right hand to the head. Although the bout remained close at this point in the fight, it appeared that the edge in power was in Alvarez’ favor. 

In round six, the two fighters had their share of moments, but it appeared that the momentum was in favor of Alvarez based largely on what happened at the end of round five. It would be in the closing seconds of round seven however, where any potential questions regarding the possible scoring of what was a closely fought battle would not be needed. Alvarez connected with a flush overhead right that sent Seals down on his back partially leaning on the bottom rope. As it became clear that Seals would not be able to beat the count, the fight was stopped by Referee Danny Schiavone.

This was essentially a one punch knockout similar in some aspects as the knockout Alvarez was able to score against Sergey Kovalev in their first encounter, though Kovalev was knocked down twice more after initially being knocked down in round seven. Although this knockout over Michael Seals was more of the definition of a one punch knockout, after the first knockdown Kovalev suffered in that fight, he really was in no condition to continue so the two knockdowns that followed to force the stoppage was academic. 

Despite appearing to have a little difficulty throughout this fight, Alvarez did get the type of win that should put him right back in the discussion of potential world title challengers in the Light-Heavyweight division. In regard to the WBO world championship that Alvarez once held, it was recently vacated by Saul “Canelo Alvarez, no relation following his knockout win over Sergey Kovalev in November. With the championship now vacant, Eleider Alvarez would appear to be a logical choice to be one of two fighters to to fight for the vacant crown whenever the WBO mandates that a fight take place to fill the vacancy. It may be a question of when and not if Alvarez gets that opportunity.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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