By: Hans Themistode
Pressure comes with just about everything in a normal everyday life. For professional athletes, that pressure seems to come twice as strong and a lot more often.
Canelo Alvarez (52-1-2, 35 KOs), will attempt to win another world title in a fourth weight class. It won’t come easy as he will take on WBO Light Heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev (34-3-1, 29 KOs) in front of his rabid fan base at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Photo Credit: Sergey Kovalev Twitter Account
With both fighters facing arguably the biggest test of their careers, the question now becomes, who faces the most pressure in this contest?
To be fair, both fighters face pressure, there is a lot on the line for them. Still, the pressure will be extraordinarily higher for one of them. With Canelo jumping up two divisions to make this contest happen, he has received a great deal of respect for it. Boxing has become accustomed to weight jumping. Great fighters from a smaller weight class love to test their abilities against someone who is not only skilled, but also bigger and stronger.
Normally in the case of the smaller man, the pressure is off. Whether he is expected to win or not, he always has the “excuse” of going against a much bigger man. Let’s go back in time and take a look at both sides of the table in which the bigger and smaller man was expected to win.
Roughly 16 years ago, a prime Roy Jones Jr was absolutely running through his competition. Montell Griffin, Virgil Hill and even the great James Tony could do anything against Jones. Growing tired of no one giving him a good fight, Jones moved up to challenge then Heavyweight champion John Ruiz.
It was a contest that Jones was favored to win, but not without a serious fight on his hands. Most oddsmakers at the time of this contest had this bout roughly 2-1 in favor of Jones. By far the closest betting odds in his career up to that point. There was a reason for that. Ruiz may not have been the best Heavyweight in the world, but he still was in fact a Heavyweight. Jones would go on to win but a loss would not have been shocking in the slightest. He faced absolutely no pressure although he was widely regarded as the best fighter in the world at that time.
Let’s take a look at a more recent example.
Four division champion Mikey Garcia made a ton of headlines when he repeatedly called out the now unified Welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. It was a head scratching move. Garcia was always viewed as one of the best fighters out there but was also considered entirely too small for Spence.
Unlike Jones Jr, Garcia was mostly viewed as having virtually no shot at winning the contest. When the two actually met in the ring, it was a mismatch as Spence won every single round. It may have been a one sided contest but rest assured, Spence was the one dealing with the pressure. The thought of the much smaller Garcia taking down arguably the most feared man in the division was unthinkable.
Now let’s fast forward to today.
The storylines surrounding Canelo Alvarez vs Sergey Kovalev have been the same. The bigger man in Kovalev isn’t quite what he used to be, and nothing other than a victory for the smaller Canelo is to be expected.
Although this might be true to most, it is certainly hard to agree with.
Sergey Kovalev has been a Light Heavyweight champion twice over in his career and at one time was a pound for pound star as well. The argument can easily be made that once retires he will be a hall of famer. Even at the age of 36, Kovalev is still considered by most to be the best at the Light Heavyweight division.
Canelo is a great fighter, and a win for him is to be expected, but for Kovalev, having the advantage in just about every category outside of age, he can’t afford to let his smaller opponent come and make a name for himself in his division courtesy of his own. Many of you probably won’t agree, but the pressure is on Kovalev.