By: Sean Crose
“We’ve addressed those issues.”
So said promoter Kathy Duva on a conference call to promote her fighter, Sergey Kovalev’s, November 2nd light heavyweight title defense against boxing’s biggest attraction, Canelo Alvarez. The Main Event Promotions’ honcho was referring to her fighter’s tendency to lose focus. “He let Ward back in the fight,” Duva said bluntly, referring to one of Kovalev’s two losses to Andre Ward. Now, however, Duva feels that the 34-3-1 Kovalev is beyond such errors – and she largely credits Kovalev’s trainer, Buddy McGirt, for the progress. In a sense, McGirt, a Hall of Famer and cornerman of note, was presented during the call as the secret behind the 37 year old Kovalev’s resurgence as a dominant force.
“Right now I have a great team with great coaches,” said Kovalev, who was on the call with Duva and McGirt. “I’m feeling comfortable in my team.” So comfortable that he’s pushing away fear of judge’s well known love for Canelo. “I will be following instructions from Buddy McGirt,” he responded simply when asked if he felt he had to go for a knockout on November 2nd. McGirt himself came across as more than pleased with his fighter’s progress. “I just think they picked the wrong veteran to mess with,” he said of Canelo’s team.
Should Kovalev pull off the upset against Canelo, his relationship with McGirt may reach the esteemed status of Manny Pacquiao’s with trainer Freddie Roach, or Canelo’s with the Reynoso’s. First, however, there’s the matter of Canelo and November 2nd. “I respect Canelo because he goes up two divisions,” Kovalev said. “He’s trying to make his history, but I’m here.” Yet, while Kovalev was quick to recognize Canelo’s attributes, he also added that the generally smaller man is “a guest in my division.” After winning back the WBO title from Eleider Alvarez last February, the Russian doesn’t intend to take a step back.
There were a few awkward moments on the call. For instance, Kovalev seemed to take umbrage when it was suggested he had problems taking shots to the body. “I never lose a fight by body shot,” he said in regards to his second fight with Ward. “It was a low blow!” Kovalev was also asked about the legal trouble he’s found himself in. “The truth of everything hasn’t come out yet,” Duva said on behalf of her fighter, “and we’ll leave it at that.”
Overall, however, the mood among team Kovalev seemed upbeat on Tuesday. It was indicated that Kovalev has returned to the fighter he should be, rather than the knockout artist of lore. McGirt recalled looking at old footage of Kovalev’s fights and telling Kovalev he had to go back to a more scientific style. “He said ‘I’m the Krusher,’” claimed McGirt. “I said now you’ve got to be the smart Krusher.’”
“He’s smarter,” he added of Kovalev, “than people give him credit for.”