Canelo tips hand, says body shots key vs. Kovalev

Normally, a boxer has no interest in discussing details of how he plans to go after his opponent before a fight, but middleweight world champion Canelo Alvarez no problem doing so when it came to Sergey Kovalev.

Like many, Alvarez perceives one of Kovalev’s major weaknesses as an ability to take body punches. It just so happens that Alvarez’s left hook to the body is one of boxing’s most devastating punches and major part of his attack.

Alvarez said he will look to go to Kovalev’s body and exploit his vulnerability when he moves two weight classes to challenge Kovalev for his light heavyweight world title in one of the year’s biggest fights Saturday (DAZN, 9 p.m. ET) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

“Without a doubt. It’s one of the most important punches for any fighter, and not just in this fight, in all fights,” Alvarez said recently through an interpreter. “But, of course, even more so with this fighter because that’s a weak point that he has. So we’re going to try to penetrate with the impact to the body.”

Alvarez, boxing’s biggest star, is seeking to win a world title in a fourth weight division and can become only the second Mexican boxer to win a light heavyweight world title, joining the late Julio Gonzalez, who briefly held a 175-pound belt in late 2003 and early 2004.

When apprised of Alvarez’s comments about being soft to body shots and asked for his response, Kovalev did not take kindly.

“Why everybody thinks that I have a problem with the body shot? Why? I never was attacked by body shots, you know,” Kovalev said. “I don’t know, like, from where these opinions [come from].”

Kovalev (34-3-1, 29 KOs), 36, a Russia native fighting out of Los Angeles, who will make the second defense of his third title reign, was reminded that when he suffered an eighth-round knockout loss to Andre Ward in their light heavyweight title rematch in June 2017 in Las Vegas. The finishing blows were body shots that caused him to sag along the ropes before referee Tony Weeks stepped in to stop the bout.

Kovalev has strongly disputed that they were legal punches. He has said since the fight that they were below the belt and that Weeks did not call them fouls.

“Second fight with Andre Ward was a low blow, low blow. It wasn’t a punch to the body,” Kovalev said. “Was a low blow. I said already, like, after the fight it was a low blow.”

Before Kovalev knocked out mandatory challenger Anthony Yarde in the 11th round in a homecoming defense in Chelyabinsk, Russia, on Aug. 24, Yarde seemed to hurt Kovalev with a pair of body shots in the seventh round.

Buddy McGirt, Kovalev’s trainer, who was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in June for his exploits as a two-division world titleholder, came to Kovalev’s defense on the body shot issue.

“People have been asking about Canelo’s body attack. But nobody likes getting hit to the body,” said McGirt, who will head Kovalev’s corner for their third fight together. “I don’t care who you are. But the thing is this: What’s going to happen when Canelo gets hit to the body? Guys that like to go to the body, [they] don’t like it when you to go to their body.”

McGirt did acknowledge that body punching surely would be a big part the game plan Alvarez (51-1-2, 34 KOs), 29, will try to employ. “It’s obvious that’s his game plan, because that’s one of his biggest tools, is body punching,” McGirt said. “And for the record, nobody likes to get hit in the body. I don’t give a s— who you are.”

Then McGirt turned playful.

“So what we did was we ordered these triple [extra large] shorts for Sergey, and we are going to pull the shorts up to his chest and then we’ll be OK,” McGirt said with laugh.

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