LAS VEGAS – Buddy McGirt stopped short of predicting Sergey Kovalev will knock out Canelo Alvarez on Saturday night.
Alvarez, despite jumping up two weight classes, has one of boxing’s best chins. The three-division champion has never been stopped inside the distance and remains one of the top boxers, pound-for-pound, in the sport.
Those factors render a Kovalev victory by knockout an unlikely outcome. McGirt is very confident, however, that the underdog he trains will upset Alvarez in their 12-round, 175-pound title fight at MGM Grand Garden Arena (DAZN).
“I’m not gonna say that,” McGirt told a group of reporters Tuesday when asked if Kovalev would win by knockout. “I’m not gonna say that because I’m not one to [make predictions]. But I’m just gonna say that he’s gonna shock a lot of people Saturday night.”
McGirt, a former two-division champion, won’t be the least bit surprised if Kovalev becomes the first fighter to beat Alvarez since undefeated five-division champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. out-pointed him six years ago at the same venue where they’ll meet Saturday night. The closer they get to this intriguing fight for Kovalev’s WBO light heavyweight title, the more McGirt feels even experts are underestimating Kovalev’s capabilities.
The fighter McGirt regularly sees in the gym is better, he says, than most boxing observers realize. If the 36-year-old Kovalev (34-3-1, 29 KOs) can do what he does during training camp, McGirt can’t see him losing to the 29-year-old Alvarez (52-1-2, 35 KOs).
“I want him to do what I know he can do,” McGirt said. “If he does what I know he can do, he’s gonna surprise a lot of people. Not me – he’s not gonna surprise me, because I know he’s gonna win the fight. But I feel, in my heart, if he does what I know he can do, and he puts it all together Saturday, which I know he will do, everybody’s gonna be in for a shock.
“Because he does sh*t sometimes that I’m looking at in the gym, like, ‘Damn! I didn’t know this guy can fight like that.’ He can fight, man. He’s not just puncher. He’s got a lot in his arsenal. He’s just never used it. You know what I mean? And sometimes in the gym, that switch clicks, he just puts it all together, and I feel bad for the guys that are sparring with him.”
McGirt began training Kovalev following his seventh-round knockout loss to Eleider Alvarez in August 2018. From the beginning of their partnership, McGirt reminded Kovalev to utilize the boxing skills he relied upon more before becoming “The Krusher,” a knockout artist heavily reliant on his power.
“I think what happened was if a guy’s winning by knocking everybody out, that’s what they stick with,” McGirt said. “And that’s what everybody around him let him stick with. But there’s gonna come a time when you’re gonna have a guy, he’s not gonna fall down. Now you’ve gotta resort to what you know best. And if you’re not reminded of that, you’re not gonna do it. And all I did was just remind him.
“You know, I’m like, ‘Listen, you go back to that.’ And he goes, ‘Well, Buddy, I’m The Krusher.’ I said, ‘Cool, but you could be a smart Krusher. You don’t have to be like that Krusher that’s just going up there and just smash a guy right away. Sometimes you’ve gotta set it up.’ And that’s what he did. It was easy. It wasn’t hard at all.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.