Was Canelo-Kovalev Fixed?

Um…yeah…What the hell kind of nonsense has been going on in the two days since Saul “Canelo” Alvarez’s eleventh-round KO of Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas?

Personally, I thought the oddest, most off-putting takeaway from the event was DAZN’s eagerness to be cuckolded by the UFC. You know, making their cash cow, Canelo, wait around for 104 minutes before a “historic” stab at becoming a 4-division world champ against WBO light heavyweight champ Kovalev and forcing a 1:18 AM main event start time on their paying customers, just so they could begin after the UFC 244 main event ended.

You would think that DAZN’s blatant disrespect to its own product and customers would be the ideal target for angry-minded, cynical boxing fans.

But, no.

Instead, social media, message boards, and YouTube boxing channels are filled with angry talk about Alvarez-Kovalev being fixed. Apparently, Canelo’s totally legit left-right fight-ending combo was “fake,” nowhere near strong enough to knock a beast like Kovalev out and Kovalev’s limp-legged response and slumping to the canvas was “Hollywood phony.”

Man…

I saw this coming, though.

Back in September, over at my other gig at FightHype.com, I wrote this about the impending storm of tinfoil hat-wearing conspiracy theorists:

“It’s easy to understand why there’s so little trust in things being on the level in boxing.

And, in Canelo-Kovalev, there’s a perfect storm of possible bullshit—especially if you’re prone to buy into the “Canelo is a fraud…Canelo is protected…Canelo is a coward” narrative.

If Canelo is “ducking” one Euro-killer in Golovkin, why would he be moving up two weight classes to fight a bigger, stronger Euro-killer in Kovalev—unless there was zero risk in the fight and the result was in the proverbial bag?

And why would there be a two-fight DAZN deal on the line for Kovalev if he LOSES —unless he’s expected to lose?

Apparently, the Canelo-Kovalev conspiracy is as follows: Canelo is paying Kovaelv to take a dive to avoid meeting the ‘real’ challenges at 160 and to let that middleweight herd thin itself out. Then, Kovalev gets two soft touch DAZN paydays to ‘rebuild’ before moving back to ESPN where he can jump back into the light heavyweight mix there, either as a real player or as a big-name patsy to one of the other 175 lb. players. Win-Win-Win. Everybody makes money, Canelo appeases DAZN with a ‘tough’ fight that’s not really a tough fight, and Kovalev extends his main stage career for at least another 18 months.”

Those claiming Kovalev took a dive on Saturday point to the Russian’s timid, tepid performance throughout the fight. Instead of being his own monstrous self, he came out cautious, throwing weak jabs and never actually stepping forward to launch much of an offensive assault.

“This was not Krusher,” the conspiracy theorists say. “It was obvious he was taking it easy on Canelo, waiting for the right time to be ‘knocked out.’”

However, there was a reason Kovalev fought tepid and seemingly timid against his naturally smaller opponent.

As I also wrote on FightHype.com, post-fight:

“Kovalev picked with the jab on the outside much of the evening, unable and unwilling to open up against Alvarez, who was using subtly brilliant footwork and distancing to keep Kovalev at a perpetually off-putting range. The Russian would occasionally bumrush Alvarez with shoulder-first lunges to open up proper distance, but he was never able to firmly establish the space he needed to launch any sort of meaningful offensive push.”

In short, Kovalev fought insecurely because Canelo fought a brilliant tactical battle and never let the Krusher be the Krusher. A good strategy always trumps brute force. That’s just basic boxing common sense.

Fight-fixing is not a bogus issue, though. It does happen, but there’s a pattern and a cadence to fixed fights and, usually, a set business pattern to their making. Nothing about Canelo-Kovalev really screams “fix.” And, if it was fixed, Kovalev would have to be the most inept dive-taker in the history of rigged fights. One taking a dive does not usually get legitimately knocked out while taking that dive.

The truth is simple to see in this fight. An in-his-prime Canelo was the smarter fighter employing the superior strategy against a 36-year-old who was on the downside of his career, anyway. Those who begrudge the Mexican star, for whatever reason, even the slightest bit of credit for anything he’s accomplished, will remain Canelo-cynical no matter what.

Simple truth is not so easy to see when bias and prejudice are present.

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Paul Magno
Paul Magno has over forty years of experience in and around the sport of boxing and has had his hand in everything, from officiating to training. As a writer, his work has appeared in several online publications, including Yahoo Sports, Fox Sports, FightHype, Max Boxing, Boxing.com, Inside Fights, The Boxing Tribune, The Queensberry Rules, and Premier Boxing Champions. You can reach him at: paulmagno@theboxingtribune.com

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