Middleweight world champion Canelo Alvarez will climb two weight divisions to challenge light heavyweight world titlist Sergey Kovalev in a fight that was finalized Friday.
Alvarez, who did not demand a catchweight in an attempt to drain Kovalev lower than the division limit of 175 pounds, and Kovalev will meet Nov. 2 (DAZN) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Golden Boy Promotions had hoped to stage the fight at the larger T-Mobile Arena, but the NHL’s Las Vegas Golden Knights have a home game on Nov. 2.
Kovalev is by far the biggest name in the light heavyweight division.
Alvarez, who pressed for the fight, will have the opportunity to win a world title in a fourth weight division after claiming belts at junior middleweight and middleweight and a secondary title at super middleweight.
If Alvarez wins, he would become only the fourth fighter in boxing history to win world titles at junior middleweight and light heavyweight. The other three — Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns and Mike McCallum — are in the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
“The second phase of my career is continuing just as we had planned, and that’s why we are continuing to make great fights to enter into the history books of boxing,” Alvarez said. “That’s also why I’ve decided to jump two weight classes against one of the most feared champions of recent years.
“Kovalev is a dangerous puncher, and he’s naturally the bigger man, but that’s the kind of challenges and risks that I like to face.”
Alvarez, boxing’s biggest star, has never fought at a weight heavier than 167¼ pounds, which is what he was for his third-round knockout win over Rocky Fielding to win a secondary super middleweight belt in New York in December. Alvarez returned to the 160-pound middleweight division for his next fight in May, a unanimous decision to unify three belts against Daniel Jacobs.
The deal between Golden Boy, Alvarez’s promoter, and Main Events, which represents Kovalev, had been close for the past week. However, it got hung up, sources told ESPN, when Top Rank, which has rights to Kovalev stemming from a deal it made with Main Events to put his February rematch with Eleider “Storm” Alvarez on ESPN+, sought a low seven-figure fee to give up its involvement in the bout.
After days at a stalemate, Main Events agreed Wednesday to pay Top Rank what it was seeking. Once that contract was signed, Main Events signed the deal it had made with Golden Boy to finalize the Nov. 2 fight. Part of the agreement gives DAZN rights to future Kovalev fights, at least one if he beats Alvarez — possibly a rematch — and two if he loses, before he would return to ESPN under his Top Rank agreement, according to a source.
“We promised to make this fight happen, and now we are delivering it,” Golden Boy Promotions CEO Oscar De La Hoya said. “Historic fights have been a hallmark of this company, and we are pleased to once again live up to the high expectations we’ve set for our fans. The best pound-for-pound fighter is also boxing’s biggest star. Few fighters in boxing history can claim to be both like Canelo Alvarez. Now, he’ll look to become a four-division world champion against one of the most dangerous fighters of recent years, and I’m certain that he will stop him.”
Golden Boy and Main Events both said there were no arguments over the weight for the bout or that the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association would randomly test both fighters.
“In order to be the best, you have to beat the best,” Kovalev said. “I have always tried to fight the toughest opponents in my division, but many have ducked me throughout my career. Canelo wanted to fight me; to step up to higher weight and challenge for my belt. I will be ready on Nov. 2.”
The sides had tried to make the bout for Sept. 14, but by the time a possible fight with middleweight contender Sergiy Derevyanchenko had fallen apart and Kovalev was offered the fight, Kovalev had already committed to an Aug. 24 mandatory defense against Anthony Yarde in the Los Angeles-based Kovalev’s hometown of Chelyabinsk, Russia.
Alvarez announced he would not fight on the weekend of Mexican Independence Day as usual and would instead fight later in the fall so there was more time to make a deal with a top opponent.
DAZN, which is going into the third fight of an five-year, 11-fight, $365 million deal with Alvarez, wanted a third bout with rival Gennady Golovkin. The streaming service signed Golovkin to a nine-figure contract earlier this year, in large measure to assure itself of their third meeting. However, Alvarez (52-1-2, 35 KOs), 28, did not want to fight him next, so who his next opponent would be became a major sticking point.
Various candidates were approved by DAZN, including unbeaten middleweight titleholders Demetrius Andrade and Jermall Charlo, Derevyanchenko (who will face Golovkin on Oct. 5 for a belt stripped from Alvarez) and unbeaten super middleweight titleholders Callum Smith and Billy Joe Saunders. However, a fight with Kovalev, a big puncher with a big name and long track record of fighting top opponents, was the most significant of any fight Alvarez could make outside of GGG.
When the fight between Kovalev and Yarde proved too complicated to get out of, Kovalev (34-3-1, 29 KOs), 36, went through with the bout and scored a one-punch knockout in the 11th round of an exciting battle.
Golden Boy and Alvarez elected to wait until Kovalev-Yarde was in the books before pursuing another opponent, so when Kovalev won — the first defense of his third world title reign — the camps picked up negotiations in the days after the fight.
As an insurance policy, a source told ESPN that Golden Boy had struck a deal with Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn for Alvarez to face Andrade had Kovalev either lost to Yarde or in the event they were unable to close the deal with Main Events. But Alvarez, the source said, still had not signed off on fighting Andrade.
After Kovalev’s second title reign came to an end by seventh-round knockout to Eleider Alvarez in August 2018, he regained the belt by convincing unanimous decision in an immediate rematch on Feb. 2 before taking on Yarde.
“Canelo is to be praised for asking to challenge Sergey Kovalev,” Main Events CEO Kathy Duva said. “Win or lose, he will make history, and Sergey is extremely pleased to get the chance to test his mettle against another future Hall of Famer. Anyone who cares at all about the sweet science should circle Nov. 2 on their calendar. I have a feeling that this will be one for the ages.”