So, while we were over here in our corner, the smartie pantses thinking we have the future mapped out, was Kathy Duva over there knowing without a shadow of a doubt that Sergey Kovalev was going to handle Eleider Alvarez in the manner he did on Saturday night?
”I was afraid to say it out loud,” the Main Events bosswoman told me after her guy had his hand raised, and flipped a figurative bird at the “smarts” who thought this fight would be his swan song. “But matchmaker Jolene Mizzone was getting reports from camp from Buddy McGirt, and was getting them from conditioning coach Teddy Cruz, so yes. We were both pretty sure that Sergey was listening and had begun to turn things around. My confidence started to grow the moment Sergey accepted Buddy and Teddy, accepted his new team. On fight night, Buddy and Teddy did their jobs perfectly. And Sergey listened, adjusted his diet and training and carried out the game plan. Everybody performed.”
Indeed; not many people out there foresaw such a complete A to Z effort. OK, so there was discrepancy what the TV audience saw and what those ringside said they saw:
I think sometimes watchers can be influenced by the TV call and those ringside can be influenced by their buds’ scorecards while they are forming their unofficial cards.
Back to the bout; did Duva have to hide her confidence, her knowledge that quite likely this would be more so vintage Kovalev in that ring?
”We didn’t hide it, really. But Sergey did not dehydrate at all. He ate breakfast and lunch before the weigh-in. And he still came in one pound under. That was the result of his following Teddy Cruz’s diet and Teddy cooking everything Sergey ate in the last two weeks before the fight.
“People really don’t realize how important diet and proper weight control can be. Until this camp, Sergey had always stuck with what he learned in the amateurs — drying out and losing way too much weight during the last 10 days before the fight. That resulted in the need to overtrain when he should have been giving his body the chance to rest during the last two weeks in order to lose the weight. At the same time he was weakening himself by not eating enough to properly nourish himself. When an athlete gets older, he or she must rest more than they did when they were young. Yet trying to lose too much weight too quickly made that impossible for Sergey.”
Duva revealed how some investigation she did on her own helped out the team.
”There is a great book called ‘Play On’ that came out last year that explains how an older endurance athlete’s body simply shuts down at some point during the competition if they don’t get enough rest. I was convinced after reading the book that this had been happening to Sergey since the first Ward fight. If he couldn’t finish his opponent within six rounds, he couldn’t win anymore.
“I gave the book to Sergy and Egis (Klimas). Teddy and Buddy know this stuff. That is among the many reasons that they were so effective in revitalizing the tail end of Gatti’s career after the loss to De La Hoya. And Sergey was ready to try a new approach to his preparation. You saw the result Saturday night.”
Duva wanted to give extra props to McGirt, too.
“Buddy did a great job of reminding Sergey that he is a beautiful boxer, tightened up his defense a bit like he did with Gatti, and gave him a game plan.”
And here’s another thing, something that had Duva and her people knowing that Kovalev would be leaving the ring with that belt again.
”I knew when I heard Alvarez entering the ring to ‘Thunderstruck’ with Buddy and Teddy in the opposite corner that the night was not about to go his way! That was Arturo’s song. Nobody else gets to use it! Jolene and I were not sitting together. Nicole, my daughter, was home in New Jersey. When we compared notes later we discovered that we were all ‘talking’ to Arturo during the fight! It’s as if Alvarez opened some cosmic door and invited Art’s spirit into the room!”
How bout that? Did any of us think that the presence of Arturo Gatti would be working its magic on behalf of the Main Events squad, which is something of a little engine that could outfit, and yes, would be impacted if their lead dog talent, Kovalev, wasn’t still a presence in the division?
—Michael Woods, a Park Slope, Brooklyn resident, was a staff writer at NY Newsday, before joining ESPN The Magazne (2003-2014). He calls fights for Facebook Fightnight Live, including one this coming Friday, from Philadelphia.