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Kathy Duva: Don’t count Kovalev out against Canelo due to age

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The promoter doesn’t think her fighter’s age will be a big factor against Canelo on Nov. 2.

BOX-USA-Ward-Kovalev JOHN GURZINSKI/AFP/Getty Images

The process has been long — it’s been off and on since February, according to promoter Kathy Duva, the New Jersey-based deal-maker who has been muddied at many a rodeo with over 40 years in the business.

Today, we got official word that on Nov. 2, light heavyweight ace Sergey Kovalev will be welcoming to his hood the middleweight standout, Canelo Alvarez.

They will tussle in las Vegas, streaming live on DAZN, where the redheaded Mexican stands out as the lead attraction in the push to snag subscribers.

Canelo Alvarez is 52-1-2 (35 KO), the poster boy face of the middleweight division, while Kovalev owns a 34-3-1 (28 KO) mark, and seeks to maintain the WBO light heavyweight title at MGM Grand in Las Vegas. This faceoff will be streamed exclusively live on DAZN in all of its nine markets, including the United States, Canada, Brazil, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Japan. Tickets for Canelo vs Kovalev are priced at $1,754, $1,254, $854, $654, $404 and $204, for the record, and are up for grabs on Wednesday.

This clash should do the trick as a subscription-driver, as the streamer can boast this novel mashup, and then boast the most high-profile bout of 2019, the heavyweight rematch pitting the chunky everyman Andy Ruiz against the muscled Brit, Anthony Joshua, whose best laid plans exploded in a New York minute June 1.

The Canelo-Kovalev deal reached that finish line Wednesday, Duva told me, and she said, interestingly, that it wasn’t a speed bump or hurdle put up by Team Canelo or Golden Boy. Rather, she was back and forth with Top Rank, the Las Vegas-based org headed by Bob Arum, because TR has a portion of the Kovalev contract at this juncture, stemming from Kovalev’s bout with Arum boxer Eleider Alvarez in Aug. 2018.

“Bob should be very happy with what he has,” said Duva when pushed for specifics on what, pray tell, issues were up for discussion.

We can speculate — Arum is all-in with ESPN, and has been quoted as saying that Kovalev will be back fighting not on DAZN, but on ESPN. We suppose that bridge would and will be crossed come Nov. 3.

Again, Duva is a rodeo vet. She was at the side of husband Dan when he and Arum, and, but of course, Don King hashed out their promotions. There was no shortage of eff bombs and heated calls back in those days — and this time around, it is safe to say that all these moving parts, and pile of loot, it made for spicy back-and-forths.

One certainty: there will be no catchweight, which is what Duva told us a few months back when discussing the possibility of seeing Canelo try his hand at yet another weight class.

That is a plus for her squad, one would think. But, she said, it’s not like she had zero issues, didn’t ponder for a spell how this could play out.

“The quick turnaround did concern me,” Duva admitted, referring to the fact that Kovalev gloved up Aug. 24 in Russia, when he took out Anthony Yarde in a light heavyweight title defense.

“But Sergey’s trainer Buddy McGirt said, ‘This is perfect.’ He was really happy about it.”

Kovalev will come to this camp in shape, won’t be working to trim down, and so they can just work on strategy and such, the promoter stated.

And yes, conditioning coach Teddy Cruz will again be in the mix. Duva swears by this crew, and believes that if Kovalev had been training smarter, not harder, that second fight with Andre Ward would have looked different. She joked that there will be ample ab work, a reference to the chatter which speaks of the abdomen being Kovalev’s achilles.

“Everybody hates to be hit there, no one likes it. That talk is ridiculous,” she said, chuckling.

McGirt was active as a fighter when such a “quick turnaround” would not have been such grist for the rumor mill, she continued. Furthermore, anyone thinking that Kovalev got too whacked around by Anthony Yarde should look again at the tape, the promoter counsels. In that span of time when Yarde had the Russian a bit buzzed, that amounted to like 20 seconds in round eight, she believes, though perhaps it felt like a mini-eternity.

“And the last ten seconds of the round, Sergey won!”

All told, Duva says she’s happy if people want to underestimate the Russian and his chances to hold on to the 175-pound strap against the elevating in class Mexican. She said he took much from the Yarde win, including a deeper understanding that his new manner in prepping can leave him in better shape to kick into a second and third gear in the later rounds of a bout.

There will be no shortage of chatter of purse cuts and what happens if the Russian retains, or if Canelo grabs that belt in yet another division. But isn’t it better, and wise, and a throwback move, to focus on the bout itself? That’s what Duva feels.

“You can watch a terrific fight, a throwback fight,” she said.

She gives full on credit to the 29-year-old Mexican, who decided against a third fight against Gennadiy Golovkin, and pondered a few other Plan Bs and Cs.

“He’s getting into the ring with a future Hall of Famer, and to demean that because of Sergey’s age is ridiculous. With Sergey’s skills and experience and the fact that he won his last two, which most weren’t expecting — if people are counting on Sergey to lose because he’s too old, c’mon, athletes are performing so well, well into their thirties. Come and watch, I think it’ll be a really good fight!”