Patience pays big dividends for Eleider Alvarez

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After years of frustration of sitting on the sidelines as a mandatory challenger, Canada-based Colombian talks about finally claiming a world championship with his huge win over Sergey Kovalev.

Eleider Alvarez celebrates his 175-pound title victory over Sergey Kovalev at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City on August 4, 2018. (Getty Images)

Eleider Alvarez calls it “a gift from God.” After three years of frustration as a mandatory challenger and then scoring a seventh-round knockout of Sergey Kovalev to win the WBO light heavyweight world title on Saturday night—that seems like the most apt description.

“Everybody in the world thought Kovalev was going to win by knockout,” Alvarez said. “After waiting almost three years for this title shot, never in my wildest dreams did I expect the spectacular knockout I got against Kovalev. Now everybody knows Eleider Alvarez and maybe the real reason why (WBC champion) Adonis Stevenson has avoided fighting me.”

In a dramatic, come-from-behind victory Alvarez (24-0, 12 KOs)—a 2008 Olympian from Colombia who moved to Montreal in 2009 to become a pro—employed lateral movement, a piston jab and surprising double-fisted power. He even overcame a cut under his left eye that occurred in the sixth round from a head butt.

Alvarez, nicknamed “Storm,” also displayed a granite chin, bravado and swagger, trash-talking his opponent while enduring a monster fourth round in which Kovalev hammered him with a bludgeoning jab.

“Kovalev punches much harder than I do, but I was able to withstand his punches thanks to my sturdy chin,” said Alvarez. “Beating Kovalev the way that I did was a dream come true. I’ve shown the skills, chin and power to withstand anybody.”

Alvarez initially floored Kovalev (32-3-1, 28 KOs) with a head-swiveling, overhand right to the temple, and the second time on a left hook, overhand right combination.

Ripping home a pair of right crosses around a left uppercut for the final knockdown at the 2:45 mark, Alvarez left “The Krusher” on all fours as referee David Fields ended his most devastating defeat since a demoralizing eighth-round stoppage loss to Andre Ward last year. Ward had beaten Kovalev by decision in 2016.

“The first knockdown was my right hand ‘McIntosh punch’ off a jab, a combination I used as an amateur to knock out an English fighter with that last name,” Alvarez said. “After dropping Kovalev the first time, I thought he was done, but he got up, and I finished him for good with a series of clean, well-placed combinations.”

Now everybody knows Eleider Alvarez and maybe the real reason why Adonis Stevenson has avoided fighting me. Light Heavyweight World Champion Eleider Alvarez

Alvarez became Stevenson’s mandatory with a majority decision over Isaac Chilemba in 2015.

Prior to Kovalev, Alvarez scored a fifth-round stoppage of Lucian Bute and a majority decision over Jean Pascal in 2017.

“To be promised Stevenson for beating Pascal and it doesn’t happen was upsetting. But it was a gift from God when I finally signed the contract to fight Kovalev,” Alvarez said.

As Kovalev lay on the canvas, an exuberant Alvarez screamed out and ran around the ring similar to his days as a hyperactive teenager in his native Colombia before his mother, Ayda Eliza, coaxed him into boxing. She died when Alvarez was 14. He has a tattoo of her name on his back as a memorial.

“My mother influenced me into boxing. I promised her to one day become a champion, so I know she’s just as proud of me as my Dad is,” said Alvarez of his father, Jorge Isaac.

“Growing up in a family that sings and plays musical instruments, I wanted to be a professional singer. But instead of making hits with my voice, I’m hitting guys in the ring. I’m a frustrated singer but no longer a frustrated fighter.”

Once frustrated by not getting a title shot, Alvarez is now a boxer with multiple options in his future. He can meet the champions in a unification bout—Stevenson, Artur Beterbiev and Dmitry Bivol, who defeated Chilemba by decision before Alvarez stopped Kovalev in the same ring on Saturday night.

“I think a Bivol fight is most possible of the three champions to happen followed by Stevenson. Beterbiev won’t happen for a while since we have the same coach and often work out together,” said Alvarez, who shares trainer Marc Ramsay with Beterbiev and promoter Yvon Michel with Beterbiev and Stevenson.

“Stevenson’s an aging fighter whose energy faded against Badou Jack. So I’d do pretty much the same thing as against Kovalev, using footwork to slow him down, and, if it comes, I can knock him out. Bivol would be more of a strategic fight with his youth, speed and technique. But I noticed some flaws in the later rounds against Chilemba, so a KO can happen with Bivol, too.

“Beterbiev is physically strong, so I’d use my jab, lateral movement and outbox him for 12 rounds. In a rematch, knowing Kovalev, I would beat him more convincingly. But whether it’s Bivol, Stevenson, Beterbiev or Kovalev, I’m ready to fight any of them.”

For a closer look at Eleider Alvarez, check out his fighter page.

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