FRISCO, Texas -- Six months after Sergey Kovalev lost his light heavyweight world title by knockout to Eleider Alvarez, he took it back in a one-sided unanimous decision in the main event of the Top Rank on ESPN+ card Saturday night.
Kovalev, who has struggled in recent bouts with overtraining, ended his relationship with trainer Abror Tursunpulatov and hired veteran trainer Buddy McGirt along with strength coach Ted Cruz. He certainly looked like vintage Kovalev before 4,877 at the Ford Center at The Star, the training facility of the Dallas Cowboys.
Many thought Alvarez would knockout Kovalev again, but instead it was Kovalev who won by scores of 116-112, 116-112, and 120-108. FightNights.com scored the bout 117-111 for Kovalev.
Alvarez was behind on all three scorecards when he rallied to score three knockdowns in the seventh round for an upset knockout victory to take Kovalev's 175-pound world title last August in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
But besides trying to overcome a devastating defeat that left many questioning whether Kovalev would ever be the same again, the 35-year-old native of Kopeysk, Russia, faces four years in prison due to a felony assault charge dating from a June 9 arrest. Kovalev is accused of punching a woman in the face after she reportedly rejected his sexual advances. He is due back in court for a preliminary hearing and has declined to discuss the matter.
It did not appear that the incident affected his preparation for the fight, as he outboxed Alvarez in a measured performance.
Kovalev, now a three-time light heavyweight world titleholder, gave the credit to his new team.
"This training camp I had help from my team, Buddy and Teddy. Thank you guys for this," Kovalev said. "They stopped me from overtraining. I saved my energy, and I'm happy. We worked on the jab. Always my jab and right hand."
The fight began with both men feeling each other out, but Alvarez connected with a hard left hook to the head late in the round. In the second round, Kovalev worked off his jab and forced Alvarez back with hard right hands.
Kovalev appeared to be in complete control by the fifth round as his punch volume and accuracy kept Alvarez (24-1, 12 KO's), a Columbia native training out of Montreal, at bay.
Alvarez likely won the sixth round behind his right hand, but Kovalev (33-3-1, 28 KO's), who trains out of Los Angeles, who dominated Alvarez in the ninth round, leaving his opponent bleeding from the nose.
McGirt wanted Kovalev to go back to the basics. Whatever he put into Kovalev's head must have worked. In the 10th round, Kovalev hurt Alvarez with a left-right combination, and the fight was all but over from there, and Alvarez knew it.
"I have no excuses," Alvarez said through an interpreter. "I know if it went the distance he would be the favorite, so I tried to press the fight. I thought I put on a good performance, but I just did not get the result. I don't see myself as a loser, but I do give him credit. He went out and proved he wanted to win the fight."
According to CompuBox punch statistics, Kovalev landed 213 of 816 punches (26 percent) and Alvarez connected with 111 of 369 blows (30 percent).