LAS VEGAS -- Canelo Alvarez joined an elite list on Saturday night as he knocked out reigning light heavyweight world champion Sergey Kovalev cold in the 11th round to take his world title at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas to become a four-division world champion.
Alvarez, who struggled in the early rounds with Kovalev’s size and jab, became just the third former 154-pound titleholder to win a world title at light heavyweight. That list includes Thomas Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Mike McCallum, all of whom are International Boxing Hall of Famers.
FightNights.com had the fight scored 95-95 at the time of the stoppage. Two judges had Alvarez ahead 96-94, while a third judge scored the bout even.
Alvarez also became the fourth Mexican to win world titles in four different weight classes, joining Hall of Famer Erik Morales and Juan Manuel Marquez and Jorge Arce, who are both on this year's ballot. Alvarez (53-1-2, 36 KOs), 29, of Mexico, has also won titles at junior middleweight, and middleweight. Furthermore, Alvarez captured a secondary super middleweight world title in last December.
They started off at a measured pace with Kovalev (34-4-1, 29 KO’s), a Russia native training out of Los Angeles, jabbing from the outside, as Alvarez pried for a way to get inside his taller, lengthier opponent.
That was the fight for the first three rounds. Alvarez managed to get inside in the second round and landed several thudding punches to the midsection that forced Kovalev to step back on each occasion.
Kovalev relied solely on his jab and also mixed in a variety of body shots and short left hooks as Alvarez continued to look for a place to counter.
From the fourth round on, it seemed that Alvarez was getting closer and closer to land a big shot.
Alvarez, who earned $35 million, countered Kovalev beautifully with in the sixth round with a solid left hook, and followed with another combination downstairs, and buzzed him with a left hook to the head.
In the seventh round, Canelo marched forward and landing with more body shots as Kovalev was forced to tie up.
Kovalev, who made $3 million, seemingly caught a second wind and had a great ninth round and 10th round, thanks to his jab. He fired one down the middle and followed up with a solid right hand.
But in the 11th round, Alvarez lured Kovalev to the ropes, where he caught his opponent out of position, and ended the fight with two monstrous punches. He connected with a left hook on the chin that badly wobbled Kovalev and knocked him out cold with a hellacious right hand a split second later.
"The plan overall was patience, that was basically it -- to have patience," Alvarez said. "We knew it was going to be five, six rounds and it was going to take some time for me to get him. But honestly he's a great fighter. I'm new at this weight, new in this division. Much credit to him. He's a great fighter, but we stuck to our game plan. It was delayed a little bit but overall it was successful.
"It was a very close fight because he was defensive, he was closing up his guard. All he was doing was try to establish points, but we knew what was coming. Inevitably it would come, and everything came out the way we had planned."
According to CompuBox statistics, Alvarez landed 133 of 345 punches (39 percent) and Kovalev landed 115 of 745 (15 percent). But Kovalev threw a career-high 577 jabs but landed only 63 (11 percent).
Alvarez, who currently owns belts in three separate weight divisions, isn’t sure who he plans to fight next and at what weight class. However, he left the door open to a potential trilogy match with middleweight titlist Gennadiy Golovkin.
"[After this] the plan was to go down to 160, 165, but why not -- maybe 175 again," he said. "We have to see what happens. We have to do what's best for us. We have to look for the best fights, the big fights, but obviously give the victories to Mexico.
"It's really not a challenge to me. We've fought 24 rounds and I beat him," he said. "It's really not a challenge for me, but if it represents business, why not?"
Canelo and GGG fought to a highly-disputed split draw in 2017 and Alvarez won a majority decision in their 2018 rematch.