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Kovalev v Canelo: Alvarez follows other greats who made the leap to light-heavyweight

By Rob Lancaster
In making the move up to light-heavyweight, Saul Canelo Alvarez is gambling that size will not matter against Sergey Kovalev

Las Vegas, November 2: Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez will be following in the footsteps of some of the most famous names in boxing history when he challenges Sergey Kovalev for the WBO light-heavyweight title.

Mexican Alvarez is already a three-weight world champion but will be moving into the unknown when he fights at the 175-pound limit for the first time on Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

The 29-year-old was last in action at middleweight, defeating Daniel Jacobs via a unanimous decision on the scorecards to add the IBF title to the WBA and WBC versions already in his possession.

Kovalev made to sweat over weight for Canelo showdown

Now, though, he is climbing two divisions to face 'Krusher' Kovalev. Will Canelo cope against the Russian, or has he bitten off more than he can chew in the hope of growing his legacy?

Alvarez is not the first notable fighter to take the giant leap from the middle(weight) - and history tells us skill can make up for the size difference.


Wherever 'Sugar' Ray sits in your all-time list – and plenty would put him right at the top – there is no doubting his stellar resume. He built his reputation at welterweight and middleweight, reeling off a 91-fight winning streak at one stage in a career that spanned three different decades. After knocking out another great in Rocky Graziano in April 1952, Robinson returned to the ring just over four months later to fight light-heavyweight champion Joey Maxim. The move, however, was unsuccessful. After controlling the early stages, the challenger wilted in the New York sunshine at Yankee Stadium, eventually retiring on his stool with exhaustion after the 13th round.


'The Hitman' fought in six different divisions, winning world titles in five of them. He is perhaps best remembered for his rivalry with 'Sugar' Ray Leonard, the pair first meeting in a unification bout at welterweight that was named Ring Magazine's fight of the year in 1981. Leonard won by stoppage in the 14th round on that occasion, while the long-awaited rematch eight years later ended in a draw at super-middleweight. Hearns carried on climbing up the divisions after that bout, going on to be crowned WBA champion at light-heavyweight when he out-pointed Virgil Hill. His reign was brief - the American lost to Iran Barkley via a split-decision verdict in his next outing.


Leonard, along with Hearns, Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran, was a member of boxing's 'Fabulous Four' during a golden age. 'Sugar' Ray twice retired - the first time following eye surgery to repair a detached retina - but his second comeback began with a daring challenge for the WBC light-heavyweight strap against Don Lalonde. There was a twist, however, with the governing body also putting their newly created super-middle belt up for grabs. Lalonde had to drop down to fight at 168 pounds; despite scoring an early knockdown, he was stopped in the ninth round.


Forget the final stages of Jones' career - the Floridian was considered unbeatable in his pomp, becoming the first former middleweight champion to climb all the way to the top and win a world title in 106 years when he prevailed against John Ruiz in March 2003. Along the way, Jones had a lengthy stop at light-heavy, where he suffered his first career loss when disqualified for striking Montell Griffin while his opponent was down on one knee. He also dropped back down after beating WBA champion Ruiz, though his aura was shattered with three successive losses, two of them to Antonio Tarver.


The evergreen Hopkins lost his professional debut at light-heavyweight back in 1988, but initially rose to prominence as a middleweight, where he claimed the IBF belt at the third attempt. 'The Alien' kept on going through to 2016, the twilight of his career spent at the 175-pound limit. There were world titles along the way but also some forgettable fights, including a lopsided points reverse against Kovalev. Eventually, even Hopkins was unable to keep Father Time at bay, suffering a painful stoppage defeat - the first of his career - to Joe Smith Jr at the age of 51.

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Story first published: Saturday, November 2, 2019, 14:30 [IST]
Other articles published on Nov 2, 2019
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