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Weird Sergey Kovalev weigh-in turns focus to Canelo Alvarez — and Julio Cesar Chavez

Canelo Alvarez, left, and Sergey Kovalev pose during their weigh-in Friday in Las Vegas.
Canelo Alvarez, left, and Sergey Kovalev pose during their weigh-in Friday for their light-heavyweight fight Saturday night at the MGM Grand.
(John Locher / Associated Press)

Weigh-ins, like body language, are hard to interpret and often unreliable. Want to predict a fight? Get an astrologer. There are no winners.

But sometimes there are signs, and there were plenty Friday as Canelo Alvarez and Sergey Kovalev went through the formal ritual of stripping down to their shorts and stepping onto a scale in front of a few thousand people.

Alvarez looked comfortable. Kovalev did not.

It figured to be the other way around on the eve of their light-heavyweight fight Saturday night at the MGM Grand. Alvarez (52-1-2, 35 KOs) is moving up two weight classes, from 160 pounds to 175, for the first time. He is moving into a division long occupied by Kovalev (34-3-1, 29 KOs). Yet Kovalev struggled to make weight in a scene that was part strip tease and altogether awkward.

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Kovalev needed four trips to make weight. The first time he stepped onto the scale, he was a pound too heavy at 176. Off came his necklace and down went his weight, but by only a half-pound. Bada-boom, bada-bing, off went his shorts as he stepped behind a white towel and back on to the scale. Still four ounces too heavy.

He jumped back into his shorts and headed back stage. He was given an hour to shed the excess baggage. He needed only six minutes. It’s not clear whether he spit a couple of times, did a few wind sprints, or called Jenny Craig. Whatever he did, it worked. Again, he stepped behind the white towel, stepped out of his shorts and onto the scale. Bingo, Kovalev was at 175, not an ounce less or more.

The fight, without fines or the loss of his belt, is on (DAZN, 6 p.m. PDT). But the weigh-in left further questions about whether Kovalev lost his chances along with the shorts. Was the struggle to make weight a sign that the 36-year-old Russian was fatigued? He had said that he had more energy because of a scaled-back training, including fewer rounds of sparring.

Kovalev, who holds the World Boxing Organization’s version of the 175-pound belt, never has been given much of a chance in this fight. Alvarez, who was at a comfortable 174½ pounds, is expected to be about a 4-1 favorite at opening bell.

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No matter what happened at the weigh-in, Alvarez still expects a difficult task at overcoming Kovalev’s advantages in height and reach. For the first time, Alvarez said, he will feel the power from a fighter who is expected to outweigh him by at least 10 pounds at opening bell.

“It will be complicated,” Alvarez said.

But the odds continue to favor him in his quest to make the history he has promised. He is seeking a fourth title at a fourth weight, which would be one more step toward perhaps eventually becoming the equal of Julio Cesar Chavez, who still ranks as Mexico’s best ever.

It was no coincidence, perhaps, that Chavez showed up Friday and talked to the media before the weigh-in. It was also inevitable that he would be asked whether Alvarez supplants him if the 29-year-old takes Kovalev’s belt.

“Bull [crap],” Chavez said.

He was joking. Kind of.

“Truthfully, I don’t know,” he said. “I think Mexico has had great world champions. The best Mexican fighter isn’t based in titles. There are Mexicans who have world championships, but that’s not why they will be the best Mexican fighter of all time.”

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Chavez was asked if Alvarez is, in fact, chasing him.

Canelo Alvarez looks to underline his reputation as the best while Sergey Kovalev will try to resurrect his career when they meet in the ring Saturday.

“No, no, why would he be talking about me?” he said. “... Just because Canelo’s fighting right now doesn’t make him the best of all time. He could win five or six world championships, but that won’t make him the greatest Mexican fighter of all time. He’s a great fighter, but to say he’s the best of all time ... It’s hard to choose one. The champions of the past, Salvador Sanchez, Jose Napoles, [Carlos] Zarate, Ruben Oliveras, a great fighter. Mexico has had a lot of great fighters.”

That’s the historical scale. Alvarez is trying to move up on that one too.


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