It's a daring move to step up to higher divisions to prove greatness, but how often does the risk result in reward?
Kell Brook was badly beaten up when he moved up from 147lbs to 160lbs to challenge himself against the formidable, fearsome Kasakh Gennadiy Golovkin in his prime and received broken bones, facial injuries, and his first ever professional career loss as he was stopped inside five rounds.
Some say he has never been the same since, but the Sheffield 'Special One' is very proud of his gamble and the way he showed the world, "the man I am."
In his own words, he explained why he took the risk, "He was at his peak, which shows you the man I am - a welterweight jumping up to middleweight. Golovkin was the most feared man on the planet at the time. The opportunity was there for me to shock the world and I went for it."
Others 'went for it' too. Guillermo Rigondeaux jumped from super bantamweight to super featherweight to take on Vasyl Lomachenko, which saw the Cuban completely outclassed, opting to retire at the end of round six.
Mikey Garcia went from lightweight to welterweight earlier this year to take on Errol Spence Jr but was dominated from the first bell 'til the last, with the scores read out for Spence as 120-108 twice and 120-107.
Amir Khan tried to live up to his moniker of 'King Khan' when he challenged Canelo on Cinco de Mayo in 2016 but was icd out cold in the sixth stanza.
On November 2, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, already an established boxing superstar, attempts the same feat by meeting Sergey 'Krusher' Kovalev at light-heavyweight for his WBO title.
The pair came together on September 19 to kick off the promotion for their highly-anticipated upcoming match on at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The bout will see the three-belt world champion at 160lbs step up and meet ‘Krusher’ Kovalev at 175lbs, in a WBO light-heavyweight world title fight.
At the opening press conference in Los Angeles, the two world champions were very respectful of each other, with both camps emphasising the size of the task ahead.
“It’s an honour for me to share the ring with a fighter like Kovalev, who I met in 2012,” said Canelo. “I know it’s going to be the most difficult fight of my professional career.”
The Russian world champion replied by stating his intent to defeat the Mexican by stifling his plans, stating “He always fights the same. He always destroys his opponents… My goal will be to crush his plan and crush his strategy.”
One of the biggest storylines of this massive fight is that Alvarez will be stepping up two weight divisions to challenge for the light-heavyweight world title. When last Kovalev fought, on 24 August to defeat the upstart Anthony Yarde via an 11th round knockout, the 6’0’’ Russian weighed-in at 174.6lbs. Alvarez last fought on 5 May in a unanimous decision victory over Daniel Jacobs. For the Las Vegas bout, Canelo clocked-in at 159.5lbs.
Many world champions have taken the big leap of two divisions to take on fellow world champions in pursuit of immortality on boxing.
In recent years, Kell Brook stepped up from welterweight to meet Gennady Golovkin at middleweight. Guillermo Rigondeaux jumped from super bantamweight to super featherweight to take on Vasyl Lomachenko. Alvarez’s compatriot, Mikey Garcia, went from lightweight to welterweight earlier this year to take on Errol Spence Jr.
The most obvious comparison to make between these three world champions who stepped up is the fact that they all lost. Brook was even dealt a broken eye socket by the stone-fisted Kazakh, GGG.
Despite this, many experts are heavily favouring Alvarez in his bout against Kovalev. The height isn’t too much of a problem, with Canelo already showing poise and control against Daniel Jacobs, who is a mere half-inch shorter than Kovalev. However, it was evident in the press conference that the Russian totes a much larger frame. The Canelo camp recognises the size of the challenge, with trainer Eddy Reynoso noting that “with one punch, [Kovalev] can end the fight.”
In his last outing, Alvarez showcased his uncanny ability to sustain great amounts of power. In the ninth round against Jacobs, the American landed a near-perfect flush hook to the head of his Mexican foe, with Alvarez simply walking through it unhindered.
The 34-3-1 light-heavyweight champion says that he believes Canelo will be even more comfortable at 175lbs. Kovalev said: “I think at 160, he has to lose a lot of weight, but at 175 pounds, it will be his natural weight.”
Continuing to praise the 52-1-2 Mexican, Krusher noted that he must be at his best to overcome Canelo’s best attributes, saying “I say that his defence is good, his abilities in general, his power, his speed, he has good leg movement.”
2 November is now one of the biggest dates for boxing fans and bettors, seeing two very well-respected world champions collide at light heavyweight. Sergey Kovalev’s trainer, Buddy McGirt, said it best: “the only losers on 2 November are the people who don’t watch the fight.”