Los Angeles (AFP) - Sergey Kovalev made his reputation as the 'Krusher', but on Saturday in a rematch with Eleider Alvarez, the Russian champ regained his light heavyweight title by using his boxing smarts.
The 35-year-old Kovalev won by a 12-round unanimous decision to avenge a stunning loss to Alvarez six months ago and retake the World Boxing Organization 175-pound belt.
The judges had Kovalev controlling the fight with one scoring it 120-108. The other two scored it 116-112.
Kovalev did some of his best boxing in the 10th round, where he hurt Alvarez, and the 12th, where he had a strong finish.
Saturday's victory makes him the first fighter since 1990, and the third all time, to win the light heavyweight title three times.
Kovalev, who improved to 33-3-1 with 28 knockouts, seemed all but invincible in the light heavyweight division until he lost consecutive fights to Andre Ward in 2017 and 2016.
Alvarez seized the WBO belt from Kovalev on August 4. The Colombian was trailing on every scorecard, but knocked Kovalev down three times in the seventh round to win his first world title.
Saturday's fight at the Ford Center in Dallas, Texas started out like the first fight but Kovalev switched the script.
Kovalev appeared to be in better shape, he used his jab more effectively and his defence was much improved.
The Russian threw almost twice as many punches (213-111) and landed 60 jabs compared to just 33 for Alvarez.
Kovalev blamed the first loss on "overtraining" so this time he brought in a new trainer Buddy McGirt and strength coach Teddy Cruz.
Alvarez, 34, suffered the first loss of his career to go with 24 victories. This was his fourth straight fight against a former or current champion.
On the undercard, Richard Commey earned his first world title by stopping Isa Chaniev in the second round of a IBF world lightweight championship fight.
Commey, of Ghana, takes the vacant title and sets up a more lucrative title fight with Vasiliy Lomachenko.
Commey knocked Chaniev down three times in the bout before referee Laurence Cole stopped it at 39 seconds of the second.
"I am very happy I won this world title," said Commey. "It is everything for me, this is what I worked so hard for."