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Four Combat Athletes Who Stepped Up Weight Classes Ahead of Canelo v Kovalev

UFC 200 Daniel Cormier Weigh-in

As he prepares to challenge Sergey Kovalev for the WBO light heavyweight championship, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez knows a little something about stepping up weight classifications.

The Mexican is already a triple champion – someone who has held world titles in three different classes. Alvarez now tries to make the leap from middleweight going into this bout at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on the night of November 2.

His Russian opponent, Sergey Kovalev, could not be more different. Unlike Alvarez, he has always fought at light heavyweight but lost three of his last seven fights.

Only Floyd Mayweather has a victory over Alvarez, meanwhile, who is best known for two absorbing bouts with Kazakhstan boxer Gennady Golovkin over the last couple of years. He became the lineal middleweight champion when the majority of judges sided with him in their second fight.

According to the Canelo vs Kovalev odds at Paddy Power, the Mexican is a hot 1/5 betting favourite to move up to light heavyweight successfully and win their bout. That will be some achievement and it got us thinking about other combat athletes who have delivered when stepping up weight classes.

1. Daniel Cormier

cormier coach 40
Although the jump between light heavyweight and heavyweight isn’t as great as from middleweight, former two-weight UFC champion Daniel Cormier rocked the octagon. He started in MMA as a heavyweight before actually dropping down a category.

Cormier captured the UFC light heavyweight belt before going on to beat Stipe Miocic for the heavyweight strap. Although he then lost the latter back to Miocic, a third and final bout between the pair is set to happen in the future.

2. Sugar Ray Leonard

Going through the divisions from welterweight to light heavyweight would be beyond most boxers, but not American great Sugar Ray Leonard. His superb in-ring career saw him win world titles in five different categories.

His bouts with Wilfred Benitez, Roberto Duran, Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns are the stuff of legend. Sugar Ray, by and large, was just too sweet for them, using his speed and agility against bigger opponents to great effect.

3. Conor McGregor

mcgregor retires

Back to the UFC, and ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor. The Irish MMA star won titles at both featherweight and lightweight, becoming the first man in UFC history to be a two-weight world champion.
McGregor has always courted controversy and even crossed over from one combat sport to another when he boxed Mayweather in a losing effort during 2017.

We surely haven’t seen the last of the Notorious inside the octagon.

4. Michael Spinks

An Olympic gold medal-winning amateur boxer at middleweight during the Montreal Games of 1976, Michael Spinks turned pro and became undisputed light heavyweight champ seven years later. At a time when the cruiserweight division hadn’t really kicked off, he was brave enough after 10 title defences to challenge Larry Holmes at heavyweight.

Both of Spinks’ bouts with his fellow American went to the judges and he got the nod both times. Holmes was more than three stone heavier than anyone he’d faced before, but he dethroned the heavyweight kingpin all the same in 1985.

Author: Maurice Gleeson

Irish exile currently residing in Barcelona but stay up to the date with the latest in League of Ireland and the Premier League.