No fake beef to sell a fight here ... Sergey Kovalevtells TMZ Sports he flat out admires Canelo Alvarez... and is a HUGE fan of the superstar boxer.
But, for those thirsting for blood, don't sweat it ... Kovalev says he's gonna try his damndest to beat Canelo's ass when they fight Saturday night in Vegas.
Kovalev surprised boxing fans when he fanboy'd out during a backstage meeting with Canelo at a promotional event for their November 2nd mega-fight on DAZN ... even asking Alvarez to take a selfie.
Some people clowned Sergey for the selfie move, but The Krusher says he doesn't feel the need to create fake beef just to sell tickets.
“I like his boxing style," Sergey tells us ... "He’s a great champion, really, and I follow him for like all of my career from 2011 when I met with him. Because I saw how he sparred with Gennady Golovkin, and after this, I started to follow him."
As much as Kovalev likes Canelo, he was clear that once they're across from each other on Saturday, he's out for blood ... 'til the final bell rings.
"Inside the ring, we will be like the athletes. We will be like athletes, like boxers. Boxers should punch each other and after the fight, we will be friends again. This is just the sport."
The love ain't only one-sided ... we also spoke to Canelo, who was super complimentary of Kovalev.