SAN DIEGO, January 29, 2016 – In their first meeting, Russian light heavyweight Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev needed all the tools in his toolkit to stop Haitian-Canadian Jean Pascal in front of his hometown fans in Montreal in March. It was an entertaining bout and one of Kovalev’s more serious challenges to date.
Bear in mind when you call an eighth round knockout win a “challenging” fight, it tells you something about Kovalev’s proficiency. Since then, Kovalev dispatched Nadjib Mohammedi of France in an embarrassing mismatch, and Pascal prevailed in a disputed decision over Cuban Yunieski Gonzalez.
So why are Kovalev (28-0-1, 25 KOs) and Pascal (30-3-1, 17 KOs) meeting for a second time in Montreal? It’s not as if we expect anything other than more of the same, but Kovalev has the same problem as Gennady Golovkin. Both are so dominating in their weight class and such destroyers in the ring, few opponents want to risk a beat down for less than the maximum payday.
So while Kovalev and his team at Main Events are working out details for an eventual fight with American Andre Ward, Pascal is the best dance partner Kovalev can find. Pascal has a tremendous fan following in Canada and can fill the seats at the Bell Centre with ease. It should be an entertaining fight once again, for as long as it lasts.
At Friday’s weigh-in, both men made the 175-pound light heavyweight limit, 174.6 for Kovalev and 174.4 for Pascal. See the weigh-in and final face off here.
This fight has a new flavor to it due to the personal conflict between Kovalev and Pascal outside the ring, one with ugly racial overtones. Kovalev made racist comments aimed at Pascal and his fellow Haitian-Canadian countryman Adonis Stevenson, both of whom are black; and tweeted a photo including a boy wearing a t-shirt with a gorilla wearing boxing glovees, writing “Adonis looks great!” Kovalev claims it was due to cultural ignorance, not racism. We leave you to decide whether this passes the smell test.
This bout becomes a personal mission for both men to settle the score between them. Pascal has taken public issue with Kovalev and called him out for his attitude, including at this week’s final news conference. “The thing is you know, you need to understand is, when you make a mistake once, it’s a mistake,” said Pascal. But when you tell several times the same thing to people, it’s not a mistake anymore It’s a habit, it’s a pattern. So the first time, the second time, and he called me a piece of s–t cause I’m black. He never said that to any white fighter, piece of s–t, only to me and [Adonis] Stevenson, and we’re black … On Saturday night, he’s going to see that I’m not a monkey, I’m a gorilla.”
Pascal also criticized Kovalev’s trainer, the well-respected John David Jackson, who is African-American, for looking the other way. Jackson responded, “There is a lot I can say about Jean Pascal. He pretty much expressed himself, showed his true colors. It’s not about race. Sergey may say things that at the time he says them they may come out the wrong way. If he was racist, first I wouldn’t be in his corner. Trust me.”
Kovalev had said little. “Right now, I have nothing to say. He is not a fighter. I hope that he will bring something in the ring and we will be great fight for boxing fans.” Kovalev has made his dislike crystal clear, engaging in face offs and posing for photos only to the extent necessary, making hand gestures at Pascal no one can misinterpret no matter what language you speak.
Pascal hopes to change the outcome in his second meeting with Kovalev. He parted ways with his long time trainer Marc Ramsey, hiring Californian Freddie Roach who is among the more offense minded trainers in boxing. Pascal did land several good shots on Kovalev in the first fight, but not enough of them. His stamina in the second half of the bout became an issue. Kovalev landed double the power shots (122 to 68 for Pascal). He knocked Pascal down and later stopped him for the first time in his career.
Will anything be different? Training with Freddie Roach may produce a few improvements, but it’s not likely to be enough to change the outcome. Pascal’s best chance is making Kovalev so angry he throws caution to the wind and bursts out of his corner hell bent on a brawl. It might give Pascal a chance to get inside on the Russian and land something early.
Don’t bet on it. Kovalev’s boxing skills have improved greatly over his last few fights. He shows greater patience and waits until he find the perfect opportunity to unleash lethal punching power. He’s become far more strategic. Kovalev will feel a lot more adrenaline and he says he wants to “punish” Pascal because of his personal attacks on him. It should frighten any rational person. Give Pascal credit for toughness and his willingness to get in the ring and take a chance when not many others will. But don’t expect a different outcome this time. If anything, the fight will end earlier and it’s likely to be ugly for the hometown hero Pascal.
In the televised undercard fight, undefeated Russian welterweight Dmitry Mikhaylenko (20-0 9 KOs) will face American Karim Mayfield (19-2-1, 11 KOs). The original opponent was Ray Robinson of Philadelphia (20-2, 9 KOs), but Robinson was injured in an auto accident. Mayfield was training for another bout and stepped in on just two weeks’ notice. He hasn’t been in the ring since November 2014, and lost two of his last three bouts. Mikhaylenko Is on the brink of stepping up to higher level opponents and a good show against Mayfield will help the 29-year-old called “The Mechanic” make the case for himself. How about down the road in Brooklyn against undefeated Sadam Ali?
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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