Preview: Kovalev, Pascal bring summer heat, HBO Saturday, 10 p.m. ET

Fresh off their March bout against each other, Sergey Kovalev and Jean Pascal return against ambitious challengers in Las Vegas Saturday.

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Sergey Kovalev (left) and Nadjib Mohammedi face off at their Las Vegas weigh-in Friday. Photo: David Spagnolo, Main Events
Sergey Kovalev (left) and Nadjib Mohammedi face off at their Las Vegas weigh-in Friday. Photo: David Spagnolo, Main Events

SAN DIEGO, July 24, 2015 – Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev and Jean Pascal put on a terrific show in Montreal in March, with Kovalev stopping the Haitian born boxer in the eighth round for the first time in his career in an early 2015 Fight of the Year contender. It was the sort of fight where it was a shame either man had to lose.

Kovalev should be fighting the lineal light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson, but through a series of promoter machinations on both sides and the seeming reluctance of Stevenson, the fight seems as far off today as it did in March and long before that.

Sergey Kovalev (right) and Jean Pascal went straight to the 2015 Fight of the Year short list after their bout in Montreal in March. Photo: David Spagnolo/Main Events
Sergey Kovalev (right) and Jean Pascal went straight to the 2015 Fight of the Year short list after their bout in Montreal in March. Photo: David Spagnolo/Main Events

Kovalev (27-0-1, 24 KOs) is smart to stay busy in the meantime, getting in the ring with the best of the rest. Saturday’s opponent is French fighter Nadjib Mohammadi (37-3-0, 23 KOs), who deserves credit for his willingness to take the fight against someone who comes by his nickname “Krusher” honestly. It is Kovalev’s first appearance as the main event in Las Vegas.

Mohammedi brings an uncertain pedigree with most of his fights taking place in Europe against obscure (to Americans anyway) opponents. His losses were to Thierry Karl of France in 2009, Nathan Cleverly of Great Britain in 2010, and to Dmitry Sukhotsky in 2011; Sukhotsky was knocked out by Stevenson in December. He is a smaller light heavyweight and relies more on speed and nimble footwork than most bigger boxers. He has 23 knockouts but doesn’t possess the kind of power Kovalev does. Not many boxers in any weight class do.

Nadjib Mohammedi feels confident he will be competitive against Sergey Kovalev Saturday. Photo: David Spagnolo, Main Events
Nadjib Mohammedi feels confident he will be competitive against Sergey Kovalev Saturday. Photo: David Spagnolo, Main Events

Mohammedi is trained by Abel Sanchez, who also trains middleweight pound for pound powerhouse Gennady Golovkin. His philosophy is to work with and not against a fighter’s natural strengths, and deliver an enertaining fight for fans. It’s a recipe for success.

Power punchers like Kovalev sometimes struggle with opponents like Mohammedi until they figure them out and learn how to cut off the ring and get them positioned where they can be hit. It seems this fight will be one more display of Kovalev’s skills, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Jean Pascal (left) and Yunieski Gonzalez get up close at their Las Vegas weigh-in Friday. Photo: David Spagnolo, Main Events
Jean Pascal (left) and Yunieski Gonzalez get up close at their Las Vegas weigh-in Friday. Photo: David Spagnolo, Main Events

 Pascal (29-4-1, 17 KOs), who deserves more credit for an excellent performance against Kovalev, fights in the co-main event against undefeated Cuban light heavyweight Yunieski Gonzalez (16-0-0, 12 KOs). It is also his first appearance in Las Vegas. At home in Montreal, Pascal is hugely popular and can sell out the 15,000 seat Bell Centre. He should get more acclaim and respect from American fans. Pascal isn’t letting it bother him that he’s on the undercard, and hopes a strong performance will win him a rematch with Kovalev. “Every fighter on my level wants to fight at least once in Vegas. This is my time, this is my chance,” said Pascal at a news conference earlier in the week.

Kovalev would rather fight Stevenson, but until that match can be made, he might as well take on whoever wins the 10-round undercard fight, whether it’s the prospect Gonzalez or a rematch with Pascal, who is never less than crowd-pleasing. As Pascal said after the Kovalev fight, “I’m always going to give the fans a good fight, I’m the people’s champion.”

All fighters made weight on Friday. Kovalev weighed in at 174.5 and Mohammedi at 173 pounds. Pascal weighed in at 178 pounds, Gonzalez at 177 pounds.

Beibut Shumenov (right) got the worst of it from Bernard Hopkins in 2014 at the DC Armory. Photo: Courtesy Showtime
Beibut Shumenov (right) got the worst of it from Bernard Hopkins in 2014 at the DC Armory. Photo: Courtesy Showtime

Also in Las Vegas on Saturday, Premier Boxing features a cruiserweight matchup between boxer and part-time TV analyst B.J. Flores (31-1-1, 20 KOs) and former light heavyweight champion Beibut Shumenov (15-2, 10 KOs) of Kazahkstan. The cruiserweight division is the no man’s land of boxing, created in 1979 to accommodate heavyweights under 200 pounds who were increasingly facing heavywights 20 and 30 pounds heavier. It is a limited talent pool, and it can be difficult to find worthwhile competition.

Flores has a solid record but has found more work as a broadcaster the past few years; Shumenov suffered a significant loss to Bernard Hopkins at light heavyweight. Whether this bout can revive any interest in the division, the fight is competing for attention and attendance with the HBO card in Las Vegas. Who in Al Haymon’s camp thought this was a good idea? The fight airs on NBCSN at 9 p.m. ET. Set your DVR, you know you’ll be watching the HBO card.

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 +

Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News” when quoting from or linking to this story.  Copyright © 2015 by Falcon Valley Group

 

 

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