This Saturday, from Montreal’s Belle Centre, Sergey Kovalev (29-0-1, 26 KO’s) lived up to his reputation of being the meanest fighter in the hurt game by not only winning by technical knockout, but also putting Jean Pascal (30-4-1, 17 KO’s) through seven taxing, brutal rounds.
To many, including this writer, the small amount of success Pascal had in the their first match up, which was mainly in the awkward wild exchanges, did not warrant another match with the Russian powerhouse. Not only had Pascal claimed that he was beginning to take over the fight before it was prematurely stopped in their first encounter, he also used the promotion for the second fight to publicly humiliate Kovalev, calling him a liar and a racist. Kovalev not only took it personally, he did not hesitate to say that he would make him pay severely in the ring.
But to be fair, Kovalev did not utilize any rough house tactics, or do anything dirty when punishing Pascal. He just worked his game-plan to perfection, working behind his stiff, potent jab, which set up his weakening right hands to the head and body. Unfortunately (for Pascal that is), Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev has that alias for a reason. If he consistently lands his jab to your face, he will “krush” your nose or other bones in your face, and when he is able to consistently land his straight right hands to the body, he also has the ability to paralize that side of your body.
In the lead up to this fight, this writer saw an interview given to Freddie Roach, the new trainer acquired by Jean Pascal for the fight. During the interview, Freddie Roach emphasized how he was clear with Pascal on what he wanted him to do in the ring against Kovalev. He wanted him to utilize his speed and athleticism to outbox Kovalev. The keyword, and what seemed to jump out in those words was outbox. He wanted Pascal to win a boxing match against Kovalev. He even went as far as saying that, if Pascal decided to go back to his wild wide punches, he would abandon him in the corner. Yes, Pascal has always been a fighter who uses his athleticism to gain advantages in fights, but he has never been a skilled boxer. Kovalev, since thoroughly dominating Bernard Hopkins through twelve one-sided rounds, proved that he was not only a puncher but an elite boxer. So, it seemed that there was a big flaw in the Roach’s game-plan going into the bout. The result was as beautiful as it was brutal.
From the outset Kovalev was clearly focusing his jab to the body, poking it to the midsection and slipping out of range. It was clear that he was looking to follow it with a right hand over the top. In the first round with about a minute left in the round, Kovalev was able to counter Pascal with a perfectly time jab that should of been called a knockdown but was called a slip. Kovalev not deterred remained patient, and was able to set up a couple of hard right hands to the body.
Kovalev continued in the second round like in the first. He would Patiently pick his spots, at times throwing a jab, other times landing hard snapping lead right hands. Kovalev also utilizes an old school technique which was used by the likes of Archie Moore. At times when he threw combinations, he would throw a standard 1-2 combination or lead right hand, and while his opponent is in retreat, he would take a subtle step with his right foot squaring his body up to follow with a hard left hand. When he takes this step, or by many its referred to a shift, it squares him up, almost leaving him in a southpaw position, which gives a lot more leverage and power to the left hand. Kovalev continued the second in absolute control, following his trainers instructions to perfection, knowing that Pascal was trying to counter Kovalev, he incorporating some feints which kept Pascal gun shy.
The third round had a couple of moments of success for Pascal. He was able to land a hard lead right hand, and a couple of left hooks. Kovalev, though, seemed to walk right through them and continue the onslaught. With about fifteen seconds left in the third, Kovalev was able to feint to his right, throw a 1-2 combination to disguise and devastating left hook to the body, that had a clear negative effect of Pascal.
In the fourth round, Kovalev really started to punish Pascal. Pascal who ended the third with a flurry seemed to be not only physically, but emotionally breaking down. Kovalev, who again was boxing beautifully, seemed to be cutting the ring off to perfection as well, leaving Pascal on the ropes helpless through the large portions of the round. With twenty seconds left in the fourth, Compubox had Kovalev landing 22 punches to Pascal’s 2. It was clear that it was only a matter of time.
In the beginning of the fifth round, Kovalev landed his most brutal and weakening shots of the entire fight. About thirty seconds into the round, Kovalev was able to land a lead right hand. Pascal clearly expecting a follow up left, was caught off guard by another huge right hand that nearly sent Pascal through the ropes. Kovalev followed with three more hard damaging right hands to the helpless body of Pascal. Pascal retreated only to find himself again on the ropes, and taking a jab and another heart-taking right hand that badly hurt the Haitian. Again, yes it was brutal, and some might have felt it cruel, but Kovalev used some beautiful mixing up of punches to hurt Pascal.
At the end of the fifth, Pascal not only seemed a emotionally broken fighter, it seemed that his nose seemed to be broken as well. Even though it was clear for all to see that the fight should have been called, Pascal was allowed to come out for another round. At the end of the same kind of punishment in the sixth, Freddie Roach looked ready to throw in the towel, but Pascal pleaded for another chance in the seventh. The seventh round was just as sad as the sixth, with Kovalev landing his thudding blows, and Pascal attempting to throw but having nothing left on his punches to even make Kovalev flinch. At the end of the seventh, the fight was called off in the corner, giving Kovalev the Technical Knockout victory.
After the fight, Kovalev was not shy when asked by HBO analyst Max Kellerman about whether he deliberately punished Pascal. When asked he responded, “Yes, I would fight more rounds, and make him more pain….Punish him more.” He continued, “I don’t respect him, never.”
One can say whatever they want about Kovalev being an evil, sinister, mean spirited fighter in the ring, but one thing can not be denied. Sergey Kovalev is an extremely gifted fighter. His combination of ring IQ, and punching power will bring pain to any fighter that challenges him in the future. The challenger that many claim is a done deal for November of this year is Andre Ward. Ward has for many years been considered the #2 pound for pound fighter, but his inactivity has really made many forget how good he really is. Ward has looked good in the past against the likes of Arthur Abraham, Chad Dawson, and Carl Froch, but lets be honest. No one on that list comes close to the class Kovalev has. Kovalev is as elite as they come, and has a impressive resume to prove it. If the fight does come to fruition it is going to be an intriguing match that will be good for boxing. Let’s hope it happens.
-Hector Gomez @hector_gomez810