Undefeated WBO, WBA and IBF light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev ( 26-0-1 with 23 knockouts) puts all three of his belts on the line against former WBC 175 pound champion Jean Pascal (29-2-1 with 17 knockouts) this Saturday night at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada.
Nicknamed the “Krusher”, Kovalev is among the sport’s most devastating punchers with an 88% knockout ratio. He unified the light heavyweight belts by defeating Bernard Hopkins via unanimous decision last November 8th in a career-defining performance that established him as the man to beat in his weight class.
Kovalev burst onto the championship scene in 2013 when he knocked out Nathan Cleverly in the 4th round of their WBO title bout. He then proceeded to defend that belt three times via knockout in a total time of 11 rounds. But despite the dominance, the lack of a marquee names on his resume put an asterisk over his title reign. Then came the opportunity to fight Hopkins, and Kovalev turned in the performance of a lifetime.
Kovalev’s win over Hopkins answered all questions about his boxing skills. Kovalev outboxed the master tactician Hopkins and punished him throughout the 12-round affair. He intelligently boxed against Hopkins and was effective in neutralizing B-Hop’s offense. He also showed patience and maturity while never getting excited about trying to put away his opponent although he had him hurt a couple of times in the fight.
Long Road Back
Pascal won the WBC light heavyweight title in 2009 and then became lineal champion in 2010. He lost his belts during his rematch against Bernard Hopkins in 2011. After a year and a half off the ring, Pascal returned to the ring and racked up three straight wins and a no-contest to return to the title picture. Pascal must be very motivated in this bout. He is not only fighting in his home country, but he is also after the other person who has the remaining piece of the light heavyweight title-Adonis Stevenson. Like Pascal, Stevenson is Canadian. And should Pascal pull-off an upset against Kovalev, he should be in line for a big money fight against Stevenson in Canada. He was once the man to beat in the light heavyweight division when he defeated Chad Dawson in 2010 but lost his glory the following year. This fight will mark the first time Pascal will fight for a major world title since losing to Hopkins.
Who Takes This?
By all books, Kovalev is the favorite to knockout Pascal in the middle rounds. Most have the Russian champion a -550 pick over Pascal who is a +375 underdog. Pascal starts like a raging bull, throwing punches from any conceivable angle. He always goes for the early kill and sometimes swings wildly which should be a mistake against an accurate power puncher like Kovalev. Kovalev is tall and long for a light heavyweight. He sets up his right hand with a stiff jab, which he uses as a range guide more than a weapon. Once he finds his range, he dissects his opponent with powerful head and body punches.
The other thing with Pascal is that he seems to run out of steam after his fast starts. The sting on his punches evaporates as the fight gets longer which is the reason why we see him fight in spurts. Again, this will be to the advantage of Kovalev who showed against Hopkins that he can fight 12 full rounds. Against Pascal, all Kovalev has to do is weather the early storm by staying away and using his superior footwork. By the middle rounds, Pascal should be his for the taking.