Wednesday January 27th, 2016

Everything you need to know about this weekend's light heavyweight title fight between Sergey Kovalev and Jean Pascal at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada...

The Story

As Sergey Kovalev climbs his way up boxing’s pound-for-pound ladder, he’ll have to prove that he’s capable of dominating the light heavyweight division without equivocation. To that end, Kovalev will meet Jean Pascal in a rematch of their March 2015 fight this Saturday night at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada. The highly anticipated bout will be telecast on HBO beginning at 9:45 p.m. ET.

The first time these two met in the ring, it was a slugfest, but it was also obvious to anyone watching that Kovalev was in control through most of the fight. The 6-foot Russian showed that he possesses a strong chin, and Pascal proved that he’s a legitimate contender, even if he didn’t have much of a chance. In the end, Kovalev was far too much for Pascal as he closed things out with an eighth-round TKO following a devastating right hand that sent referee Luis Pabon rushing to stop the fight.

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Pascal is one of the better fighters in the division and has a great fan base in Montreal, so a rematch at the Bell Centre makes a lot of sense. He’s also looking to resurrect his career and wants to be considered one of the best in the sport. To improve his chances, Pascal recently teamed up with Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach to learn as much as he could ahead of his rematch with Kovalev. The 33-year-old veteran has certainly built up his confidence in that time, already looking past Kovalev to his next fight.

“Everyone’s talking about Ward-Kovalev,” said Pascal in an interview on FightHubTV. “So unfortunately for you guys I’m gonna break the party up, you know. I’m gonna beat up Kovalev and I might fight Ward next—or Stevenson.”

Kovalev and his camp have explained that they haven’t approached this fight any different than they did the last. And if that’s the case, it may be Pascal’s extra work with Roach that could prove to be the difference-maker. But how much can a fighter really absorb in a mere two and a half months of work with a new trainer?

We’ll just have to wait and see...


Tale of the Tape

KOVALEV VS. PASCAL
28-0-1 (25 KOs) Record 30-3-1 (17 KOs)
6' 0" Height 5' 10"
TBD* Weight* TBD*
72.5" Reach 72"
32 (Apr. 2, 1983) Age 33 (Oct. 28, 1982)
Orthodox Stance Orthodox
Kopeysk, Russia Hometown Laval, Quebec, Canada

*Official weights are announced at the weigh-in on Friday, Jan. 29 at 12 p.m. ET. All statistics and information obtained via BoxRec.com.


The case for... Sergey Kovalev

With his devastating punching power, strong chin and proven patience, it’s hard to pick against the “Krusher.” He has met Pascal before and risen to the challenge, while surely learning a few lessons along the way. It was also somewhat unknown how Kovalev would respond to the shots he took from Pascal, especially as the fight wore on (Kovalev has only fought through the eighth round three times in his career), but he proved that he can go the distance and continue to attack, even after taking some punishment. Also boding well for Kovalev is the fact that he takes his time and sets up his punches well. For opposing fighters, that’s terrifying considering his ability to end any fight at any time with a single punch.


The case for... Jean Pascal

If there’s a case to be made for Jean Pascal it’s that he's athletic and quick and has very recent experience with Kovalev; that he has hired a new Hall of Fame trainer who has worked with him on the very tendencies that led to his demise in the first fight; and he’s coming off a win (albeit a very close, controversial decision) against Yunieski Gonzalez. Pascal’s confidence coming into the fight has been evident, and he does in fact possess the necessary attributes to win this fight: strong chin, thunderous combinations and power in both hands. Kovalev’s one weakness is that he lets his guard down too often, allowing himself to take shots. If Pascal can take his time and turn this fight into a boxing match rather than a slugfest, he may have a chance to sneak in a few well-placed right hands that could end Kovalev’s night.


Last Five Fights

KOVALEV (5-0) PASCAL (3-1)
N. Mohammedi (37-3) | W (R3 KO) Y. Gonzalez (16-0) | W (R10 UD)
J. Pascal (29-2-1) | W (R8 TKO) S. Kovalev (26-0-1) | L (R8 TKO)
B. Hopkins (55-6-2) | W (R12 UD) R.F. Bolonti (35-3) | NC (R2)
B. Caparello (19-0-1) | W (R2 TKO) L. Bute (31-1) | W (R12 UD)
C. Agnew (26-0) | W (R7 KO) G. Blades (23-4) | W (R5 TKO)

Fight Numbers

3: The number of fights in Kovalev’s career that have gone eight rounds or further, including his first bout with Pascal (8), his 12-round decision against Bernard Hopkins in 2014 and a 2010 split-decision vs. Darnell Boone.
253: The total number of rounds that Pascal has fought in 35 total fights. Pascal will need that experience to wear down and out-maneuver Kovalev if he’s going to have a chance at the upset.
75: The number of days Pascal has been working with Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach. Will Roach be able to make an impact in such a short amount of time?


Greatest Hits

Sergey Kovalev knocks out Nadjib Mohammedi

Jean Pascal takes on Bernard Hopkins


Fighting Words

“Usually who fights me, I stop their career. I usually destroy them. I didn’t destroy him because the referee stopped the fight and saved his health and life maybe. Now I’ll finish my job.” —Kovalev on the first fight against Pascal being stopped by the referee in the eighth round

“Ismayl Sillakh told me some of the deplorable things Kovalev told him before they fought and the monkey shirt with Adonis [Stevenson] spoke for itself. And it’s a fact that he only calls black fighters pieces of s---. The funny thing is when it comes to selling tickets, speaking in complete sentences or generating big ratings, the only piece of s--- is him.” —Pascal in a Q&A with boxingnews24.com talking about his remarks that Kovalev isn’t a star and has racist tendencies


The Prediction

In their first fight, Pascal showed that he was a good, but not great, fighter who could give Kovalev a decent battle. The two put on a great show with a lot of action. But in the end, it was obvious that Kovalev was in control and there was no chance for Pascal to take home the title unless he snuck in a knockout punch, which never materialized. Instead the referee had to stop the fight for Pascal's safety.

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Since then, there’s really no reason to believe that either side has changed very much. As for Pascal’s work with Roach, I’m not totally sold that it’ll have much of an effect until the two work together for a few more fights. Pascal isn’t a great counter puncher and often reverts to sitting back while putting up his hands in a stagnant defensive position, letting his opponent pummel him rather than moving away from the attack. That approach proved to be Pascal’s fatal flaw in the first fight against Kovalev, and unless Roach was able to get him to truly shed those bad habits, it’ll be more of the same on Saturday night.

Look for Kovalev to start strong and fast, setting the tone for the fight, while Pascal also tries to take the offensive. Pascal will inevitably fall back into old habits at the worst of times, opening himself up to too many clean hits from Kovalev, which is more than enough for the “Krusher” to penetrate and land that single blow that he needs to send Pascal to the canvas. And this time around, it'll happen a lot earlier than it did in their first fight.

Scott Heavey/Getty Images

​​Prediction: Kovalev by knockout.


The Undercard

Karim Mayfield (19-2-1, 11 KOs), who was preparing for another fight stepped in as a replacement opponent against Dimitry Mikhaylenko (20-0, 9 KOs) in HBO’s opening fight in the Jan. 30 “World Championship Boxing” doubleheader. The two will face off for the vacant USBA welterweight title. Mikhaylenko was initially set to fight Ray Robinson (20-2, 9 KOs), but after sustaining back injuries in a car accident, Robinson was forced to sit out and Mayfield stepped in.

At 35, Mayfield is looking to reinvigorate his career by taking out an undefeated opponent in Mikhaylenko, although Mayfield hasn’t fought since Nov. 2014 when he won an eight-round decision. Mikhaylenko is coming off a TKO victory over Johan Perez in August 2015, and will be looking to make a name for himself on HBO’s primetime boxing stage.


Programming Notes

HBO’s telecast will begin at 9:45 p.m. ET with a 10-round welterweight title fight between Dimitry Mikhaylenko and Karim Mayfield. In Canada, the fight will be available for fans to watch on pay-per-view. The match is being promoted by Main Events and InterBox as well as German Titov Promotions and Greg Cohen Promotions.

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