As rematches go, this weekend’s fight between light-heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev and former champion Jean Pascal has everything going for it: there was an unsatisfactory ending to their first fight, there is genuine enmity between the pair and Pascal has roped in one of boxing’s greatest trainers.
The Montreal fight will be broadcast live on SuperSport 7 from 4am on Sunday.
Kovalev, who holds three of the division’s four major belts, reigns as the baddest man in boxing. Despite being strongly Russian, he engages in trash talk and delivers on his boasts. He is a wicked puncher who hurts his opponents. Only three times in 28 fights has he been forced to go the distance. He unloads heavy and hard.
Pascal is fighting for redemption after their first fight last year ended in strange fashion. The Russian hurt Pascal along the ropes in the eighth round, but slipped to the canvas in his hurry for the finish. As referee Luis Pabon wiped off Kovalev’s gloves, Pascal staggered across the ring untouched. The fight continued, Kovalev landed a handful of punches and Pabon called off the action, to loud protests from Pascal’s camp.
Kovalev has since settled in as one of boxing’s best pound-for-pound fighters, as reflected in his clinical dissection of Bernard Hopkins in which he demonstrated his ability to box and not only punch.
Pascal went away, dumped his trainer and signed up with Freddie Roach, known for his ability to rebuild fighters. Roach has tinkered, insisting Pascal has become a better boxer and a harder puncher. But he has warned his man not to try and outpunch a KO artist like Kovalev, whose power is withering.
There’s needle between the boxers with tension having bubbled under ever since Kovalev tweeted a photoshopped image of rival champion Adonis Stevenson with a monkey’s head. Stevenson, like Pascal, is black and Pascal consequently insisted that Kovalev’s tweet proves he is a racist.
Thrown into the pot with boxing’s standard intangibles, the fight figures to be another wild and exciting duel with Kovalev’s raw power matched against Pascal’s athleticism.
Whatever happens, it will not be dull.