Sergey Kovalev was victorious over Jean Pascal for the second time in his career tonight as he hopped in the DeLorean with his trainer John David Jackson and came out to find he was staring in “Groundhog Day” with Adonis Stevenson.
For the second time in his career, Kovalev stopped Jean Pascal in the middle rounds of their championship fight in front of a raucous crowd at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, live in the main event of World Championship Boxing on HBO.
There were a few differences this time as Kovalev battered Pascal in what ended up being a far less competitive fight than the first, and because of that Kovalev was able to stop Pascal one round before their first meeting—in between the 7th and 8th (Kovalev stopped Pascal in the 8th last year). Also, Pascal’s new trainer Freddie Roach, who was cornering the Canadian fan-favorite for the first time, had a presence in this fight that was nonexistent in the first.
Kovalev was rarely out of control, but he was always in the driver’s seat. The fight wasn’t competitive in the first few rounds, but it wasn’t nearly as one-sided as it was in the final 3-4 rounds of the fight when the “Krusher” was at his best. It was then that the matchup began to get out of hand, and Pascal endured one of the worst beatings of his career.
It is one thing to see a vicious knockout, and the inexperienced boxing observer will consider that occurrence to be far more devastating than a hellacious assault made up of many, less-severe punches, but it is quite another to witness a methodical beat down. And even though a gruesome knockout can be dangerous, it is often safer for a fighter to lose following a one-punch KO than it is for him to be on the receiving end of a multi-punch/multi-round beating that ends with his corner or the referee showing mercy.
It appeared as though Kovalev was in a position to finish off Pascal several times throughout the final few rounds. But every time he came close to softening up Pascal for the big finish, he’d pull back a bit and force the referee into the decision-making position- easily one of the most difficult aspects of his job.
There were several times where the referee could’ve ended the fight, although it was probably a much more difficult task to assess the situation without the luxury of real-time punch stats. There were also several rounds where Pascal’s offensive output was virtually non-existent—forget the single digit number he put up in punches landed, it was his lack of production that prompted the question of whether or not the fight should be stopped in almost every round leading up to the finish.
Kovalev admitted that he was intentionally avoiding the stoppage and holding back at certain points to extend Pascal’s beating. It wasn’t enough to earn the win, which the Russian star knew he had secured long before the 7th and final round, he wanted to punish Pascal—admitting in the post-fight interview that he did not like his opponent even after he was thoroughly defeated.
The buildup to the fight was provocative to say the least, especially during fight week. It reached a new level of personal at the final press conference when Pascal made some defaming and widely inappropriate remarks about Kovalev’s trainer. These comments and actions on the part of Pascal are not worth repeating, but let’s just say he challenged the trainer’s racial alliances, a move that not only proved to be immature and baseless but presumably not worth the thorough trashing Pascal received.
At the end of 6 rounds, heading into the 7th, Freddie Roach became a new intangible in the drama that unfolded in the rivalry between Kovalev and Pascal.
In the corner, Roach told his fighter that he would stop the fight after yet another round of a defenseless beating, and one that went completely unanswered, in the books. Pascal pleaded with his trainer to give him another chance. And just when Roach seemed like he’d be unmoved on his decision, he reluctantly agreed to give Pascal one last chance on the condition that he no longer stay on the ropes and, at least, make an effort to let his hands go. Pascal agreed.
But just before the bell sounded to open the round, and in an unprecedented move on the part of a trainer, Roach asked referee Michael Griffin to keep a close eye on Pascal.
Pascal answered the 7th round in better shape than the previous three, at least by comparisons, but still failed to produce any truly meaningful offense of his own. Although, he still managed to take punishment despite the desperation in his last-ditch effort.
It was then, at the conclusion of round 7, in the corner, that Roach waved the fight off.
Kovalev secured his vengeance on a fighter he’d previously beaten, but the drama was not over.
In the post-fight interview with Kovalev, the mention of Adonis Stevenson, who was sitting ringside for the showdown in his adopted town of Canada, prompted a sort of face-to-face. Before a serious encounter could even start, Stevenson lost his temper (or purposely caused a scene) and had to be restrained. Kovalev did not bite as Stevenson started yelling and screaming claims of being the “real champion.”
It was fun to see Kovalev and Stevenson in a ring together with visible signs of aggression directed at each other. However, tempers cooled when everyone realized it was all just a show and that neither fighter is likely to meet for real to settle the distinction between the lineal champ at 175lbs and the consensus “people’s champ” of the same division.
Instead, we are likely to get Kovalev and former super middleweight kingpin turned light heavyweight contender Andre Ward. This matchup was discussed and even promoted to a degree all night throughout the telecast. Both fighters seem intent on making this fight a reality sometime in the fall.