On Saturday, January 30, at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada, WBA/IBF/WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (28-0-1, 25 KOs), the knockout artist from Ft. Lauderdale by way of Kopeysk, Russia, rematches former WBC/WBO light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal (30-3-1, 17 KOs), from Laval, Quebec, Canada, by way of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Their first fight, also at the Bell Centre in March of last year, ended as almost all Kovalev’s fights end, with his opponent on the canvas or wrapped in the arms of a protective referee.
But it was an excellent fight, a competitive fight, before Luis Pabon waved it off, perhaps a tad prematurely, at 1:03 of the eighth round.
Pascal had only lost twice in his career, to Carl Froch in 2008 and Bernard Hopkins in their second meeting in 2011, and had never been stopped. He might never have been the best of the best in the light heavyweight division, but has always been a hair’s breadth away from being an elite fighter.
Pascal survived a third round knockdown in their first encounter and unlike most of Kovalev’s opponents he brought the fight to the Russian bomber.
Kovalev patiently stalks his opposition, but he can be hit, something Pascal used to his advantage in the first fight. But Pascal’s willingness to slug with a slugger was his downfall against Kovalev. It won’t, however, be his downfall Saturday night if Pascal’s new trainer, Freddie Roach, has anything to say about it.
“We have a mutual friend in Georges St. Pierre,” said Roach. “Jean did come and he asked me would I train him and I told him I might not have time right now, my back was sore, and I’m about to have surgery on my back. I told him to go home. He wouldn’t go home though! He kept showing up at the gym and his work ethic was really good and he trained hard. I said, ‘People told me you were pretty lazy.’ He said, ‘I’m not lazy,’ and he does work hard. He was training really good and we were getting really good together.
“He has a great jab and he told me one day, ‘I have no confidence in my jab.’ I said, ‘Why not? It’s your best punch. You’re like Manny Pacquiao. His best punch is his jab also.’ He’s another guy who doesn’t have a lot of confidence in his jab and doesn’t set things up with his jab as much as I would like him to. And Jean’s a little bit the same way. He likes to go in with power shots. He likes to fight. I do like that part about him a little bit, because I like to fight, but it’s not always what I teach. I’m trying to teach him to be a better boxer because he can be that. And I think in this fight he needs to be a better boxer to win this fight. Jean has a tendency where he like to lay back and wait on the ropes a little bit and I told him, ‘You lay on the ropes a little bit, you’re going to give him a chance to land the big right hand and to win the fight.’ I says, ‘That’ll be your choice.’”
Pascal’s willingness to fight is exactly what makes his fights exciting. But the sport is called boxing for a reason, and few men know boxing as well as Freddie Roach.
“To be with the best you need to fight with the best plus train with the best,” said Pascal. “I think Freddie’s résumé speaks for itself. He’s been there, done that with big fights. Because this is a very, very big fight so I went for skills and experience and Freddie has that. The first time I did pads with Freddie I saw the difference. I said if I want to get to the next level that I want to get to, that level that I belong to, I need to train with Freddie, to be not one of the best, but the best. He was my first choice.”
Kovalev’s power and fearlessness, no less than his killer instinct, will still be a handful, no matter what Freddie teaches Pascal.
“I think Pascal and Freddie will bring new weapons against me,” said Kovalev, “but I must be ready for this situation. I’m ready for everything because it’s my job. I grow fight by fight. I’m interested too in what he will bring in the ring with Freddie Roach. I was disappointed in my performance in our last fight against Pascal. I want to do this much better, much more clear. I would like to beat him where there are no questions, no doubt between me and him. It was a very hard fight. I did a lot of mistakes in our last fight and right now I try to fix it. I try to be better. It’s a secret about my mistakes and just me and my trainer know about my mistakes. I learned from my first fight. Right now I fix it and try to be creative, do everything exactly correct and try to fight harder and try to stop Pascal early this time.
“I didn’t finish my job and my goal in the last fight because the referee saved his health and it really was a right stoppage because all fight was a lot of very hard punches. I think Pascal has reason to say thank you to Luis Pabon, the referee for the fight, because he was already drunk, you know like spaghetti legs. I think he must say ‘thanks a lot’ that he’s still alive.”
This article was penned by the author who is not related to the WBA and the statements, expressions or opinions referenced herein are that of the author alone and not the WBA.