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Monday, March 16, 2015

Kovalev Stops Pascal, Rematch? Stevenson-Bika Winner? What’s Next?




The latest chapter in the storyline of the potential full unification of the Light-Heavyweight division took place on March 14th at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada where undefeated unified WBO/IBF/WBA Light-Heavyweight world champion Sergey Kovalev defended his crown against former WBC world champion Jean Pascal. A fight that presented an interesting clash of styles between a fighter in Kovalev who is known for his punching power going against an opponent in Pascal who has an unorthodox style that combines hand speed, power, and who has the ability to execute his offense in spurts.


Prior to this fight I stated that for Pascal to be successful in this fight I believed that he needed to establish himself as an elusive target,  look to play the role of counter puncher, and look to capitalize on openings that Kovalev might leave as well as find a way to nullify the champion’s consistent pressure. It was not surprising to see the fight begin with Kovalev looking to immediately pressure and walk Pascal down.


Despite being known as a power puncher, Kovalev has also shown the ability to be tactical and measured in his attack. This fight was no exception as the champion’s jab and right hand were a focal point of his offense from the outset. Kovalev was able to mix his jab to the body and head of Pascal to land effectively with his right hand.


Although Kovalev was the more active of the two fighters, Pascal was able to have success when he was able to land counter punches and able to land periodically at points where Kovalev was not on the offensive. A problem for Pascal in the early rounds seemed to be that although he would have periodic success landing right hands, left hooks, and body punches, he had trouble landing his punches in combination. This can be attributed to Kovalev’s ability to control distance with his jab, make Pascal miss, and return offense when Pascal would have success.


A flush right hand from Kovalev sent Pascal partially through the ropes in the closing seconds of round three and he was credited with a knockdown.  The knockdown was the first of Pascal’s career as a result of the ropes holding Pascal up as determined by Referee Louis Pabon. Despite appearing that he may have been out on his feet, Pascal withstood a barrage of punches from the champion at the beginning of round four and landed some solid counter right hands of his own throughout the round.
 

 A question that is often asked of fighters who are known as power punchers and knockout artists as Kovalev is, is how that fighter responds when an opponent takes their power shots, gets knocked down, but keeps fighting. Kovalev began the fifth round throwing punches with both hands and did not appear discouraged by the success of the challenger in the fourth round. Pascal however, would continue to rally and continued to have success landing counter punches to the head and landing punches to the body of the champion in what was Pascal’s best round of the fight to that point. Pascal also succeeded in being the first fighter to test Kovalev’s ability to take a punch as he was able to stun the champion particularly when he was able to counter with right hands to the head.


To the champion’s credit he showed a granite chin and did not slow his offensive output, despite Pascal’s success and increasing aggression in rounds five and six. The ebb and flow shifted back to the champion in round seven as Kovalev was the more active of the two fighters. Kovalev was able to execute his offense off of his jab as was the case in the early rounds. What became a spirited battle between two of the Light-Heavyweight division’s elite would come to a conclusion in round eight.


After stunning Pascal with a left hook that sent Pascal into Kovalev’s corner, Kovalev was inadvertently tripped by Pascal and knocked down to the canvas. Pascal, clearly suffering the effects of the left hook and the barrage of punches that preceded it staggered into a neutral corner. The bout resumed and after taking two flush right hands from Kovalev, the fight was stopped by Referee Luis Pabon. Official time of stoppage was 1:03 of the eighth round.


The win for Kovalev, which was his fifth successful title defense keeps him in position for a potential unification bout between himself and the winner of the April 4th WBC Light-Heavyweight world championship fight between champion Adonis Stevenson and former WBC Super-Middleweight champion Sakio Bika. In his last two fights however, Sergey Kovalev has answered some questions that some may have been asking.


Kovalev proved in his unification bout against Bernard Hopkins that he is more than a mere seek and destroy knockout artist and could go a full twelve rounds  in a fight that he dominated from start to finish. In this fight against Jean Pascal, Kovalev showed not only the ability to take a punch, but also to respond well to a fighter who showed significant resistance, and who was able to recover from being knocked down. 
 

There is simply not much more that you can ask of a fighter than what Sergey Kovalev was able to do in this fight. As solid a performance it was for Sergey Kovalev, what was equally impressive was the performance and determination of Jean Pascal who more than proved his mettle in defeat.


Pascal was not only “Game”, but he also showed significant resistance against a fighter who with the exception of his fight against Bernard Hopkins has carved out a reputation as one of the sport’s most devastating knockout artists. Although Jean Pascal did not emerge from this fight as a two-time world champion, he has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.


Whether or not the storyline of the potential full unification of the Light-Heavyweight division will see a conclusion with Sergey Kovalev facing the winner of the Stevenson-Bika fight remains to be seen. If however, a fight for the undisputed Light-Heavyweight world championship is not on the horizon for later this year, what could be for Kovalev in the near future just might be a rematch with Jean Pascal. It was a spirited battle between two great fighters. Pascal fought this fight hard and is deserving of a rematch.


“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”


The Boxing Truth ® is a registered trademark of Beau Denison All Rights Reserved.


Follow Beau Denison on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Beau_Denison 

 

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Look At Kovalev-Pascal




In November of last year Sergey Kovalev successfully unified his WBO world Light-Heavyweight championship when he dominated future Hall of Famer and IBF/WBA Light-Heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins over twelve rounds in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Kovalev, a fighter with a career knockout percentage of nearly 86% had scored nine consecutive knockouts prior to his encounter with Hopkins.


Although the unanimous decision over Hopkins signaled the end of Kovalev’s knockout streak the victory did answer some questions about Kovalev. Questions such as how Kovalev would deal with a skilled tactician such as Hopkins and how he would respond when he was extended into the later rounds of a fight. In regard to both questions Kovalev at least in that one fight answered both with positive results.


For twelve rounds Kovalev applied consistent pressure and was able to outwork Hopkins in every round. Despite being extended to a full twelve round distance for the first time in his career, Kovalev was able to maintain the pace that he established early in the fight and did not fatigue as it progressed.


The victory for Kovalev also continued to build anticipation for a unification battle between himself and WBC champion Adonis Stevenson in what would be for the undisputed world Light-Heavyweight championship. Stevenson successfully defended his world championship in December of last year in scoring a fifth round knockout of Dmitry Sukhotskiy. This victory theoretically cleared the way for a bout for the undisputed Light-Heavyweight championship to potentially take place later this year.


Before that fight can take place however, Kovalev will defend his unified WBO/IBF/WBA world championship against former WBC world champion Jean Pascal on Saturday night at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada. This is a fight that presents an interesting match up of styles.


Kovalev, a fighter known for his punching power has captivated the attention of both Boxing fans and experts alike with his ability to score quick and often devastating knockouts throughout his career. In his last fight however, Kovalev proved that he is more than merely a power punching seek and destroy fighter as he out boxed Bernard Hopkins and did so in a fight that was fought at a tactical measured pace.


In this fight however, Kovalev faces a fighter in Jean Pascal who is known for having an unorthodox style in which he utilizes a combination of hand speed and power as well as the ability to execute his offense in spurts. In his last fight in December of last year Pascal fought Roberto Bolonti in a fight that ended under controversial circumstances when Bolonti was knocked out by a right hook thrown by Pascal while the two fighters were in the process of being separated from a clinch. The fight, which was ruled a no contest left varying opinions as to the outcome and whether or not Pascal should have been disqualified. The controversy notwithstanding, this fight between Kovalev and Pascal, that was in line for Pascal if he were to get by Bolonti will still take place.


The key to this fight in my eyes will be whether Pascal will be able to avoid Kovalev’s pressure and power for twelve rounds. For Jean Pascal to be successful in this fight I believe he needs to be an elusive target and look to play the role of counter puncher and capitalize on openings that Kovalev might leave him.


What has been an issue for Pascal is that he has had trouble pacing himself and has faded in the latter stages of fights. Notably in his first fight with Bernard Hopkins where, despite scoring two knockdowns of Hopkins, Pascal gradually faded which allowed Hopkins to gain ground on the scorecards.  By the end of that fight  in the opinion of many Hopkins had won the fight however, it was scored a draw.


Pascal needs to pace himself in this fight as Kovalev is a fighter who is dangerous at all times and proved in his last fight that he could sustain a consistent pace and pressure for an entire twelve round distance. Simply put Pascal needs to find a way to be elusive and nullify Kovalev’s pressure and power. This of course is easier said than done.


In contrast, it is logical to assume that Kovalev will look to gradually cut off the ring from the opening bell and look to break Pascal down over time. Pascal however, has never been stopped in thirty-three professional fights and if he can deal with Kovalev’s pressure and avoid the champion’s power, this fight could go into the late rounds and may in fact go the distance.


The storyline which looms over this fight is whether or not a potential fight for the undisputed Light-Heavyweight world championship will await the winner. With not only this fight taking place on Saturday night, Adonis Stevenson will defend his world title on April 4th against former Super-Middleweight world champion Sakio Bika, the Light-Heavyweight division will likely remain a hot topic for both Boxing fans and experts alike.


The next chapter of the potential full unification of the Light-Heavyweight division awaits Saturday night.


“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”


The Boxing Truth ® is a registered trademark of Beau Denison All Rights Reserved.


Follow Beau Denison on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Beau_Denison 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

“Premier Boxing Champions” Series Off To A Solid Start




The debut of the “Premier Boxing Champions” series had much anticipation. Not only did the debut feature two interesting bouts as its main attractions, but it also had historical significance as it was the first time in nearly thirty years that the NBC network would be televising the card, which would bring Boxing back to primetime.


On March 7th the Boxing world focused on the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada to see two fights, which could lead to some intriguing bouts later this year. In the 140lb. Jr. Welterweight division former three-division world champion Adrien Broner faced former world title challenger John Molina Jr. Broner’s ability to dictate the pace and control the action with his jab while mixing in crisp combinations was the story of the fight. For the majority of the twelve round bout Broner got his punches off first, was able to make Molina miss with his offense, and had the ability to tie his opponent up for the most part whenever Molina would get on the inside.


With the exception of the third round where Molina was able to get close to Broner and land solidly with his right hand and able to let his hands go, this was quite frankly a Boxing clinic by Adrien Broner. Prior to this card I stated that it was logical to assume that Molina’s best chance for success in this fight was to implement a similar approach to what Marcos Maidana was able to do against Broner. Molina however, could not find a way to pressure Broner consistently and could not find a way to let his hands go regularly throughout this fight, which ultimately resulted in a near shutout twelve round unanimous decision for Adrien Broner.


Although there may be some who were not entertained by Broner’s approach in this fight, for Boxing purists it was a great performance by a fighter who could be in line for a shot at a fourth world championship in as many weight classes. As for what is next for Adrien Broner, Broner stated in a post-fight interview that he will be fighting on June 20th in his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio.


It is unclear as of this writing as to who Broner’s potential opponent could be. This observer however, believes that Broner could face the winner of the April 11th fight between unified WBA/WBC Jr. Welterweight world champion Danny Garcia and IBF champion Lamont Peterson, in a fight that will be fought above the 140lb. Jr. Welterweight limit. Although the fight, which will be broadcast by NBC as part of the “Premier Boxing Champions” series will be a non-title bout, it is logical to assume based on Broner being rated in the top five of both the WBA and WBC, as well as rated in the top ten in the IBF’s Jr. Welterweight ratings that Broner off of an impressive performance against Molina could face the winner that fight.


Whether or not Broner will fight for a world championship in his next bout remains to be seen, but I believe with three straight wins since moving down in weight from Welterweight to the Jr. Welterweight division he should be in the discussion of potential challengers for the winner of the fight between Garcia and Peterson.


The second half of the doubleheader featured a bout to determine interim/regular champion status in the WBA’s Welterweight ratings. Undefeated top contender Keith Thurman, who entered the fight designated as holding interim/regular champion status faced former three-time world champion Robert Guerrero.


Prior to this card I stated that this was a fight that I felt could go either way due to both fighters ability to box as well as their willingness to stand and go toe to toe with their opponents. It was a fight that some thought may produce fireworks. It did not disappoint.


From the opening bell both fighters were willing to engage. Although both fighters had their share of moments, it was Thurman’s hand speed, harder punches, and well-balanced attack to the body and head of Guerrero that gave him the edge. An accidental clash of heads in round three resulted in severe swelling on the left side of Thurman’s forehead. Despite the swelling, Thurman remained aggressive and continued to bring the fight to Guerrero.


Even though Guerrero had trouble with Thurman’s hand speed, Guerrero was effective periodically throughout the fight when he was able to land spurts of offense on Thurman. The primary difference in this fight in my eyes was the power and hand speed of Thurman as well as Thurman’s lateral movement and ability to return offense almost immediately after Guerrero would land his punches.


In the ninth round Thurman dropped Guerrero with a flush right hook. Despite being hit with a punch that would have likely ended the night for some fighters, Guerrero showed his mettle and got up from the knockdown and survived the round. In addition to suffering the knockdown Guerrero was also cut above the left eye. The always “Game” Guerrero however, fought on and attempted to rally in the late rounds, but it was Thurman who would go on to win a convincing twelve round unanimous decision.


With the win Thurman not only retains his interim/regular champion status in the WBA’s Welterweight ratings, but he also as I suggested prior to this fight could theoretically be in line to face the winner of the scheduled May 2nd Welterweight unification bout between WBC/WBA champion Floyd Mayweather and WBO champion Manny Pacquiao. There is no dispute that Mayweather and Pacquiao remain the two central figures of the Welterweight division. It can be argued however, that no matter who wins the fight between Mayweather and Pacquiao, should it take place that Keith Thurman could well be the future of the division. We will have to wait and see what the future holds for Keith Thurman, but for a fighter who is unbeaten in twenty-six professional fights, with twenty-five wins and twenty-one of those wins coming by knockout Keith Thurman is a fighter not to be taken lightly and should not be overlooked as a potential opponent for Mayweather or Pacquiao.



The debut of the “Premier Boxing Champions” series did have much anticipation prior to its inception. This observer believes this card more than lived up to that anticipation and with several dates lining up for the series involving NBC, as well as Spike TV, CBS, and Bounce TV, this could the start of a new era for the sport and it’s fans.  I for one am excited to see what the future holds.


“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”


The Boxing Truth ® is a registered trademark of Beau Denison All Rights Reserved.


Follow Beau Denison on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Beau_Denison 
 

Friday, March 6, 2015

NBC Set To Bring Boxing Back To Primetime




For many years Boxing was a mainstay on broadcast television with networks such as NBC, ABC, and CBS all featuring the sweet science as part of each network’s respective sports programming. As the sport became more geared toward premium cable networks such as HBO and Showtime, as well as the medium of pay-per-view television over the years things gradually changed and Boxing gradually became almost nonexistent on broadcast television.


In recent years however, there has been a gradual shift to bring Boxing back to broadcast television as both NBC and CBS have featured cards on their respective networks. NBC in particular has reestablished itself as a player in the sport, regularly televising fight cards both on its NBC Sports Network as well as periodically featuring cards on the main NBC Network.


This weekend NBC will do something that it has not done since May 20, 1985. Televise a Boxing card on the main NBC Network in primetime. On that night nearly thirty years ago then undefeated IBF Heavyweight champion Larry Holmes went fifteen grueling rounds against Carl “The Truth” Williams in defense of his crown. In what was a competitive fight from start to finish, Holmes overcame a determined effort from Williams to retain his title via fifteen round unanimous decision.


Now almost two months shy of the thirtieth anniversary of that fight, Boxing will once again take center stage in primetime with the debut of the “Premier Boxing Champions” series on Saturday night. The first installment of the series will feature a doubleheader at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.


In the co-feature former three-division world champion Adrien Broner will do battle against former world title challenger John Molina Jr. Broner, who has won world titles in the Jr. Lightweight, Lightweight, and Welterweight divisions will be fighting for the third time since losing the WBA Welterweight world championship to Marcos Maidana in December 2013. Since the loss to Maidana, Broner moved down in weight from the 147lb. Welterweight division to the 140lb. Jr. Welterweight division and has won his last two fights over contenders Carlos Molina and in his last fight over Emanuel Taylor.


Broner, who is currently rated number three in the world by the World Boxing Association (WBA) and number four by the World Boxing Council (WBC) could be in line for a potential title shot if he is able to get past John Molina Jr. Molina, will go into the fight having lost three of his last five fights and one might argue is in a must win situation if he hopes to remain a contender. In his last two fights, Molina was stopped in an exciting battle against top contender Lucas Matthysse in April of last year, and dropped a ten round unanimous decision to former Lightweight world champion Humberto Soto last September.


Despite suffering some setbacks during his career including being stopped in his one world title shot against Antonio DeMarco in September 2012, Molina has a crowd pleasing style and comes to win. The key to this fight in my mind will be whether or not Molina can deal with the hand speed and accurate counter punching of Adrien Broner. It is logical to assume that Molina’s best chance for success in this fight is to implement a similar approach to what Marcos Maidana was able to do against Broner. Maidana consistently pressured Broner and was able to dominate the fight with his power punches, scoring two knockdowns of Broner in winning a convincing unanimous decision.


While it could logical to assume that Molina will look to be aggressive and pressure Broner, one could  equally assume that Broner will be looking to counter Molina. It will be interesting to see if Broner elects to let his hands go more or choose to execute his offense off of counter punch opportunities. A problem previous Broner opponents have had in addition to his hand speed is his ability to be extremely accurate with his offense along with solid defense. If however, Broner is overlooking Molina it could prove to be a mistake.


In the main event of this card undefeated Welterweight contender Keith Thurman will face former three-time world champion Robert Guerrero. Thurman, who is unbeaten in twenty-four professional fights with twenty-one knockouts has become a fighter to watch in the talent stacked Welterweight division. In his last fight Thurman scored a twelve round unanimous decision over previously unbeaten contender Leonard Bundu last December.


In Robert Guerrero Thurman arguably faces his toughest test to date. Guerrero has been one of the top fighters in the sport for several years winning world titles in the Featherweight and Jr. Lightweight divisions. Guerrero will be fighting for the second time following his loss in a failed attempt at a fourth world title in his fight with Floyd Mayweather in May 2013. In his last fight in June of last year, Guerrero scored a hard fought twelve round unanimous decision over a “Game” Yoshihiro Kamegai. For twelve rounds Guerrero and Kamegai went to war in what was one of the most exciting fights of 2014.


Now Guerrero prepares for what could be another war against Keith Thurman. This is a fight that I feel could go either way. Both fighters can box and both have shown a willingness to stand and go toe to toe with their opponents. Guerrero is six years the senior of Thurman and has more experience. By the same token, Guerrero in thirty-seven professional fights has been through wars in his career and one could wonder as he approaches his thirty second birthday later this month if those battles have begun to take a toll on him as he prepares to face a fighter with a near 85% career knockout percentage in the twenty six-year old Keith Thurman.


In addition to two exciting fighters being pitted against each other, this fight may also have an impact as it could determine who will face the winner of the scheduled May 2nd Welterweight unification bout between WBC/WBA Welterweight world champion Floyd Mayweather and WBO champion Manny Pacquiao. Thurman, who currently holds interim/regular champion status in the WBA’s Welterweight ratings would theoretically be in line to face the winner of that fight should it take place if he is able to get past Guerrero. For Guerrero meanwhile a victory for him could lead to a potential rematch with Mayweather or a fight with Pacquiao. With much of the Boxing world focused on Mayweather-Pacquiao, the stakes of this fight between Thurman and Guerrero are very high.


In the bigger picture the “Premier Boxing Champions” series just may be the start of big-time Boxing once again being showcased on a regular basis on broadcast television. The series, which will involve NBC, CBS, Spike TV, and Bounce TV has already generated buzz. The debut of the “Premier Boxing Champions” series may open a new era for the Boxing world and ultimately the Boxing fans.


“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”


The Boxing Truth ® is a registered trademark of Beau Denison All Rights Reserved.


Follow Beau Denison on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Beau_Denison