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.”
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