Monday, February 1, 2016

Kovalev Dominates Pascal In Rematch, Why Stevenson-Kovalev Needs To Happen

It is rare when a fight that ends by a knockout or a convincing stoppage leads to demand and interest in a rematch. In the case of the battle between undefeated unified WBO/IBF/WBA Light-Heavyweight world champion Sergey Kovalev and former WBC Light-Heavyweight world champion Jean Pascal there was interest and demand for a second encounter between the two.

Despite being stopped in the eighth round in their first fight in March 2015, Pascal gave an excellent account himself by providing the undefeated unified world champion and knockout artist the first significant test of his career. Pascal not only was able to survive being nearly knocked out in the third round of that fight, but was also able to test the champion’s chin before being stopped in the eighth round. Although Kovalev had added Pascal to his list of knockout of victims, Pascal’s impressive showing in defeat was enough to generate interest in a second encounter.

The rematch between the two took place on January 30th at the same venue that hosted the first encounter, the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada. It is normal prior to a rematch to hear both Boxing fans and experts alike discussing what each fighter could do or should do to improve on their performance in the first fight. In regard to this rematch however, much of the focus was on whether or not Pascal could not only improve on his performance in his first fight with Kovalev, but also whether the rematch would be even more competitive.

In previewing the second encounter between Kovalev and Pascal, this observer stated that as was the case the first time around Pascal needed to establish himself as an elusive target and look to land counter punches as he was able to do effectively in the first fight. It was crucial in my eyes that whenever Pascal threw his punches that he do so in combination, which was something that he was inconsistent doing against Kovalev the first time around.

Although much of the focus centered on what Pascal would be able to do in this rematch, it also interested me to see whether Kovalev would be able to avoid Pascal’s counter right hand, an offensive weapon that Pascal had significant success in landing on the champion in the first fight. Unlike the first encounter however, where the challenger was able to have periodic success and test the champion, the rematch would not be as competitive and could best be described as a champion systematically breaking down his opponent.

As was the case in the first fight, Kovalev applied consistent pressure and established an offensive rhythm from the outset as he out threw and out landed Pascal. The champion dropped Pascal with a jab in the first round, but did not get credit for the knockdown as it was ruled a slip by Referee Michael Griffin.

Although Pascal threw his jab more frequently than was the case in the first fight, he was inconsistent in being able to land punches on Kovalev beyond an occasional left hook or right hand as he frequently lunged forward when he threw his punches and missed with much of his offense. In contrast to the challenger, Kovalev not only applied pressure, but was able to cut the ring off effectively and thus limit Pascal’s ability to use his lateral movement and avoid the champion’s offense. As was the case in the first encounter, whenever Pascal was able to land a punch, Kovalev was able to respond almost immediately with offense of his own.

Kovalev gradually stepped up his offense as the fight progressed and implemented a tactical and systematic approach in his attack. As Kovalev stepped his offensive output, Pascal would largely be on the defensive and would throw fewer and fewer punches as the fight went on. It was not long before the question surrounding this fight became not whether Pascal could be more competitive than he was in the first fight, not whether there would be a different outcome, but rather how long the fight would last as the bout became increasingly one-sided in Kovalev’s favor.

This fight was the first for Pascal under new trainer Freddie Roach. Roach, a former fighter who has gone on to achieve legendary status as one of the best and most respected trainers in the sport has also shown in the past compassion for his fighters. In this fight, Roach would remind the Boxing world why he is regarded as one of the sport’s best.

After seeing the punishment his fighter was taking, Roach told Pascal after round six that he was stopping the fight saying to the “Game” former world champion that he was taking too many punches. Pascal pleaded with his trainer to give him one more round. Initially, Roach said no, but ultimately agreed to give Pascal one more chance. Roach however, told Referee Michael Griffin to please keep an eye on his fighter and if he took any more punishment to stop the fight.

Although Pascal would not take as much punishment in the sixth round as compared to previous rounds, he was not able to discourage Kovalev from coming forward and throwing punches. Following the completion of the sixth round, Roach clearly looking out for the long-term well-being of his fighter stopped the fight. A show of compassion that should be applauded by all Boxing fans, experts, and others who are involved in the sport.

The victory for Kovalev signaled his seventh successful defense of his world championship. Even though the story of this fight in my eyes was Freddie Roach’s concern and ultimate action to not allow his fighter to get seriously hurt, a scene took place after the fight that warrants attention.

During his post-fight interview, Kovalev stated that he wants to unify the rest of the Light-Heavyweight division and called out WBC world champion Adonis Stevenson saying “I would like to fight Adonis Chickenson.” Stevenson, who was in attendance responded by getting the ring and proclaiming that he was the champion before both fighters were separated by others in the ring.

Readers who have been following the ongoing landscape of the Light-Heavyweight division in recent years have seen this observer state numerous times that it is time to make Stevenson-Kovalev a reality. Although Kovalev clearly provoked Stevenson with his remarks following his second victory over Pascal, there is no excuse for the near scuffle that took place as Stevenson attempted to get at Kovalev. Even though some would say it was simply a hype tactic perhaps on both sides to generate interest in a showdown between the two, it was not necessary and was simply “Classless.”

The fact is Sergey Kovalev and Adonis Stevenson are the two best Light-Heavyweights in the world and each has enjoyed success in their respective reigns as Light-Heavyweight world champion. Given the scene that took place following the Kovalev-Pascal rematch, this observer believes it is time for Boxing’s respective sanctioning organizations the World Boxing Council, (WBC) the World Boxing Association, (WBA) the International Boxing Federation (IBF) and the World Boxing Organization (WBO) to take action to make this fight a reality.

Both fighters have had multiple title defenses in the respective reigns and have defended their titles against mandatory contenders, both fighters have significant followings and interest in a fight between the two has only increased in recent years. Although a clear benefit of the ongoing dialogue between the sport’s respective governing organizations can ultimately prove to be beneficial in regard to not only regulation, but also determining one undisputed world champion per weight class, such dialogue would also be beneficial if the governing organizations worked together to ensure that bouts between the sport’s marquee stars and bouts that would ultimately benefit Boxing overall take place.

Although the politics of the sport involving different television networks and rival promoters will always be a factor in one form or another, it is time that those who regulate the sport step in to ensure that what will ultimately benefit Boxing takes place and in the process put an end to any possible grandstanding that might be taking place that would prevent things and events in the sport from happening that would be considered progress.

Whether or not Boxing’s respective governing bodies can or will intervene in this instance to make a bout between Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev a reality remains to be seen. It would be interesting however, to see one or more of these organizations attempt to mandate a fight between the two with a possible consequence being stripping one or both fighters of their respective world championships if a fight cannot be made. Although it would seem like a drastic measure for the sport’s respective sanctioning organizations to take and perhaps wishful thinking, if nothing else it might apply the kind of pressure needed for the various television networks and rival promoters to make this fight a reality.

Even though anticipation naturally grows when a potential encounter between two stars of the sport takes a significant period of time to come to fruition, if Boxing fans are asked to wait too long before finally getting the chance to see a fight that they have been clamoring for, it may ultimately lead to disappointment and a subject that could be considered a “Black Eye” for the sport. We have seen the sport suffer far too many “Black Eyes” and have seen some of Boxing’s biggest events leave the Boxing fan filled with disappointment and anger.

It is time for one of the biggest fights that could be made to become a reality. To Boxing’s respective sanctioning organizations, the television networks, and the rival promoters that are involved this observer simply has one thing to say “Make It Happen!”

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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