MONTREAL — Someone forgot to tell Jean Pascal that he had no chance against Sergey Kovalev. Before his hometown fans, Pascal provided Kovalev’s stiffest test to date in surviving an early knockdown and hellacious power shots to hurt the Krusher and turn the tide in the middle rounds. Unfortunately, there is only so many clean shots a man can take before they reach their limit. But had Pascal got to that point at the time the ref pulled the plug?
TECHNICAL VS. ATHLETIC; Knowing that he couldn’t match Kovalev’s technical boxing skill, Pascal’s strategy revolved around being fast and athletic enough to catch the champion with haymaker counter right hands. Through the first four rounds, Pascal failed to do that with any consistency and absorbed hard jabs (to the head and body), and guard-splitting right hands for his trouble.
It would be the right hand that knocked Pascal through the ropes in the third and resulted in the first official knockdown of his career. Luck would be on the badly dazed Canadian’s side as the fall occurred in the round’s final moments.
Then things got interesting.
Pascal made small strides in the fourth by landing a few solid body blows and succeeded in keeping Kovalev at bay.
“I let him off the hook,” Kovalev would later state.
Pascal’s amazing rally started in the fifth. He finally found range with those big, looping rights. A few of them stunned the champion and turned Pascal into the aggressor. Pascal’s body punching, and occasional low blows that the ref let slide, had an even greater effect of making Kovalev got into immediate retreat. Pascal continued his comeback in the sixth and was trailing on all cards by 55-58 headed into the seventh.
But Pascal had exerted so much energy in those two rounds that a breather was required, and that’s where Kovalev took over for good. He outworked Pascal in that seventh stanza behind repeated hard left jabs. This threw off the rhythm of Pascal’s overhand rights and Kovalev added his own lethal right hand for good measure.
In the eighth, a series of right hands followed by a left hook sent Pascal careening into the ropes. The challenger was in dire straits before an errant Kovalev slip halted a potential fight-ending flurry. Both fighters went to opposite corners to gather themselves per referee Luis Pabon. Pascal appeared to slip himself, prompting Pabon to ask if he was alright before continuing. Pascal confirmed he was, but never left his corner. Kovalev pounced on him with two flush right hooks that prompted Pabon to stop the contest.
SHOULD HAVE CONTINUED IN RETROSPECT: Watching it live, I thought the stoppage was ok. It looked to me that Pascal was still wobbly in the corner, and the referee was within his rights to call it seeing that Pascal ate two big shots and didn’t seem in position to defend himself from several more bouncing off his skull.
But seeing it now, Pascal deserved more time to prove he was done. Yes, that is risky — a referee will always err on the side of caution and be too early rather than too late. But after what Pascal showed in coming back from that third round and the numerous other big powershots he shook off, you can understand his post-fight frustration.
“It was a tough fight for both of us, but that was a bullshit stoppage… I’m sure I gave him his toughest fight,” said Pascal. “This is the sport of boxing. You take some to get some. The referee was waiting for that moment.”
NEW BUSINESS: A rematch would be fun, but the next order of business for Sergey Kovalev should be attempting to unify with WBC champion Adonis Stevenson, who was reportedly in the building and told Bernard Hopkins, who was handling HBO broadcasting duties, that he will fight Kovalev.
Far as I’m concerned, Kovalev is the division’s champion. Yes, Stevenson has the linear claim, but his competition has greatly diminished that stature compared to what Kovalev’s done over the past year. The fight needs to happen to erase any doubt, but I expect Krusher to come out on top. Stevenson has a massive punch and more technical skill than Pascal, but Kovalev is still the better boxer and his showing last night convinced me that he can withstand Superman’s power. Stevenson’s track record leads me to believe he won’t be able to do the same.
CUNNINGHAM ON THE OTHER SIDE OF ANOTHER HEAD-SCRATCHING CALL: Steve Cunningham has been turned into the Mauricio Herrera of heavyweights in losing a unanimous decision last night to Vyacheslav Glazkov. It was a very dull fight to watch with Cunningham seeming to gain a strong lead (5-1 on my card) through the first six rounds. But Glazkov did take much of the play away from a tiring Cunningham in the last three rounds by landing harder shots. In the end, the judges appeared to favor Glazkov’s bigger punch and gave him the benefit of the doubt in every round (116-112 twice and 115-113) while ignoring Cunningham’s higher workrate, defense and ring generalship.
CHILEMBA UD10 LEPIKHIN: In a case of a young fighter being in over his head, Isaac Chilemba completely dominated a gunshy Lepikhin in the triple-header opening. Chilemba was the only one willing to fight and landed uppercuts and inside body shots at will. Lepikhin’s corner kept threatening to stop the fight in the second half. It was not out of the punishment Lepikhin was taking, but more so the disgust at his lack of effort. And due to Chilemba not possessing a huge punch and being cautious by nature, fans had to endure this listless bout going the full 10-round distance. Scores were 100-90 and 99-91 twice.
You can be sure we won’t be seeing Lepikhin on HBO anymore. As for Chilemba, he’ll be kept on reserve as a potential Kovalev opponent should things (again) not materialize with Adonis Stevenson.