Three-belt light heavyweight king Sergey Kovalev and WBC titlist Adonis Stevenson were crowned two months apart in 2013 and ever since "The Krusher" crowned Nathan Cleverly before Cleverly's home fans in Wales they've been doing what best can be described as the "MayPac Dance." For years Kovalev-Stevenson has been the definitive match at 175 but politics, promoters and pride have prevented it from happening. With Stevenson ensconced with Al Hayman's PBC Kovalev has been forced to retrace old ground by meeting Jean Pascal, who he stopped in eight rounds last year. Now, 10 months later and inside the same venue (The Bell Centre in Montreal), Kovalev will seek to rinse and repeat.
Act I: While Pascal, at times, pushed Kovalev harder than anyone had a right to expect, the numbers told a more dominant story. Kovalev out-landed Pascal 122-68 overall thanks mostly to his underrated jab (36.6 thrown/8.3 connects per round) that created a 61-14 connect gap. Pascal, however, more than held his own in power shots as he trailed just 61-54 and landed 41% of his hooks, crosses and uppercuts to 30% for Kovalev. The champion floored Pascal for the first time in his career in round three, then finished the fight with two clean rights early in the eighth. Pascal protested the stoppage and the memories of his strong performance in the fourth and fifth rounds fueled rematch cries.
Since Then: They each have fought once, and it was on the same July 25 card in Las Vegas. Designed to spur interest in a rematch, Kovalev powerfully held up his part of the bargain by flattening tricky mandatory challenger Nadjib Mohammedi in three rounds. Kovalev's excellent jab (32 thrown/10.7 connects per round) helped neutralize Mohammedi's unconventional offense (32 punches per round) while Kovalev (56.7 per round) maximized his by scoring knockdowns in rounds two and three. In the end, Kovalev led 67-17 overall, 32-11 jabs and 35-6 power while leading 39%-18% overall, 33%-15% jabs and 47%-25% power. But while Kovalev looked every inch the champion, Pascal encountered unanticipated trouble from unheralded but undefeated Cuban Yuniesky Gonzalez, whose hustle (63.2 per round to 39.7 for Pascal) and finishing kick (38-26 overall, 25-19 power) allowed him to out-land Pascal 163-154 overall, 58-51 jabs and 105-103 power before losing a hotly disputed but unanimous 10-round decision.
Prediction: Pascal fought much better than expected in their first fight and he still fell short of the mark. Kovalev is one year more experienced while the 33-year-old Pascal is one year older. Don't look for him to trade with Kovalev because his output has historically been way below average (34 per round in his last 8 fights- lowest among ALL active championship caliber fighters. (L. heavy avg.: 52.9) Meanwhile, Kovalev has prospered whether he turns up the output (vs. Mohammedi) or chooses to box (vs. Hopkins). Even the Montreal crowd won't be able to push Pascal to an upset victory. Kovalev by TKO.