Photos: Will Hart
By Kieran Mulvaney
On May 26, 1969, John Lennon and Yoko One checked into Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel and, for seven days in four connected rooms – for the record, rooms 1738, 1740, 1742 and 1744 – staged a “bed-in” for peace. During their stay, they were joined by the likes of Tommy Smothers, Murray the K, Timothy Leary, Dick Gregory and Allen Ginsberg; and it was there, on June 1, that they all joined together to record Lennon’s anthemic “Give Peace a Chance.”
That ethic had clearly been washed away by the waters of the St. Lawrence River by the time, 46 years later and four miles away at the Casino de Montreal, Jean Pascal and Sergey Kovalev took their places for the final pre-fight press conference ahead of their Saturday light-heavyweight rematch. There is genuine enmity between the two camps, and it was on full display as Pascal paraded around the dais heaping scorn on Kovalev, and the Quebec fighter and the Russian’s trainer had to be separated after a slanging match threatened to turn physical.
The most outwardly restrained of the principals was, perhaps surprisingly, Kovalev - who ten months ago had happily flipped Pascal’s camp the bird, has referred to Pascal as a “piece of shit”, and on Wednesday jokingly questioned in an interview whether his opponent had a brain – and it was the same at Friday’s weigh-in. After both scaled under the 175 lb. limit, Pascal marched over to Kovalev to lock eyes for the obligatory face-off, but Kovalev wanted none of it, staring at his foe long enough to give the assembled photographers a few shots before turning away.
Beyond the broader antagonism, there is a fight to be fought, and Pascal’s weigh-in bravado might seem surprising given that, when last these two met at the same Bell Centre venue last March, he had to be rescued by the referee after, in Kovalev’s dismissive words, “he was drunk on my punches.” But the Haiti-born boxer had some genuine moments before that, and has apparently convinced himself that he had momentum on his side when the referee intervened. By the same token, however, he clearly recognizes that changes are required, given that he has exchanged long-time trainer Marc Ramsey for Freddie Roach. Roach, says Pascal, has the “eye of the tiger” and can notice details that elude other cornermen, which is why he hired him; it is perhaps telling, however, that the confrontation with Jackson escalated after Kovalev’s trainer asked rhetorically, “Where’s Marc? He’s not here because he said you would get knocked out.”
The smart money is on that alleged prediction coming true, but it is clear that Pascal’s venom, however much it might have been played up for promotional purposes, is genuine; and so too is the colder, dead-eyed loathing that Kovalev sends in his direction. Both men will enter the ring with extra incentive to not just win, but to do so with as concussive a finality as possible. That night, the Queen Elizabeth Hotel wil be a short walk and another world away.
Weights from Montreal:
Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev: 174.6 lbs.
Jean Pascal: 174.3 lbs.
Dmitry Mikhaylenko: 146.7 lbs.
Karim Mayfield: 147 lbs.