When I look at the championship fights already scheduled for early 2015, by far the one that excites me the most is Sergey Kovalev vs. Jean Pascal. Both fighters love action and come to fight, both are solid light heavyweight contenders, and both had a very good win in 2014.
In the case of Kovalev, make that “great win.” The Krusher dropped and whipped Bernard Hopkins in November, handing the ageless wonder his seventh defeat. In so doing, he also beat the naysayers who said his approach to pugilism was too crude, and that the sport’s grandmaster would bamboozle him.
Kovalev might lack all the technical bells and whistles, but what he does he can do very well, and that would be putting hurt on the other guy. For B-Hop it proved too much.
Pascal just came back from a hiatus imposed by promotional disputes, and had a tune up fight with Argentine journeyman Roberto Bolonti. Given that Bolonti is the kind of guy who loses to Tony Bellew and Juergen Braehmer, it would have been a huge surprise if he defeated even a rusty Pascal. Unfortunately, the fight ended abruptly with a No Contest after Pascal hit Bolonti on the break, and Bolonti stayed down on the canvas (or perhaps opted not to continue).
Odd NC or not, Kovalev vs. Pascal will still be a go. Of course, prior to this, the Haitian immigrant cleanly outpointed crosstown rival Lucian Bute, in yet another installment of the all-Montreal drama at 175 lbs.
Kovalev vs. Pascal
Kovalev is the favorite against Pascal, for reasons that should be obvious to any observer familiar with the two men. Pascal is fundamentally a swarmer, a style that means tangling with your enemy and outlanding him, winning on the basis of volume punching and superior work rate. Although the Montreal resident is tough enough to take hard shots from the likes of Carl Froch, it is hard to see a guy who by nature catches a lot of leather not succumbing to the hurting bombs of a guy like Sergey Kovalev.
The one glimmer I see for Pascal is that Kovalev has never really fought another world class guy with good power. Pascal isn’t much of a hitter, but it may just be that Pascal will prove tough enough to weather Kovalev, who might prove to not be able to take it half as well as he dishes it out, and thereby win a war of attrition. The chances are admittedly slim, but it is possible.
Can Either Get Stevenson? Probably Not
When Adonis Stevenson bolted for Showtime, he became a contender for the biggest disappointment of 2014, because his choice deprived fight fans of a match they dearly wanted to see: Kovalev the bruiser vs. Stevenson the knockout artist. If Kovalev beats Pascal, the pressure on Stevenson will only increase.
Even so, I doubt Kovalev vs. Stevenson will happen in the next few years. Superman is contractually bound to Showtime, and the financial incentive of any light heavyweight showdown simply isn’t enough to make the cable networks cooperate, whoever is in it.
What if Pascal scores the upset and wins? Pascal is not as tied to HBO as Kovalev is, and he was penciled in for a showdown against Stevenson, also a Montreal resident and crosstown rival, in April. That fell through and Pascal picked up Kovalev instead.
Ostensibly what would be a Pascal vs. Stevenson unification bout would be easier to make happen than a fight with Kovalev, but if one thing is clear now it is that Adonis Stevenson isn’t super enough to pursue a stern challenge right now. Instead, Stevenson seems to have a deal with Showtime similar to what Bute once had with HBO: get paid well to fight second-tier opposition while all the real action happens on the other network. With fights like Pascal vs. Bute, Kovalev vs. Hopkins, and now Kovalev vs. Pascal, that real action is clearly on HBO.