Kovalev vs Pascal: All Eyes on Montreal
Tomorrow, as Sergey Kovalev prepares to unleash his Russian freight train of a right hand and battle hometown hero and former world champion Jean Pascal, the eyes of the boxing world will be on Montreal. Fight fans from across North America will fill the Bell Centre to watch Pascal attempt to bring home the IBF and WBO World Light Heavyweight Championships, and potentially set up a unification bout against rival Quebec-based fighter, Adonis Stevenson.
Most pundits don’t see that happening however, as Kovalev is expected to defeat Jean Pascal in front of his hometown fans. Some even pick Kovalev to become the first to finish Pascal inside the distance. But despite the long odds against the challenger (in Vegasa a solid five-to-one underdog) a case can be made for both boxers having a chance to win.
For Kovalev, his power has been the ultimate equalizer throughout his career, having knocked out 23 of his 27 opponents. And while he was generally regarded as a puncher, Kovalev showed maturity and skills in his last bout, outpointing Bernard Hopkins by a wide margin. Kovalev is the physically bigger of the two fighters and will unquestionably look to use that size to his advantage, bullying Pascal and keeping him off balance to find openings for his heavy shots.
For Pascal, it’s about speed and letting his hands go. He’s arguably the more athletic of the two fighters, and he has more experience in 12 round bouts. Not known as a power puncher, Pascal has relied on his toughness and speed to become a world champion and earn victories over Adrian Diaconu and Chad Dawson. He will look to make his bigger opponent work early, not allowing him to conserve energy for the later rounds. And he will need to be active in order to inhibit Kovalev and find opportunities to land meaningful blows.
As is often the case with Montreal boxing events, the undercard is filled with interesting prospects and action fights. The co-main event will see heavyweight Steve Cunningham take on Vyacheslav Glazkov in what should be an interesting bout. For Cunningham, it’s a crossroads fight of sorts. He’s now dropped four of his last eight bouts, and another loss could likely eliminate him from title contention for the remainder of his career. The undefeated Glazkov, a bronze medalist at the 2008 Olympics, is looking to cement himself as a talent to watch over the next decade.
Vasily Lepikhin, a 29-year-old Russian prospect, will seek to maintain his undefeated record as he takes on South Africa’s Isaac Chilemba in a light-heavyweight affair. Chilemba’s only loss since 2007 came at the hands of British cruiserweight Tony Bellew, and he’ll be hoping to derail the Russian with a knockout.
The undercard is filled with familiar names to Montreal fans, including recent world title challenger Dierry Jean, and prospects Yves Ulysse and David Theroux. Jean is looking to bounce back from a rough 2014 that saw him lose his world-title bid to Lamont Peterson before briefly stepping away from the sport to deal with addiction issues. His opponent was originally scheduled to be “Hammering” Hank Lundy, but instead its Dominican Republic fighter Carlos Manuel Reyes stepping in.
Ulysse and Theroux are two of Montreal’s brighter prospects, both emerging in 2014 as fighters to watch. For Theroux, it’s another gatekeeper he’s expected to dominate while Ulysse may have the first true test of his career when he takes on the 17-1-1 Miguel Antoine. All of these bouts add up to one exciting night of fights in Montreal. If things go as planned for the Canadian fighters, we’ll have another world champion to call our own and a few more prospects that much closer to the elite-level. — Shawn Smith