Pascal vs Kovalev: The Picks

Jean Pascal confronts the most difficult test of his career when he faces Sergey Kovalev at the Bell Centre tonight. It’s a premier match-up in the light heavyweight division and a test for both men. If Pascal secures a victory, his career is reborn and his reputation rehabilitated. If “Krusher” Kovalev prevails, it’s another compelling piece of evidence to back up the claim that he is currently one of the best pugilists in the world. Herewith, contributors to The Fight City offer up their picks.  

There is chatter in Montreal about Kovalev getting decked by sparring partners, but barring any issues with the champion’s conditioning there is no logical reason to pick against him. The simple truth is Pascal has not defeated a serious contender in over four-and-a-half years. I don’t count a shell-shocked Lucian Bute, so we have to go back to Pascal’s win over Chad Dawson in 2010 to find a victory which matters and qualifies him as an elite boxer. To go from guys like George Blades and Roberto Bolonti to Sergey Kovalev is a huge leap up in class and it would be extraordinarily difficult for any fighter, let alone Pascal, to navigate it. And I’m not even mentioning his lack of activity. I see the hometown fighter being competitive in the early going as his unorthodox style and timing allow him to land some clean shots. But he will wilt under Kovalev’s pressure in the middle rounds and tire quickly. After that, and until it’s stopped, Pascal absorbs serious punishment.  Kovalev by TKO in 11      –Michael Carbert

Pascal Kovalev Hat
Antics at the press conference.

Kovalev breaks Pascal down over the the fight’s first three quarters and the referee intervenes to save the challenger from further punishment. Kovalev by TKO in 10               –Eliott McCormick

Pascal has home field advantage, a career with long gaps of inactivity, and a fighting style whose awkwardness matches the impropriety of his verbal provocations. Kovalev has remarkable punching power, great ring generalship, a star-making performance against Hopkins, and momentum on his side. I can envision Pascal giving Kovalev trouble in some rounds, maybe even stealing a few with some eye-catching right hands, but I certainly can’t see him beating the Krusher. I do think he will go the distance, thanks to his proven chin and the support of the Bell Center crowd. Ultimately, Kovalev’s power and superb combination punching will be too much for the Haitian-Canadian. Kovalev by unanimous decision.               –Rafael García

I just heard some juicy stuff and I’ve gone from thinking Pascal doesn’t have a prayer to believing he can do it. This is Montreal, this is Pascal’s town, and this is going to be the greatest night of his career. I love my city! Pascal by decision.   –Manny Montreal

Can Pascal pull off the upset?

It may be a tedious cliché, but styles really do make fights. And it’s for this reason I think Pascal, with his unconventional movement and sporadic raids from the outside, might have more success in the opening four rounds against Kovalev than the technically superior Bernard Hopkins did throughout 12. However, once Pascal begins his customary fade somewhere around the fifth or sixth round, and his technique, concentration levels and self-belief waver as a result, the Russian boxer-puncher will soon take over and begin systematically breaking the Haitian native down. I see Kovalev effectively limiting Pascal’s ring space with calculated footwork and containing him via a sustained body attack. I also believe Kovalev’s jab (especially when closing the distance) and combination punching along the ropes will be key factors. Pascal has proven himself resilient in the past, but there’s a very real possibility here that the powerful Kovalev will become the first man to defeat him inside the distance. Kovalev TKO 11        –Lee Wylie

The duration of this fight depends on how long Pascal can spend boxing on the back foot. Kovalev will once again be methodical and exploit the openings that will show up in the second half of the fight. After the challenger’s antics at Wednesday’s press conference I suspect a fire may have been lit under Kovalev, if it hadn’t been already. But he isn’t the sort to lose his cool over Pascal who was mind-numbingly stupid to bring up Roman Simakov. I see a slow, painful break down of everything Pascal offers, ending with the Haitian-Canadian unable to beat the count in the seventh round.    Kovalev by KO in 7   –Shaun Brown

I think this match is a lot closer than people think. Kovalev looked great against a 49-year-old Hopkins, but he doesn’t have many formidable opponents on his résumé . If  Pascal can use his speed and wits, I could see this being a competitive fight. Pascal is as durable a light heavyweight as there is, and Kovalev is certainly going to test that. That said, I’ve got Kovalev taking a competitive unanimous decision, with possibly a knockdown or two mixed in. I think his power will wear Pascal down.     –Shawn Smith

Kovalev Hopkins
Kovalev dominated Hopkins, who gave Pascal his second career loss.

Pascal had trouble with Carl Froch. In a lot of ways, Kovalev is a better, more powerful Froch. The only possible way Pascal wins is by decision, but I don’t think he will be able to steal enough rounds down the stretch.  If it does go the distance, there is a likelihood of Pascal sustaining a number of knockdowns which would put a points win out of reach. But I don’t think we will hear the final bell.  Kovalev by KO in 9         –Ryan Franco

On Saturday night, Jean Pascal will have the hometown advantage but the pro-Pascal crowd might be the only edge the Haitian-born Canadian enjoys. Pascal has a tendency to run out of gas as fights wear on. As for the champion, with the exception of a 50-year-old Bernard Hopkins, Kovalev’s record is no as impressive as Pascal’s. However, the explosive and thorough manner in which Krusher has dominated is the real key to his legitimacy. I think Pascal will look to use his speed in an unsuccessful attempt to outbox the Russian champion whose power and ability to cut off the ring will be too much for the challenger.  Kovalev by KO in 6.       – Emile Ferlisi

In my view Kovalev is more than a bit overrated. Yes, he’s an accomplished fighter and a deserving champion, but take away the Hopkins win and it’s not like he’s demolished Murderer’s Row. His reputation of being a fearsome destroyer is based on wins over guys like Ismayl Sillakh and Nathan Cleverly. Unlike them, Pascal has a proven chin and can punch a bit and his unorthodox style is going to create problems for the Russian. This is going to be a far more competitive fight than most expect. I don’t see Pascal stopping Kovalev and I also don’t think the Quebecer’s stamina issues have mysteriously disappeared, but I believe he understands what’s at stake and is primed for the fight of his life. It’s going to be a fun, hard-fought distance battle and after the final bell the crowd goes crazy when Pascal’s hand is raised. Pascal by decision.     –Robert Portis

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