Pascal Gets His Man
On Tuesday, Main Events CEO Kathy Duva confirmed that a deal is now set for Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev to face Montreal native Jean Pascal in March. The bout will take place in Quebec, though it has yet to be determined whether Montreal or Quebec City will host. This is, to say the least, a significant development in what has become boxing’s most intriguing division as Kovalev, the conqueror of Hopkins and an emerging star, will take on arguably the division’s most dangerous and bankable contender. But, while a significant development, it’s also bittersweet, since most fans would rather see Montreal puncher and lineal champ Adonis “Superman” Stevenson face Kovalev. Due to some strange, or ill-advised strategic decisions, Stevenson has effectively ceded this fight, and the spotlight, to local rival Pascal.
In one sense, it’s a bit surprising that Pascal signed on to fight Kovalev when there remained a good chance a bout with “Superman” would have taken place in April, possibly for more money. Pascal is the mandatory challenger for Stevenson’s WBC belt and a fight between the two Montrealers would probably have been bigger than Pascal’s disappointing intra-provincial bout with Lucien Bute. Kovalev is an excellent boxer but he’s not from the province, which makes the promotional angle less appealing, even if it’s still a big event. Essentially, Pascal is possibly taking less money to fight a more dangerous opponent, which doesn’t square with his history of patient career-building. Conversely, perhaps he just figures the opportunity was too good to pass on, given the uncertainty of trying to make a fight with Stevenson.
For Kovalev, it won’t be the first time he’s boxed north of the American border. Last year he destroyed Ismayl Sillah on the Stevenson-Bellew undercard in Quebec City. Given his ascendance in boxing, the “Krusher’s” name resonates everywhere the sport is popular. He is also coming off of his greatest, most legitimizing win, a twelve round domination of Bernard Hopkins. As all Canadian boxing fans know, Hopkins did serious work in Quebec, fighting to a draw with Pascal in Quebec City and then clearly decisioning him in Montreal. Having thoroughly outboxed Hopkins earlier this month in Atlantic City, Kovalev’s stock has never been higher.
What sort of scrap can we expect? Pascal’s willingness to fight such a difficult opponent is admirable, but it’s his boxing acumen, not his toughness, that’s always been questioned. The Haitian-Montrealer is a tremendous athlete and can take a shot, as he did repeatedly in his fist loss to Carl Froch, but he’s never shown the ability to outbox a tactician, as Kovalev demonstrated in his win over Hopkins. “Krusher” punches incredibly hard but he can also fight patiently. Pascal’s defense, which can be easily penetrated, might be his undoing against Kovalev’s calculated, heavy punching. I can’t envision Pascal out striking or out boxing Kovalev, but I can imagine him taking his first stoppage loss.
As for Adonis Stevenson, he must feel like the loneliest man in the loneliest sport. That is, unless he and Al Haymon have hatched a plan in which all of us are their unwitting dupes. I have no information that suggests this is the case, but such is the paranoid speculation Haymon fosters in boxing watchers. In her press conference to announce Kovalev-Pascal, Kathy Duva said: “The truth is that these fights are easy to make when both fighters want to be in the big fights and the promoters and managers are willing to be reasonable and work together.” It’s hard not to read this comment as a shot at Adonis Stevenson and Al Haymon, which whom Duva reportedly had a deal earlier this year to face Kovalev. Duva later sued Haymon, likely in an effort to expose his business practices as much as it was to get money from him, but later dropped the suit.
Before Pascal gets to Kovalev, he has to fight Roberto Bolonti this Saturday in Montreal. No one is particularly interested in this fight, since Pascal’s opponent is so lightly regarded and because this match came about in unusual circumstances. Saturday’s card was supposed to be headlined by a Lucian Bute-Roberto Bolonti main event, with Pascal facing Donovan George on the undercard. Bute pulled out with an injury, and rather than cancel the event, Pascal became its headliner. The whole premise of Pascal fighting on Bute’s undercard—a fighter he’d authoritatively beaten in his last bout—struck many as strange, but Pascal wanted to get rounds in as he sought better competition. Needless to say, Sergey Kovalev represents far better competition.
Roberto Bolonti will provide rounds but he probably won’t provide a test. That Duva announced the Kovalev date this week shows the lack of regard all sides have for Pascal’s challenger. The promoter said she will be in Montreal on Saturday to finalize the details for the March date with Interbox’s Jean Bedard, who is representing Pascal in the fight’s negotiations. If they cannot secure the Bell Center for March 14, the bout will be held in Quebec City. Having twice denied Stevenson and Al Haymon prize money by getting Kovalev to fight Hopkins and now Pascal, she must be thrilled her fighter has another lucrative bout that won’t line the pockets of her enemies. Pascal must be equally happy. He ineptly tried to troll his way to a fight with Stevenson but was rebuffed and made to look foolish. Now he’s getting paid and Adonis Stevenson is not.
This was all big news in the Quebec boxing scene, and caused more than a few derisive smirks at Adonis Stevenson, whose professional momentum, after his spectacular rise, has come to a complete stop. For Team Stevenson, whose primary interest is making money, it would have made more sense for him to fight Pascal, make a boatload, and then move on to Kovalev. Pascal’s date with Kovalev has denied him that opportunity, and Stevenson now has to wait to see what happens.
Saturday looks like another mediocre date in what has been a mediocre year for boxing, but there is intrigue at play behind the scenes in Montreal. We wait, with interest, to see what develops.
— Eliott McCormick
4 thoughts on “Pascal Gets His Man”
Stevenson better retire. He is 38 and what is he going to do now? Kovalev will beat Pascal and what? Will he then become a mandatory contender for Stevenson? If not, who will he fight then? Beterbiev is from the same stable. The longer Stevenson avoids a potential showdown with Kovalev, the fewer chances this bout will ever happen given Stevenson’s age. Stevenson should give his belt and title to Beterbiev.
Thanks for reading Igor. For me, Stevenson-Kovalev is one of the most intriguing fights in all of boxing. It’s impossible to predict what direction Al Haymon will steer him in, but hopefully it will lead toward the Krusher, because that’s clearly the division’s best fight. Unlike most 38 year old fighters, Stevenson doesn’t have a lot of professional miles on his body, so the hourglass hasn’t almost emptied out. Regardless, somebody needs to step up and make this fight. I like how you mentioned Beterbiev. He’s exciting, hard-punching, and should become a very formidable light heavyweight.
Eliott, after a lackluster performance of Adonis against Fonfara, especially in the second half of their bout, when Stevenson apparently ran out of steam, makes it clear that he may have only a puncher’s chance against Kovalev and only in the first half of their match. But if Fonfara quickly recovered after being knocked down twice by Adonis, Kovalev would definitely will too, especially since he moves very well in the ring, feels the range and will hardly be knocked down more than once in the first half. In the second half, however, Kovalev can easily step up to an overwhelming pace, what we saw in his 12th round of Hopkins encounter and, given thta Adonis cannot take the punch as well as Bernard, he will most likely be stopped in round 8 or 9. As for Artur Beterbiev, the ideal plan would be for Michel to organize an aliminator between him and. say Umberto Savigne in spring 2015. If Artur beats the Cuban he will become a mandatory contender to either Kovalev’s belts or, preferably to the WBC belt. And then Stevenson will not be able to duck, but will have to defend his belt against Beterbiev, maybe in summer 2015. I personally believe Adonis will have no chance at all against Beterbiev who has a granite chin, unlike Kovalev. I think this will be a one-sided beating of Stevenson. And then in the fall of 2015 a unification fight between Kovalev and Beterbiev might be a possibility, with an impressive purse. If I were Beterbiev’s promoter that is the schedule I’d make for him in 2015. Fight #8 – Savigne, Fight #9 – Stevenson, Fight #10 – Kovalev. Artur is a very experienced and accomplished fighter and he wants big fights right now. If Michel continues to protect Adonis from the two Russians Beterbiev should better change his promoter. The fights I mentioned would readily be bought by either Showtime or HBO and Beterbiev can earn a lot of money. I actually do not see the point in protecting Stevenson who will be 38 next year, the age of a journeyman. He is longer longer the goose to lay golden eggs, especially after his fan base has been undermined by his apparent ducking of the strongest.
Yes, Adonis didn’t look good against Fonfara. He wasn’t sharp or aggressive and was knocked down, all of which are antithetical to what you would call a ‘good performance.’ Right now, Kovalev should be (and I think is, by every one in boxing), considered the best light heavyweight in the world, and will be favoured if they ever meet. I don’t think he’s an overwhelming favourite, though, because Stevenson can box. Remember, when he stopped Cloud last year he showed skills we didn’t know he had. Stevenson also has good feet, so I don’t know if Kovalev’s footwork is a huge advantage. Kovalev moves well, certainly, by stalking his opponents across the ring, and, like Beterbiev, pushing them into uncomfortable places along the ropes and in the corners. Will Stevenson be able to escape and counter punch? Maybe, maybe not. We don’t know as Stevenson hasn’t been in with anyone close to Kovalev’s ability. While I’d favour Sergey in that fight, I think it’s hardly a foregone conclusion he’ll win. Stevenson has the rare ability to end a bout at any moment. I’d love to see how well Kovalev’s chin can withstand one of Adonis’s power punches.
As for Beterbiev, I think he has the potential to be one of the division’s best fighters. Like Kovalev and Gennady Golovkin, he fights with the same deliberate, precise menace. Also, like those two he’s a very controlled puncher and picks his opponents apart, rather than foolishly pressing for the knockout. He also has excellent technique, which is a byproduct of his extensive amateur background. And, while Beterbiev has only six pro fights, the 29 year old is a polished boxer. But, being ‘polished’ doesn’t make fights, marketability does. Stevenson won’t meet Beterbiev any time soon because both men fight under the GYM banner and Yvon Michel will never match them until it makes absolute financial sense to. It doesn’t make sense right now because Beterbiev is still only regionally-known, having only six career fights. Additionally (and perhaps most importantly), Michel won’t steer Beterbiev towards Stevenson because it will make the loser less bankable, which takes money out of Michel’s pockets, which the promoter obviously won’t stand for. Consequently, I don’t think the Saving-Stevenson-Kovalev continuum is possible for Beterbiev. Artur will eventually get his opportunity, and like you, I think he has tremendous potential. It just don’t think it will happen as linearly as you’ve laid out. Like everything that happens in boxing, his path will probably be circuitous.
One more point: I don’t know how great of a hindrance Stevenson’s age is. 38 isn’t particularly old in boxing today, especially for a fighter who, like Adonis, doesn’t have many pro miles on his body. I don’t know what direction his career is going in, only Al Haymon and Yvon Michel do. But I want to see him in the ring against someone better than Dmitry Sukhotsky. As a boxing fan, my patience is wearing thin.