Four point preview: Sergey Kovalev vs Jean Pascal 2

Shawn Smith
29/01/2016 7:01am

No, you’re not seeing double. Last year’s blistering light-heavyweight showdown between 175lbs champion Sergey Kovalev and challenger Jean Pascal is happening again.

In their first meeting, an intense effort from Pascal was thwarted by the heavy-handed Russian, who gave Pascal the first TKO loss of his career. This time, with new trainer Freddie Roach in tow, Pascal has promised an even stronger effort. There are many factors to consider heading into what will likely be Montreal’s biggest fight night of 2016.

1) Could Kovalev be looking past Pascal? 

Rumours have swirled for months now that Kovalev is primed for a summer or fall showdown with long-time super-middleweight champion Andre Ward, a much-more significant opponent than Pascal.

As the fight against Pascal has inched closer, people cannot stop focusing on the potential Kovalev vs. Ward showdown, and with good reason. It’s one of the biggest fights that can be made in boxing. Writer Eric Raskin said on the HBO Boxing podcast that a win for Kovalev is a win for boxing, and he’s not wrong about that. The more big fights the sport can host, the better.

That being said, with the constant talk about Ward, it may be hard to focus on an opponent you’ve already defeated.

2) The Roach factor

Pascal enters the most important fight of his career with no Mark Ramsey in his corner. In his place is esteemed trainer Freddie Roach, who has guided multiple world champions throughout his career.

It’s customary for a fighter to take a warm-up fight with a new trainer before diving into the deeper waters, but Pascal has foregone that, opting for the best fighter in his division.

And while it’s easy to say that a new trainer wouldn’t impact a fighter’s career dramatically, Roach’s work with Miguel Cotto has been outstanding. Cotto went from a fighter who most thought was through after a thrashing at the hands of Austin Trout to become one of the best middleweights in the world. 

3) Is Pascal past his prime?

While Pascal gave Kovalev more fight than any opponent we have seen, he followed up that fight with a disappointing effort against Cuban Yunieski Gonzalez, despite emerging victorious. Many felt Pascal lost the bout against Gonzalez and may have been gifted a decision to help set up this fight with Kovalev.

Did Kovalev beat what was left of Pascal out of him in their first fight? There’s no question that Pascal’s back is against the wall. Will that lead to him being at his best, or will he fall to the pressure?

A loss for Pascal may actually work well in his hopes for a potential showdown against Adonis Stevenson, who has been peculiar in his choice of opponents over the past two years. Alternatively, a loss could lead to a rematch with the rejuvenated Lucian Bute, who reinvigorated his career with a valiant performance against James DeGale in November 2014. 

4) Can Dmitry Mikhaylenko be a factor in the welterweight division?

While Karim Mayfield may not have been Dmitry Mikhaylenko’s original opponent, the bout still presents the Russian welterweight with an opportunity to break out as a star.

Finally getting an HBO co-headlining spot, Mikhaylenko will look for an impressive performance against Mayfield that should catapult him into title contention.

The 29-year-old is known for his ability to finish fights; if he can stop Mayfield, who has never been stopped, it could mean another opportunity on the big HBO stage.