Reflections on Kovalev-Pascal 2

Shawn Smith
01/02/2016 7:50am

While the beautiful people of Montreal were out in full force on Saturday night, there was little beautiful about the ugly, violent beating that Krusher' Sergey Kovalev put on old foe Jean Pascal at the Bell Centre.

The crowd roared as Pascal was introduced, the kind of roar that only boxing fans know. The kind that drowns out a live band, a DJ, and anything else you might have been thinking about. The kind that shakes the ground and gives you goosebumps.

But those roars were subsided rather quickly on what ultimately turned out to be a disappointing performance from Montreal’s Pascal, who offered little resistance to the constant onslaught of Kovalev.

It was a savage beating, the one that Kovalev put on Pascal, before Freddie Roach mercifully called an end to the fight following the seventh round.

And while the crowd booed as the fight was stopped, they quickly came around. When the result was announced, boos were drowned out by those who appreciated Kovalev’s performance.

The narrative of any fight is enhanced by either a back and forth battle or a certain punch that finishes the bout or changes the tide. This bout had neither of those things, but that didn’t stop it from telling a compelling, yet predictable, story.

There was no one punch to sum up this fight. Instead, it was a steady barrage of hard punches that Pascal seemed unready to take.

Too tough for his own good, Pascal refused to go down despite being hurt several times. Pascal offered even less resistance then he did in their first bout, which saw the Montreal resident land some significant punches before being stopped by a violent combination of shots in the eighth round.

This fight was an afterthought from the beginning, and Pascal did little to challenge that idea. It’s been reported that the contracts are already signed for Kovalev to take on former super-middleweight king Andre Ward in a November battle of pound-for-pound stalwarts.

While Ward was in attendance, Kovalev instead called out WBC and lineal light-heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson, as the Russian made clear his intentions of becoming the undisputed light-heavyweight champion of the word.

A raucous scene between Kovalev and Stevenson saw HBO analyst Max Kellerman awkwardly try to get a handle on the situation, but did little to create any actual buzz for a fight between the two. Nearly two years of negotiations have been at a standstill, leaving even the most optimistic of fans with little belief the fight could happen. Instead, Ward has emerged in Stevenson’s place, presenting an even more intriguing match-up for the seemingly unstoppable Kovalev.

We know where Kovalev goes from here: straight to the top. What is less known is what is left for Pascal. Despite a clear defeat, he has options due to his star power in Montreal.

While Eleider Alvarez is the mandatory challenger for Stevenson, it wouldn’t be surprising if Pascal could wiggle his way into one last title shot. The two Montreal-based fighters would certainly sell out any Quebec venue they chose to duel in.

The other option, and perhaps the more compelling one, is a rematch against Lucian Bute. Coming off of his fight of the year contender against James DeGale, Bute has had a career resurgence of sorts under the Grant Brothers Boxing gym. The two biggest stars in Montreal boxing would look to up their first bout, which was completely underwhelming.

Speaking of underwhelming, the HBO co-main event saw Russia’s Dmitry Mikhaylenko take on Karim Mayfield in an entirely bland affair. While Mikhaylenko bullied his way around the ring, using his long reach, he showed little skill in what was ultimately a disappointing performance. It was not the type of presentation that made anyone want to pay to see him again.

Renan St. Juste vs. Francis Lefreniere won’t get any fight of the year nods, mostly because it appeared on Quebec PPV instead of an HBO broadcast, but it was a stunning show of savage fighting. From the opening bell, the two French Canadians met in the centre of the ring, swinging violently at one another’s head. Throughout the following 30 minutes, they rarely slowed down. For the nearly 10,000 people in attendance, it was a performance that was unforgettable. While St. Juste may have came out on the losing end, he can take solace in knowing the fight will not soon be forgotten.

Montreal is Canada’s best fight city, and is quickly becoming one of the best cities in the world for combat sports. The undercard highlighted intriguing young talent, inspired by headlining acts of Pascal, Stevenson and Bute over the past decade. Fighters like David Theroux and Steven Butler put on impressive performances in their separate bouts, and Russian amateur standout Vislan Dalkhaev continued his run through the 122lbs division.

The ultimate message of the evening was this: the generation of Montreal fighters that the world fell in love with, the Butes, the Pascals, the Stevensons, are aging and fading, but what they’ve left behind is an inspired group of young men who are looking to accept the mantle. While the world will unquestionably focus on the Kovalev vs. Ward drama that is sure to grow over the following months, Montreal fight fans can rest easy knowing that a new breed of boxers is coming to take over.