The rematch between light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev and former champion Jean Pascal in Montreal Saturday night was a bout that really didn’t need to happen. Kovalev’s defeat of Pascal in the first bout was entirely definitive. Pascal showed heart in the bout and even won a round. But he got hurt early, took heavy damage throughout the fight, and the Round 8 stoppage by referee Luis Pabon was entirely justified. That fight ended with Pascal trapped in a corner, getting blasted by right hands from Kovalev and offering absolutely no defense.
Pascal didn’t even deserve to win his follow-up fight, last July, against Yunieski Gonzalez. But because of Pascal’s drawing power in his adopted hometown of Montreal, a rematch between him and Kovalev made some sense, from a business perspective.
Pascal has the type of pride typical of many championship level prizefighters, which in this case led him to insist the stoppage last March had been premature. The build up to this second fight created a lot of bitterness between Pascal and Kovalev, with Kovalev promising to punish Pascal in the ring.
The undefeated Russian made good on that promise. While the first fight was one-sided, this one was nothing short of a slaughter.
Kovalev methodically pounded away at Pascal, with the Canadian unable to do anything in return. As the rounds went by, it began to appear that Kovalev was actually hammering at Pascal just enough to hurt him badly, but holding back just enough to keep him in the fight. In his post-fight interview with Max Kellerman, Kovalev confirmed that had indeed been his intent.
It was a chilling admission, especially considering that Sergey Kovalev has already killed one opponent in the ring.
Pascal’s iron chin and heart allowed him to keep going, even as he was being battered, making a dangerous situation even worse. A sudden, dramatic knockout can be scary, but it rarely has the same lasting impact as a sustained beating applied to an opponent who won’t go down. Pascal will almost certainly never be the same fighter again. We should all hope that he can still be the same man.
As boxing fans, we do have to admit that this kind of gruesome spectacle is at least an occasional outcome in our sport. Praise was heaped on Freddie Roach for stopping the carnage, but the fact is, he probably should have stopped it two rounds earlier. Note, I’m not criticizing Roach, who was in a tough position, with his fighter begging to continue.
Sergey Kovalev’s pounding of Pascal reminds us how brutal boxing can be. If nothing else, it should make boxing fans think twice the next time they find themselves mindlessly screaming for blood.