Sergey Kovalev improved to 27-0-1 with his 24th KO on Saturday night as he stopped Jean Pascal in the 8th round of a wildly entertaining light heavyweight fight in Pascal’s hometown of Montreal. The main event of HBO’s World Championship Boxing telecast turned out to be more of a slugfest than was expected as Pascal responded to a third-round knockdown with several heavy-handed rallies.
Kovalev retained several world title belts with the stoppage which came at the 1:03 mark of round eight.
Kovalev imposed his will early, culminating in the knockdown late in the third round. As Pascal (29-3-1, 17 KO’s) wobbled to his corner, it didn’t look like the fight would progress very far into the fourth round.
But Pascal showed his moxie by surviving the in-for-the-kill assault of Kovalev and started landing surprising power shots on the Russian’s face. In the fifth round, Pascal served notice that this was a fight. A back-and-forth struggle that didn’t seem possible just two rounds earlier was on.
Kovalev slowed his attack, mindful of the power shots coming from the suddenly-dangerous Pascal. The hometown crowd got involved as Pascal landed clean shots to the face of Kovalev and seemed to turn the tide.
The end came with some controversy, as Pascal was punished in a corner before Kovalev tripped to the canvas, causing a stoppage. When action resumed, Kovalev landed a picture-perfect right hand that jacked the jaw of Pascal and prompted referee Luis Pabon to wave it off.
I have newfound respect for Pascal, whom I didn’t think had the game to take part in a slugfest like this, especially against Kovalev. But I think the stoppage was probably right.
Pascal has an awkward posture that makes it hard to see on television just exactly how badly he is hurt. He surprised Kovalev numerous times by throwing meaningful shots after taking blows that looked to wobble him. But at the point when Kovalev tripped in the eighth round, just before the stoppage, he was teeing off and had hurt Pascal.
The shot that landed when the fight resumed was clean and damaging and it showed that Pascal wasn’t in any shape to defend himself. In that light, it looks like a good stoppage by Pabon. It may not have looked good on television with the partisan crowd supporting Pascal. But the third man in the ring has insight that no one else has and on this occasion I believe he acted appropriately.