By: William Holmes
On Saturday night the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada will be the host site for the next edition of HBO’s World Championship Boxing series and Sergey Kovalev puts his IBF, WBO, and WBA Light Heavyweight titles on the line against Nadjib Mohammedi.
Former light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal will also be in the ring and will open up the telecast against Yunieski Gonzalez.
Premier Boxing Champion series will also be holding a card in Las Vegas on the same day that will be televised on NBC Sports Net. It’s rare to see two big promoters put on two cards in the same city on the same day, but the HBO card will feature the bigger draw.
The following is a preview of both of the televised bouts on HBO.
Jean Pascal (29-3-1) vs. Yunieski Gonzalez (16-0); Light Heavyweights
Jean Pascal was last seen in a ring against Saturday night’s headliner, Sergey Kovalev, in the friendly confines of the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada in which he put up a much better fight than expected before getting stopped in the 8th round when he finally succumbed to the power shots of the Russian.
He will face a tough, young prospect on Saturday night with an impressive amateur background as well as an impressive knockout ratio.
Gonzalez is a former member of the Cuban national team and had fought over 350 amateur bouts. He has stopped twelve of his opponents and is currently riding a seven fight knockout streak.
Pascal also had an impressive amateur career as he represented Canada in the 2004 Olympics and is a former gold medal winner in the Commonwealth games. Slightly more than half of Pascal’s victories have come by way of stoppage, but he has only had one stoppage victory in his past seven fights.
Pascal has faced some of the best the light heavyweight division has to offer throughout his career. He has defeated the likes of Lucian Bute, George Blades, Chad Dawson, Adrian Diaconu, Silvio Branco, and Darnell Boone. His three losses were all to top contenders, including Carl Froch, Bernard Hopkins, and Saturday’s headliner Sergey Kovalev.
This is a major step up in competition for Gonzalez, but he’s thirty years old and he’s way due for a major test in his career. His only notable victories include Rowland Bryant and Jinner Guerrero. His past two fights were against opponents with losing records at 10-16 and 6-10.
This is a big step up in competition for Gonzalez, and it may be too big of a jump to go from fighting someone with a record of 10-16 to a former light heavyweight champion of the world. He has the amateur pedigree to be a good boxer, but Pascal should easily box circles around Gonzalez.
Sergey Kovalev (27-0-1) vs. Nadjib Mohammedi (37-3); IBF, WBO, and WBA Light Heavyweight Titles
Nadjib Mohammedi has been the mandatory number one contender for the IBF Light Heavyweight Title since he stopped Anatoliy Dudchenko in June of 2014 and has agreed to step aside for two fights to allow Bernard Hopkins face Sergey Kovalev, and then to later allow Sergey Kovalev face Jean Pascal.
After waiting for over a year, Mohammedi finally gets his chance at a legitimate light heavyweight title. However, he’s a major underdog and for good reason.
Kovalev has stopped an incredible twenty four opponents and nine of his past ten fights have resulted in a stoppage. Mohammedi has stopped twenty three opponents, but he has nine stoppage victories in his past ten fights.
Kovalev had a successful amateur career that included reaching the finals several times in the Russian Senior Championships that featured amateur Russian standouts such as Matvey Korobov and ARtur Beterbiev. Mohammedi does not have the amateur pedigree of Sergey Kovalev.
Mohammedi is thirty years old, two years younger than Kovalev. Mohammedi will also be giving up about a half inch in height and an inch and a half in reach to Kovalev.
Kovalev’s power is impressive and the level of competition that he has faced has been steadily increasing. He has defeated the likes of Jean Pascal, Bernard Hopkins, Blake Caparello, Cedric Agnew, Ismayl Sillah, Nathan Cleverly, and Gabriel Campillo.
While Mohammedi is currently riding a knockout streak that rivals Kovalev’s, he hasn’t faced the level of competition of his counterpart. His notable victories include Anatoliy Dudchenko and Hakim Chioui. Mohammedi has also failed when he has faced high level competition in the ring. His losses were to Thierry Karl, Nathan Cleverly, and Dmitry Sukhotsky.
Kovalev should dispose of Mohammedi easily and early and it’s hard to imagine a situation in which Mohammedi walks out the victor.