By: William Holmes
Main Events Promotions decided to have their top star, Sergey Kovalev, leave the familiar grounds of the East Coast and fight in Las Vegas and establish a fan base in the fight capital of the world. The Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada was the host site of tonight’s HBO World Championship Boxing telecast and featured two light heavyweight tilts.
The opening bout of the night was between former light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal (29-3-1) and Cuban amateur standout Yunieski Gonzalez (16-0).
Gonzalez did not have many tests as a professional at this point in his career but he came out in the opeing round and was able to land some hard right. Gonzalez established that he was able to take some of Pascal’s best shots early and was stalking Pascal around the ring. Pascal had a very bad start to the fight.
Gonzalez was sharp with his jabs in the second round and continued to walk Pascal down. There were several good exchanges in the second round that featured both boxers landing hard shots, but Gonzalez was landing more punches.
Gonzalez’s was landing chopping right hands in the third round and they got the crowd’s attention and he continued to tag Pascal in the fourth round. Pascal was able to connect with a couple lead right hands in the fourth and tripped Gonzalez near the end of an action packed fourth.
The fifth round was highlighted by several hooks landing in a row for Gonzalez, but some of his shots appeared the land behind the head and he was warned by the referee.
Pascal came out strong in the sixth round and he was able to land several right hand bombs that may have stunned Gonzalez, but Gonzalez was able to land a few hard shots of his own that wobbled the legs of Pascal. Pascal clearly hurt Gonzalez in the seventh round in what may have been his best round of the night.
Gonzalez opened up the eighth round with three good jabs in a row, but Pascal was able to answer it with a looping right hook and some good body work. Gonzalez however, landed more punches in the eighth round and followed it up with an excellent ninth round in which he stalked Pascal around the ring and connected with several hard combinations.
Many felt Pascal needed a knockout in the last round to win the fight, but he was unable to do so but he did land several stinging punches that would have sent most boxers to the mat.
This was a fight that appeared to have been a clear win for Yunieski Gonzalez , but sometimes judges see a different fight than 99% of the viewers.
The official scores of the fight were a terrible 96-94 on all three scorecards for Jean Pascal.
The main event was between Nadjib Mohammedi (37-3) and Sergey Kovalev (27-0-1) for Kovalev’s IBF, WBA, and WBO Light Heavyweight world title.
Mohammedi looked several inches shorter than Kovalev in the ring and he had difficulty finding his range in the first round. Kovalev was sharp with his jab in the first round, but he wasn’t able to land with his feared right hand in the first round.
Kovalev’s foot got stopped on in the second round and he slipped to the mat, but he was able to get back to his feet quickly and punished Mohammedi with a straight right to the temple that sent Mohammedi to the mat. Mohammedi was able to get back to his feet, but he remained on wobbly legs and attempted to tie up for the remainder of the round while doing his best to avoid the power shots of Kovalev.
Mohammedi showed good head movement in the early parts of the third round, but Kovalev’s punches eventually found it’s target and he connected with a two punch combination that ended with a hard straight left that sent Mohammedi to the mat again. Mohammedi appeared to have either broken his nose or eye socket from that punch and got up at the count of nine, but he was still hurt and the referee stopped the bout with no complaints from Mohammedi’s corner.
Sergey Kovalev won by TKO at 2:38 of the third round in a relatively easy fight for him.
After the fight Kovalev said, “I am very happy that I got the victory I gave my best; I am happy. I told him stand up. It was short show. People didn’t see boxing. I wanted to continue. I tried to continue longer this fight. I didn’t see Pascal fight, just a little bit. That was a good fight. What I saw of the fight Gonzalez was much better. If Pascal interested in rematch I am ready. It is boxing. I want to fight this guy too [Gonzalez]. I am ready for anyone. I am ready for any fight, any opponent. It is boxing. It is sport. If fans want to see and promoters want to make the fight, I am happy; I will do it.” He then proceeded to throw gifts into the crowd to his fans.
According to Mohammedi, a thumb in the eye made him unable to continue. He said, “I couldn’t open my eye. After the knockdown I knew I was in a fight. I started to catch him with shots [in the third]. Kovalev is a skilled fighter and it takes time. Unfortunately, I got a thumb in my eye.”