Jean Pascal vs. Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev by the Numbers
by Tyson Bruce
What’s At Stake?
This weekend in the boxing hotbed of Montreal, Canada hometown hero Jean Pascal will try and make his comeback go full circle when he takes on the division’s most feared fighter in Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev.
It’s the latest attempt by Kovalev to encircle the division’s true lineal champion, Adonis Stevenson, by defeating yet another of the weight class’s elite boxers. If he’s successful, it will be virtually impossible to justify Stevenson as the best fighter in the division, lineal champion or not.
This was a point acknowledged by Kovalev at the most recent press conference:
“For me, this fight is very interesting because it is next step in my career, the next test in my career. For myself I want to prove who I am on this level, in front in this huge arena, in my first time fighting in huge arena like this. I am very happy and waiting for Saturday. Thank you so much.”
Very few fighters ever change their reputation in one fight the way Sergey Kovalev did when he defeated Bernard Hopkins last year.
Going into the bout, Kovalev was regarded as a terrifying but technically a basic knockout artist. In fact, many top experts believed the forty-nine year old Hopkins had enough boxing acumen to upset the Russian puncher.
Kovalev completely flipped conventional wisdom on its head by administering one of the finest displays of technically precise boxing in recent memory. Almost instantly, Kovalev has become viewed as a more complete “boxer-puncher”.
Pascal has had a remarkable career resurgence considering that just four years ago he looked like the latest in a long line of talented young fighters to be neutered by the aforementioned Hopkins. Pascal’s win over the faded Lucian Bute may not have been a critically acclaimed performance, but it did ensure that he took sole possession as “king-pin” of Montreal’s lucrative boxing market.
For Pascal, the fight with Kovalev is not only a chance to put the Hopkins embarrassment behind him, but would actually take his career to a higher level than it was before the two Hopkins bouts.
How many other Hopkins victims have recovered to score a career best win? Just one. That was Glen Johnson, who seven-years (and eight losses) after being stopped by the “Executioner” in 1997 would defeat Antonio Tarver for the lineal 175-pound title in 2004.
Kovalev’s Transformation Was Gradual, Not Sudden:
In boxing, it can be very easy to fall in love with conventional wisdom. Most people felt that Kovalev was a one-dimensional wrecking machine until he out-boxed Hopkins. In fact, his transition towards becoming a more complete boxer has come on gradually over his last several fights, at least according to the numbers.
During his rise up the ranks, Kovalev was a freight train moving downhill and obliterating whatever was in front of him. According to compubox, Kovalev averaged an astonishing 81.6 punches per round against Darnell Boone, Lionel Thompson, Gabriel Campillo, Cornelius White and Nathan Cleverly.
One of Kovalev’s greatest strengths as a fighter lies in his ability to quickly assess what’s in front of him. When he sees immediate weakness, as he did with the previously mentioned fighters, his killer instinct is tremendous and none of them lasted more than four rounds.
Since Kovalev has been a champion, however, his tactics and pace seem to have changed. The knockouts have continued (except in the case of Hopkins) but the way he goes about it has changed. Against Ismayl Sillakh, Cedric Agnew and Blake Caparello his pace slowed dramatically, as he threw just 43.6 punches per round, which is below the division average of approximately 53 per round. Conversely, Kovalev’s defensive numbers have improved across the board. Hopkins managed to land just sixty-five total punches in twelve rounds against Kovalev.
Pascal Needs To Do More:
In the biggest victory of Pascal’s career against then champion Chad Dawson, his unpredictable and highly unorthodox style was on full display. It’s a style he patterned after his hero (and current trainer) Roy Jones Jr., and it caused the technically astute but often lackadaisical Dawson nightmares. In Pascal’s ensuing fights, however, we saw the faults of his mimicry.
Jones was a fighter that would save energy by baiting fighters and setting traps for his highly unconventional but deadly counterpunches. In his last four fights, Pascal has made the sometimes-cautious Jones look like Henry Armstrong by throwing a cringe-worthily low 33.9 punches per round. Pascal, unlike Jones, is also very often times an arm puncher and as a result possesses just a 51% knockout ratio, as compared to Kovalev’s 85% knockout rate.
Pascal’s punches are very flashy and if he can slow the pace they very often steal him rounds because they register on such a visual level. Against a more passive opponent like Dawson or Bute, this worked wonders, but against a murderous puncher with a spear of a jab like Kovalev, it could be disastrous.
In the lead up to their second bout, Hopkins ridiculed Pascal for being a four-round fighter because of his notoriously poor stamina. Pascal’s tendency to throw wild punches has often left his gas tank on empty in the later rounds of big fights. Even in his two biggest victories against Dawson and Bute he showed intense vulnerability late in the fights.
Against a fighter that starts as quickly as Kovalev (who has 21 KOs inside of four rounds), Pascal’s usual strategy of early aggression could be suicidal. In order to achieve victory, it will be incumbent upon Pascal to be more productive in the later rounds. Despite his victory over Hopkins, Kovalev has gone past seven rounds just once in his entire career.
Pascal seems mentally up to the challenge.
“I said the best scenario is to give the fans 12 good rounds and then try to knock him out in the last 15 seconds of the fight,” says the Haitain-born Canadian.
That would certainly end any claims about Pascal’s lack of gas mileage.
Kovalev’s Punch vs. Pascal’s Chin:
One of the more prevalent stylistic storylines going into the bout has been whether Kovalev can dent Pascal’s up to now iron chin (the Canadian has never even been knocked down) and what will happen if he cannot.
Since Kovalev burst onto the boxing scene with a string of violent, hip thrusting knockout victories, there have always been quiet rumors floating under the surface about the Russian’s ability to take a punch. Kovalev has suffered just two knockdowns in his career, and one of those was a complete flash knockdown against Blake Caperello.
So maybe it’s that all knockout artists have a question mark on their jaw until some one of equal measure takes aim at it? Or maybe its all those rumours that middleweight title-holder Gennady Golovkin put him over in a sparring session?
While those claims lie completely within the realm of innuendo, Kovalev was knocked out in the unpaid ranks against amateur rival Abbos Attoev. Kovalev, to his credit, has taken very little return fire as a professional and a good trainer will always tell you that the best chin is the one that never gets hit. However, this is pro boxing, and at some point Kovalev’s jaw will get tested by a big shot.
Pascal, on the other hand, is perceived to have an iron jaw by the vast majority of the media. He has never been down as a professional and stood toe-to-toe with the hard-punching Carl Froch in a twelve round war. Yet, could the claims of Pascal’s George Chuvalo-esque chin be slightly overblown?
Pascal proved in the Froch bout that he could handle a big shot from a 168-pounder, but Pascal has yet to show that he can take a big shot from a legitimate light heavyweight. Both Hopkins and Dawson (who had Pascal badly hurt in the eleventh round) are not considered big punchers for the division. Conversely, Kovalev is arguably the division’s best puncher since Mathew Saad Mohamed.
In other words, if Pascal believes that his best chance to win the fight is because he takes a superior punch, then he is doing his sincere best to justify the 4-1 odds in favor of the “Krusher”.
Emanuel Steward and Adonis Stevenson Ready for FNF
By Hans Olson
Friday night is big for Quebec-based boxer Adonis “Superman” Stevenson, who takes on Noe Gonzalez for the WBC Silver super middleweight title at the Bell Centre in Montreal, in the feature bout of ESPN’s Friday Night Fights telecast.
“Definitely for Adonis it means a lot,” said Stevenson’s Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward when speaking with Boxing Insider Wednesday.
“Because you know, he kind of sort of say broke on the scene with that unbelievable devastating knockout over Jesus Gonzales.”
The first round bludgeoning of Gonzales became not only Stevenson’s biggest victory to date, but a YouTube sensation, and a clear cut leader for Knockout of the Year. It was the latest in a string of impressive outings from “Superman.”
After suffering his lone career loss two years—albeit a questionable stoppage loss—Adonis has been on a tear. Last year, victories over Derek Edwards, Dion Savage, and Aaron Pryor Jr. put him in position to challenge Jesus Gonzales for the IBF’s #2 rating.
As sensational as that victory was, Steward knows that Stevenson (17-1, 14 KOs) must stay active in a loaded 168 lb. division.
“Everyone wants to take a second look now with another qualified fighter,” continued Steward.
That qualified fighter is Noe Gonzalez, who is currently rated #2 by the WBC. Boasting a great KO% of 68.97, the Uruguayan born Argentinian would appear to be a major threat—but Steward sees those numbers a little differently.
“He’s not that big a puncher as his record shows. He basically wore down his opponents…a lot of them smaller guys. He won by stopping them and winning decisions later on. But I don’t think anyone saw him knocking out a quality guy with one single punch without having to have worn them down. It’s a big difference in the punching power.”
Steward feels that they have the perfect game-plan to avoid that very scenario.
“We worked on Adonis being in great condition because that’s the only advantage that Gonzalez would have. He can’t match Adonis with speed, not with power. The main thing is he would be expecting to wear Adonis down. The last few days Adonis was boxing 12 rounds and at a very hot, hot Kronk Gym. There was no break at all, and he wasn’t even breathing hard after 12 rounds!”
Steward, who has trained some of the greatest fighters of all time including Thomas Hearns and Wladimir Klitschko, felt an immediate connection with the Stevenson, a Haitian-born Longueuil native who now resides in Detroit.
“With Adonis, you know sometimes you run across a guy that you click with,” continued Steward. “The fact that he lives about a mile from my house–he’s stopping by–I have a really mean German Shepherd puppy that don’t like nobody … but him and Adonis gets along good!”
The family-like atmosphere is what Emanuel prefers.
“I’ve got a guy named Derrick Coleman who’s my assistant. He [also] does a lot of quality time with him. It’s a type of a situation where I’m more effective. Even with Wladimir we have a very close bond. We talk to each other nearly every day. So the connection goes beyond boxing. That’s why I don’t like to have too many fighters because you lose that personal connection when you got maybe five, six, seven, eight, ten fighters at one time.”
That isn’t to say Steward and his team aren’t busy enough as it is…
“Adonis is training here at the Kronk Gym with Andy Lee…and Ronald Hearns is fighting back at the Kronk where he started as a kid. He’s also fighting [Friday], so we had to split up the team. My nephew Sugar Hill and Andy Lee are going to Mississippi. They’re already there now, they’re working with Ronald and I needed to come up here with Derrick Coleman and Adonis.
“We’re spit-up with two fights in the same night, and all of us have been training together. And Adonis has been boxing with Ronald Hearns, because he’s fighting [Erislandy] Lara. This Friday is a very big night for all of us at Kronk.”
Noe Gonzalez: A Real Challenge for Adonis Stevenson
By Hans Olson
This Friday at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Adonis “Superman” Stevenson returns to action, taking on Argentinian (by way of Uruguay) Noe Gonzalez. The fight will be televised in the United States live on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights.
Although North American fans have begun to take notice to the hard hitting Stevenson, many aren’t as familiar with Gonzalez. Boxing Insider caught up with Noe’s advisor, Sampson Lewkowicz, on Wednesday.
“I can tell you that he’s a counter puncher,” said Lewkowicz. “He’s a boxer that doesn’t take so many chances, but is very solid, with well educated defense…and he can punch like a mule! With that in mind, I can almost guarantee you that he will win by KO.”
Gonzalez boasts a record of 28-1 with 20 knockouts. His lone defeat was at the hands of Germany’s Felix Sturm back in 2007. Currently rated #2 by the WBC, Gonzalez is putting a lot on the line against Adonis Stevenson, one of the most dangerous fighters in the sport. Going into Stevenson’s hometown won’t make the task any easier.
However, Lewkowicz feels it’s a risk well worth taking.
“I always say to my fighters, if you want to go to the next level, you need to fight high risk fights,” he says.
“This one is a risk fight—probably the best fight on ESPN this year. [It’ll be] very competitive, and I believe it’s a 51/49 percent fight—and the 51% is for Noe Gonzalez.”
Born in Pando, Uruguay, and now living in Santa Fe, Argentina, the 32-year-old Gonzalez was last seen in action back October of last year, easily knocking out Mexico’s Paul Rodriguez in 2 rounds. It was his 13th consecutive knockout win. One assumes he has every intention to make Stevenson the 14th in a row.
“I can assure you that he’s very motivated for this fight,” continued Lewkowicz.
“The winner has really something very special because they’re fighting to fight for a world title of the WBC. Furthermore, I need to give Yvon Michel credit because he put his fighter in so tough. In Montreal, it’s well educated fans [who want to see] a real fight, and that’s what it is. I imagine that he will have a full stadium, well deserved, because he brought a real fight to the fans.
“I can tell Canadian fans that you have a real fight. Don’t miss this fight because it’s bombs away. I have full confidence that Noe Gonzalez will walk away victorious.”
Adonis Stevenson vs. Noe Gonzalez is without a doubt…a real fight.
Adonis Stevenson vs. Noe Gonzalez on FNF Official
By Hans Olson
Wasting no time between fights, Adonis “Superman” Stevenson jumps right back in the ring on April 20 to face Noe “El Carbonero” Gonzalez in a 12-round elimination bout for Stevenson’s IBF Intercontinental, North American Boxing Organization (“NABO”) and North American Boxing Association (“NABA”) 168-pound titles, as well as Gonzalez’ WBC Silver title. Gonzalez is currently rated #2 at 168 lb. by the WBC.
Confirming what I reported in last week’s Quebec Scene column, the fight will be televised live in America on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights.
“We are pleased to showcase this eliminator bout with two solid fighters who both have impressive KO records and ability,” said Doug Loughrey, ESPN Director of Programming, in Groupe Yvon Michel’s press release today.
“The Bell Center has continuously delivered great fights with a passionate and dedicated live boxing audience. We trust this Friday Night Fights telecast will capture that energy.”
Stevenson returns just weeks removed from his chilling knockout Jesus Gonzales back in February.
This was only a a couple months after his destruction of Aaron Pryor Jr. last December.
“Adonis could have waited until the IBF appointed another opponent,” said Stevenson’s promoter Yvon Michel, president of Groupe Yvon Michel (“GYM”) when referring to Librado Andrade’s refusal to fight the Longueuil native.
“But he is on a mission to become world champion. If he has to fight this eliminator to be the top contender in order to better position himself to become world champion, he will do just that, and a win over Gonzalez would be a major step in that direction.”
Noe Gonzalez, an Argentinian born in Uruguay, is a relative unknown fighter to most North American boxing fans — but his credentials are solid. A massive puncher, Gonzalez’ only defeat was a decision loss to the German WBO champ Felix Sturm in 2007. Since then, Noe has gone on to win 14 bouts in a row, 13 of those wins coming by way of knockout.
Also slated to appear on the card are local favorites Antonin Decarie, Elieder “Storm Alvarez, Oscar “Kaboom” Rivas, and Didier “Big Daddy” Bence.
Quebec Scene: Adonis Stevenson on FNF; Usmanee vs. Howard
By Hans Olson
Adonis “Superman” Stevenson will return to action on Friday, April 20, at the Bell Centre in Montreal, in a card that will be televised live on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights.
“The main event will involve Adonis Stevenson in a 12 round bout at Super Middleweight,” said promoter Yvon Michel through GYM’s Facebook page (translated from French)
“The co-feature will be a 10 rounder where Antonin Decarie will defend his WBC International Welterweight Championship. Opponents and other fighters on the card will be announced shortly.”
Stevenson, who is rated #2 by the IBF, was ready and willing to fight Librado Andrade in a fight said sanctioning body had ordered earlier in the week.
Andrade however, wanted no part of “Superman.”
“The IBF ordered an eliminator between Stevenson and me. I said no I’m not interested,” said Andrade to Boxingscene’s Jake Donovan.
“Stevenson can have Bute. In the meantime I’m going to have a stay busy fight to get back [on track] and then I will go from there.”
Maybe Andrade doesn’t want this to happen to him:
Decarie, who appeared on Friday Night Fights in February of 2011 (defeating Shamone Alvarez), is coming off of a fantastic performance last December in which he defeated Toronto’s Victor Lupo in Quebec City.
Montreal’s Arash Usmanee (17-0) will hit the road on March 17 when he faces Chris Howard (14-0-1) in Atlanta, GA for the vacant WBC Continental America’s title.
Usmanee is coming off a hard earned points victory last month against Innocent Anyanwu. Usmanee was dropped in the fight, but was able to recover and show a steel resolve through the final rounds to shade the win.
An unpopular decision in the arena itself—many boos were heard, strangely, when the decision was given to the hometown fighter—Usmanee can use his time on the road to bounce back from what wasn’t his best showing…and he’ll certainly look for a win of the dominant variety to re-ignite the buzz he had developed in the province up until his most recent showing.
Usmanee vs. Howard will be on featured on Wealth TV.