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Pascal rewarded with rematch against Kovalev, but will he regret it?

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By John J. Raspanti

On January 30th, Jean Pascal will meet Sergey Kovalev for the second time in a boxing ring. Last year Kovalev, the WBA, IBF, and WBO light heavyweight titleholder, stopped former champion Pascal in Round eight at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada.
 
The call for a rematch was hardly deafening. Kovalev was comfortably ahead on the judges’ scorecards at the time of the stoppage. He floored Pascal for the first time in his career and hurt him on numerous occasions. Pascal did battle back in Rounds four and five, showing a champions heart as he tagged the overly aggressive Kovalev with lead right hands. 

Kovalev ended matters in Round eight. A combination sent Pascal wobbling into the ropes. Kovalev followed up with a whipping right hand that relieved Pascal of his senses. He teetered but didn’t go down. Kovalev, like a Russian assassin, lined Pascal up and let fly with another blistering right hand. The blow crashed off the side of Pascal’s head.
 
Referee Luiz Pabon jumped in and stopped the contest. Pascal wasn’t happy. He felt the match had been stopped prematurely.
 
"I don’t want to take anything away from Kovalev,” Pascal said in the ring after the fight. “He’s a great champion but that was a bulls--- stoppage because I was still in the fight. That was a tough fight for both of us, and I don’t know why the referee just stopped the fight. It’s not hockey.
 
"I was in the fight from the first round. I’m sure that I gave him his toughest fight. We should do it again. We should have a rematch."
 
Kovalev readily agreed, “I’m ready for any fight. If my promoter [Kathy Duva of Main Events] says I need to fight Jean Pascal again, I am ready."
 
The rematch happens in a few days at the same venue. Pascal, a big underdog, was channeling Rocky the last time.
 
He’ll need more than movie magic to defeat Kovalev in the sequel.
 
A gun would help.
 
Second go-arounds in professional boxing are traditionally hit-and-miss affairs--mostly misses.
 
In 1946, heavyweight champion Joe Louis met Billy Conn for the second time. Five years before, Louis, behind on points, had dramatically knocked out Conn in round 13. The rematch was anti-climactic. Louis won again by knockout. Neither fighter was same guy--skill wise. Conn looked gun-shy while Louis had slowed down.
Thirteen years later, challenger Yvon Durelle floored defending light heavyweight champion Archie Moore four times between rounds one and five. 
 
Moore willed himself to stand and fight on. His inner strength sapped Durelle—plus a number of hooks. Moore won the bout in round 11.
 
They met again in 1960. Durelle didn’t stand a chance. Had he gotten over being brutally stopped the first time? It didn’t look like it. 
 
Moore knocked him out in three one-sided rounds.  
 
More recently, then pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather, and tough-guy Marcos Maidana boxed a couple of times. Mayweather had won the first fight, but it wasn’t easy. Maidana went all dirty on Mayweather. He roughed him up and hit him, legally and illegally. Some folks demanded another fight between the two. 
 
Mayweather happily obliged. 
 
He defeated Maidana by a wide decision.
 
Pascal, 33, was last seen in the ring six months ago winning a highly-debatable decision over Yunieski Gonzalez. 
 
Kovalev, the headliner that night, dominated an over-matched opponent.
 
Pascal looked bored and beatable. Soon after the bout, he fired Marc Ramsey, his long-time coach. Ramsey had helped Pascal win a gold medal at the Francephone Games, and, as a professional, capture the WBC light heavyweight title in 2011.
 
Last November, Pascall enlisted the services of future Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach to prepare him for his rematch with Kovalev.   
 
"I’ve come to the conclusion that in my corner I needed a new perspective and I thought that Freddie would be the right fit,” Pascal told ESPN. “I realized I need to improve on and correct certain mistakes I made in my loss to Kovalev.”
 
Roach’s fighters are aggressive. Their defense is usually their offense.  Is Pascal planning on trying to knock out Kovalev?  
 
To win, he’ll have to outbox the powerful Russian. Trading with the champion sounds like suicide. During an open media workout a few days ago, Kovalev discussed his motivation.
 
“This fight is personal fight,” said the 32-year-old..“It is not everything true that he is speaking. I understand for why he is doing this. He is trying to make me angry. I am giving him a reminder. I didn’t do my job last time. I should have stopped his career.”
Kovalev feels he’s prepared for whatever Pascal will bring to the ring.
 
“I don’t have any plans for the fight, ”Kovalev said. “We will go to the ring. A boxing fight is a street fight. No rules. It doesn’t matter what he will bring. I must be ready for anything. I don’t think about Pascal. I don’t think about what he will be. He has good motivation and he has a new coach, but I just should be ready for anything. If he will bring something better, it doesn’t matter.”
 
Pascal is just as confident as Kovelav.
 
“I know what I have to do to win this fight,” said Pascal at his workout last week. “Freddie Roach taught me what I needed to learn. The last fight everyone was saying I need a rematch because it was Kovalev’s closest fight ever. It is going to be a good fight. The main thing for me is to stay focused.”
 
Words are cheap.
 
Actions speak.
 
Look for the hard-punching Kovalev to put Pascal away before Round 10.
 
This time, there won’t be any complaints.
 


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