On January 30 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, unified Light Heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev (28-0-1, 25 KOs) will put his titles on the line once again against Jean Pascal (30-3-1, 17 KOs), a former champion in the weight class.
The first fight, which took place last March, was an exciting one that ended in a knockout victory for Kovalev in the eighth round. The reason there is a rematch is because Pascal, although he got stopped, exposed some weaknesses in Kovalev’s armor. Most notably his susceptibility to being countered. Pascal caught Kovalev with some excellent counter-punches that actually stunned the Russian star. And after both fighters scored victories in interim bouts on the same card, the rematch was made.
While Kovalev still possesses world class trainer John David Jackson in his corner, Pascal has added a new chief second in Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach. Roach, at first, was reluctant to train Pascal, but after Pascal’s persistence he finally agreed to train him.
Will the addition of Roach in his corner change the outcome of this fight for Pascal? Only time will tell. If Roach is to make any difference for his fighter come fight night, he has to instill a few things in Pascal’s head that he has to execute every round. Namely, jab to the body.
In the first fight between Kovalev and Pascal, Kovalev, the taller and heavier puncher, was able to use his height and power to be the aggressor. Pascal was unable to keep Kovalev off of him and had to rely more on his counter-punching. Other than counter-punching, Pascal found success when he was able to get low and get off with the overhand right, catching Kovalev flush at times.
In this fight, Pascal will need to take advantage of Kovalev’s height and when fighting low, throw the jab to the body. And instead of always coming back up top with the overhand right, come with the straight right to the body. Also, Pascal must improve his head and foot movement in order to make Kovalev miss and counter with the straight right hand to the head.
For Kovalev, there’s not much that should be changed from the first fight with the exception that he needs to fight lower against the shorter Pascal. There were several times in the first fight that Kovalev was fighting too tall and got caught with overhand rights that he probably wouldn’t have gotten caught with if he bent his legs more and made it harder for Pascal to throw his most effective punch.
If Kovalev is to continue fighting tall, then he needs to use his left hook more, which is a very effective weapon for him. When he sees Pascal attempting to throw the overhand right, counter with the left hook. Otherwise, Kovalev utilized his jab, straight right hand and footwork beautifully in the first fight setting up angles to hit Pascal from that were accurate and extremely powerful.
In the end, Pascal needs to avoid getting hit as much with flush right hands to the head, which was set up primarily by Kovalev’s jab. Also, Pascal needs to wear Kovalev down by jabbing and throwing straight right hands to the body. It was obvious in the first fight that Pascal doesn’t have the power to rely solely on countering and throwing overhand rights to Kovalev’s head.