It’s been said after Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fight on May 2nd, boxing will fade into oblivion because nobody will care about it any longer, which certainly isn’t a reach. Well, then again, maybe not so fast. For almost a decade Mayweather and Pacquiao have carried boxing’s torch as the most popular combat sports personalities in the world. They are both a part of today’s culture and even quasi and non-boxing fans are familiar with who they are and their history. However, once they settle their score in less than seven weeks, fans won’t have much use or care about them unless they fight a rematch, thus extending their relevance six months longer, at most.
I’ll tell you then what. How about Gennady Golovkin 32-0 (29), the baddest middleweight in the world, how about the baddest and most complete light heavyweight on the planet, Sergey Kovalev 27-0-1 (24)? It seems the next day after whoever fought last between them, is thought of as being boxing brightest emerging star. Last month it was Golovkin after he stopped Martin Murray, who had never been stopped before in his career. Now it’s Kovalev after stopping a very quality and tough challenger named Jean Pascal 29-3-1 (17), who like Murray, had never been stopped before fighting Kovalev.
This week it’s all about Kovalev, who looked very complete and dangerous in stopping Pascal in the eighth round this past Saturday night to defend his three title belts. And let it be said that Pascal is a very unorthodox, gutsy, tough and hard punching light heavyweight contender/former title holder. And for as long as the fight lasted Jean never stopped trying to take Kovalev out. Never before has Sergey been rattled so much and forced to fight with such a sense of urgency during his professional career. And he answered the call in a big way, yes he did. Kovalev took some big shots from Pascal and was never in real trouble, and he immediately fired back and thwarted Pascal from seizing the moment.
Whenever Kovalev is mentioned, most focus on his ability to pressure his opponent and attack. But during the bout with Pascal, he showed that he is also very versatile. Pascal was trying to sucker him and attack in spurts, and he managed some success catching and rattled Kovalev with some big right hands from often-times unorthodox angles. And after being buzzed and knocked off his game in rounds five and six, Kovalev, almost like water, molded his attack around Pascal’s unpredictable assaults and adjusted. Once he saw that Pascal was trying to sucker him, Kovalev started jabbing to the stomach and chest, which blunted Pascal’s aggression and forced him to re-set. And that’s when he pecked at him with the jab and tried to steer him into his right hands and follow up left hooks.
Kovalev’s jab was the best weapon for either fighter during the bout. It’s very sophisticated in that he used it offensively and defensively. As a defensive weapon, he forced Pascal into having to address it, either by backing away or launching a haphazard counter attack. When he backed off and moved to another spot, Kovalev turned up the heat and forced him into doing what he didn’t want to do. And in turn if Pascal chose to go after Kovalev, Sergey was lying in wait and nailed him coming in.
During the most spirited moments of the fight, Kovalev displayed for all to see that he’s much more than an attacker who can punch with both hands. Sergey can fight inside and outside very effectively, and if you hang around and don’t move your hands or feet, he’ll willingly take the initiative and get off with accurate three and four punch combinations. Unlike middleweight terror Gennady Golovkin, Kovalev is equally effective pushing the fight from behind his jab as he looks to set up his finishing punches -or- he can step back and counter, thus luring his opponent into his right hand and quick short hooks and uppercuts. Pascal experienced and was forced to deal with all the tools at Kovalev’s disposal. And for eight rounds he kept the fight interesting before it was stopped.
Sergey Kovalev is a very intelligent fighter who has fight altering power in both hands. John David Jackson, his trainer, has done well by him. He can box and move backward when he has to, and he’s very patient. He’s also improving with each fight. His intelligence and hard work (as well as his natural power) are what brought him to the top of the division. He has to be favored over any other light heavyweight in the world until somebody beats him.
Maybe the best news of all is, Kovalev, like Golovkin, wants to fight the best every time out. And if Kovalev and Golovkin are the two best hopes to reboot boxing once Mayweather and Pacquiao are gone, Kovalev has the pole position. Because his wins over Hopkins and Pascal are more significant than any of Golovkin’s wins, that, and he’s the more versatile fighter.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
Photo Credit : David Spagnolo/Main Events