Sergey Kovalev came into this bout with Jean Pascal a heavy favorite. That's probably because, until now, he had never been seriously tested, winning most of his fights by knockout, with one extremely dominant decision over Bernard Hopkins last time out. Aparrently, Pascal didn't get the memo.
Despite eating some heavy leather early, Pascal (29-3-1, 17 KO) refused to let himself be intimidated. It appeared that his night would end early when Kovalev (27-0-1, 24 KO) sent Pascal's limp body halfway through the ropes with a clean right hand in round three. With ten seconds left in the round, Pascal survived the count, and returned to his corner. The minute's rest seemed to reinvigorate him, as he returned with vicious counter punches in round four, not only surviving but clawing his way back into the fight.
Pascal ramped up his activity in the next round, winning it and forcing Kovalev, for the first time in recent memory, to retreat and stay on the defensive. In the next round, Pascal enjoyed more success, using some awkward defense to avoid Kovalev's power and land more powerful counters.
Kovalev showed impressive discipline for a fighter who has yet to truly struggle as a pro, and he returned to his jab and straight punches to the body to wear Pascal down and take the next round. Pascal fought valiantly in the next round, but Kovalev once again proved the devastating effect of his power, knocking Pascal silly before slipping and falling to the canvas. Pascal told the referee that he was good to go, but Kovalev marched right back into the pocket and, with two crushing right hooks around the defensive Pascal's gloves, convinced referee Louis Pabon to stop the fight.
Some will disagree with Pabon's decision, but Pascal had already taken considerable punishment, and appeared to be in bad shape before the stoppage. He may have staged another comeback, but Pabon made his decision for the fighter's own good, and it's hard to fault him for that.
Overall, this fight was sure to have earned both boxers some fans. Kovalev passed his first real test with admirable resolve, leaning on skill when he had to and delivering power when needed, and Pascal may have earned himself a rematch. If it happens, I'll certainly be watching.
Sergey Kovalev defeats Jean Pascal by TKO (referee stoppage) at 1:03 of Round 8