After an unexpected week off, I’m back to look at this weekend’s fights, including a pointless rematch between light-heavyweight king Sergey Kovalev and Jean Pascal in Montreal, as well as a decent card in London featuring the return of George Groves.
Kovalev and Pascal have tangled once before last March, when the Russian monster stopped the tough Haitian in eight rounds. Pascal, a former world champion had his moments, but was comprehensively beaten by Kovalev who has emerged as one of the sport’s stars in recent years.
But, has he really ran out of viable opponents already that he has to go back to Pascal? Following his wins over the legendary Bernard Hopkins and Pascal, he was expected to hit the stratosphere, but he’s been left treading water with a solitary win over Nadjib Mohammedi who was well out of his depth.
So, who’s fault is that? “Krusher’s” team has to shoulder a lot of the blame and are doing their level best to damage his career after doing so well to build him up. His victory in the UK over Nathan Cleverly looked to be just the beginning of the road to a huge fight with Adonis Stevenson.
But, Stevenson jumped to Showtime and Al Haymon, putting the fight in serious doubt. However, a glimpse of hope for the clash happening, after a long war fought out on Twitter and post-fight interviews, came from an unexpected source.
The WBC, who have a long history of protecting their champions from meaningful fights, demanded that negotiations take place between Stevenson, who held their belt, and Kovalev. It was looking possible and the boxing world was rubbing their hands together in expectation.
Until, Kathy Duva, Kovalev’s promoter decided it wasn’t going to happen, despite taking Stevenson’s old team to the courts after “Superman” apparently ignored a verbal agreement to fight Kovalev when he jumped ship to Haymon.
Purse bids were upon this, but Duva and Kovalev’s team then make the decision to not make an offer and withdraw from the process altogether. Why? Did they not actually want the fight all along? After months of campaigning for Stevenson to fight and saying he was scared, how does it look when they pull out that close to the purse bid situation? It certainly doesn’t portray Kovalev in a good light.
As the situation drags on both Stevenson and Kovalev are trudging along and not taking any real fights. Stevenson is definitely in the better situation, where clashes with Andrezj Fonfara, who had him on the floor in their first clash, and Artur Beterbiev would be fantastic.
Both those opponents would be great for Kovalev, but his refusal to not fight with any broadcaster but HBO, as well the PBC and Stevenson not wanting to go anywhere near it, makes it pretty much impossible.
The Beterbiev fight would be massive, in particular in Russia. Beterbiev was an outstanding amateur and holds two wins over “Krusher”, so chuck in the well known animosity, it’s an easy sell and a titanic battle between two hard hitting stars of the division.
But, the likelihood of it ever happening shrinks every week and it looks like Kovalev is just hanging around waiting for Andre Ward, who has now moved up, for a huge payday. If he wins that then one side has to wilt and make the fight happen, well depending on whether Stevenson still holds the title.
I expect Kovalev to do the business against Pascal again, who is in the right place at the right time once again, although he has a huge opportunity to throw a massive spanner in the works. Chances? Unlikely. So we’ll just sit back and wait for something meaningful to happen in the light-heavyweight division.
In London this weekend, we get the return of George Groves to prop up a decent card at the Copper Box in the Olympic Park. Groves, who has lost in three world title challenges to Carl Froch, twice, and Badou Jack in September is the newest member of Shane McGuigan’s revolution.
The son of British boxing icon, Barry, has already guided Carl Frampton to world glory and has been working with young prospects, including Scottish Olympian Josh Taylor. However, he has been thrust more into the limelight, as he has taken on running the corners of Groves and David Haye.
Groves believes he will win a world title under the much sought after McGuigan’s tutelage. There’s no denying something was missing under Paddy Fitzpatrick, who never really gave the impression he was running the show after taking on from Adam Booth before the first Froch fight.
Look back at the videos of Groves when he was with Booth. He looks excellent, but since moving to Fitzpatrick who has gone backwards at a frightening rate. McGuigan could be the missing piece of the puzzle or we could be listening to some delusions of grandeur from “The Saint”.
Needless to say though, people will tune in and watch, as he’s always compelling and one of the best salesmen in British boxing. If he gets close to the fighter he was in the first six rounds in the first Froch fight, then maybe one of his predictions will come true.
Also on the card, is a cracking domestic dust up between John Wayne Hibbert and Tommy Martin for the Commonwealth super-lightweight belt. It’s a real acid test for the young Martin against the more experienced Hibbert, who was fortunate to beat Dave Ryan last September.
Hibbert and Martin should be a good scrap, whilst John Ryder’s credentials will be tested when he takes on “Brit-Basher” Sergey Khomitsky. If you want to reach the top in the middleweight division, Khomitsky is a genuine gatekeeper, so if you fail to beat him, then you best go back to the drawing board.
Khomitsky ended Jamie Moore’s career and brutally exposed both Adam Etches and Frank Buglioni, but has been outclassed by Ryan Rhodes so with the right game plan Ryder should have enough. Losses to Billy Joe Saunders and Nick Blackwell have set him back, but this could be a big shot in the arm for “The Gorilla”.
Finally, look out for prospects Ohara Davies and Ben Hall on the same bill. Both are well worth keeping an eye on.
Matt Bevan is freelance journalist and contributes to several other leading publications on a weekly basis. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MBevs68.