Bell Center, Montreal, Quebec, Jan 30
By Peter Lim
In a rematch, it is the loser of the first fight that always makes more changes to his game plan the winner. In Pascal's case, he will try to emulate and improve on what brought him the most success against Kovalev 10 months ago - staying low and lunging the Russian from awkward angles at opportune moments.
Both men fought on the same card in July but their respective bouts took much more of a toll on Pascal's chin, and perhaps his psyche, than it did Kovalev's. Kovalev had a casual stroll in the park stopping Nadjib Mohammedi in three rounds while Pascal absorbed horrendous punishment in his life and death struggle against Yunieski Gonzalez, so Kovalev enters the ring the fresher and less gun shy of the two.
Despite Pascal's adjustments, he will be less of a mystery to Kovalev in the rematch. The Russian assassin has the propensity to shoot straight punches at difficult targets, high or low, with precision and power. When Pascal's noggin is out of reach, he pummels the torso and, since he seldom over-commits to his punches, evades most of Pascal's counter flurries. Kovalev methodically chisels at cracks in Pascal's armor and those cracks quickly deteriorate into full-blown openings that Kovalev seizes upon to blast Pascal away in the fifth round.
My premonition would have been spot on if not for two things: Pascal's torpedo-proof chin and Kovalev's intention, revealed post fight, to let Pascal off the hook in order to prolong the pain.