Boxing / Editorial

Tension Begins to Build Between Kovalev, Pascal

Corey Erdman / February 24, 2015 - 6:59pm

When the bout between Sergey Kovalev and Jean Pascal was signed, it was almost comically respectful.

Both men were lauded universally for taking the risk of fighting one another, and the two heaped praise upon one another for doing so. Even promoters Interbox and Main Events wined and dined one another in their respective home bases and sung eachother’s praises.

But after Tuesday’s conference call, it’s starting to sound like we have less of a friendship and more of a fight.

Pascal’s opening comments seemed harmless enough, comparing himself to Rocky Balboa, until he cited a ring tragedy.

“I think it’s going to be like a remake of the movie. You have the dark African guy vs. the Russian. So you’ve got the east vs. the west. You’ve got Drago, who killed Apollo Creed in the ring. Sergey Kovalev did the same thing maybe a couple years ago,” said Pascal, in reference to Kovalev's eventual fatal stoppage win over Roman Simakov in 2011.

Naturally, nobody was in any hurry to discuss those tragic events, and Kovalev’s trainer John David Jackson quickly put the silly Rocky comparisons to rest.

"Rocky was a movie. It was written for Rocky to win. This isn't a movie," said Jackson, before offering criticism of the fighter himself. "He's very different. He's not one dimensional. He throws punches from different angles. Greatest defense? No, he doesn't have that. But he's very herky-jerky, he's very good at what he does."

Indeed, Pascal has proven to be an elite fighter for several years now, and has never shied away from top competition. However, in recent years, his usual consistent schedule has been railroaded by injuries and fight cancellations, leading some to speculate that he may still have some ring rust to shake off.

“It's been 18 years that I've been doing this. Just because I took a nine month layoff, doesn't mean I'm going to lose my speed or my skills,” said Pascal, who was last seen in a bizarre no-contest with Roberto Bolonti in December of 2014.

Kovalev, of course, was last seen defeating the legendary Bernard Hopkins in 12 rounds of dominant action. The victory helped garner him Fighter of the Year consideration from several publications, and the designation of many as the “real” light heavyweight champion, despite the fact that Adonis Stevenson holds the lineal title.

“My plan is to defend my three titles against Pascal,” said Kovalev. “That’s the most important thing in my career right now. After that, my plan is to get all four titles in my division.”

Perhaps the most notable revelation from the call however, is that there will be no drug testing for a fight of such a magnitude.

“We had been approached by the Pascal camp about doing drug testing. We agreed to go to the people at VADA and do the testing. Jean Pascal said that he did not agree to go to VADA. He had originally offered to pay for it. He wasn’t going to pay for VADA. So we decided that since he didn’t want to pay the lower fee for the much more credible organization, then he must’ve not been serious about that, so there will be no drug testing,” said Kathy Duva, head of Main Events.

Pascal’s advisor Greg Leon responded:

“I was negotiating with Main Events’ attorney, Patrick English, and we were trying to land in a place that Pascal originally planned on, which is the protocol that he’s had in place since 2013. Out of the two athletes on March 14, only one of them has been tested randomly over 10 times, and that’s Jean Pascal. It’s unfortunate we couldn’t land on a mutual organization, but it is what it is. Main Events shouldn’t be caring what Pascal is spending on a test if he’s willing to pay for all of it.”

It is reasonable to point out that Pascal has an affiliation with Angel “Memo” Heredia, who has a longstanding feud with Victor Conte, who has at the very least been helpful and complimentary to VADA and its president Margaret Goodman in the past.

Pascal all but confirmed that was indeed an issue on the call as well.

“They only test boxers. They don’t test any other sport. We are willing to deal with a real agency …  so with that VADA bullshit, just leave it alone, because they’re not credible, because they only test boxers. And plus, VADA is with Victor Conte," said Pascal.

Kovalev did not take part in any drug testing other than the standard protocol administered by the New Jersey State Athletic Commission for his win over Hopkins, as Duva has been a proponent of “leaving regulation to the regulators” in the past. However, they claim they were willing to compromise in this case.

“He was willing to go to that agency [VADA] which is above reproach, and for some reason the Pascal people, who were told they could go to any agency he wanted but that Sergey was going to go to the one that he knew was the highest caliber and without any clouds or questions about whether it reported the results properly or took the tests properly, he was willing to go to that agency, and they said no. End of story. We’re not going to talk about it anymore," said Duva.

Despite Duva’s wishes, that most certainly will not be the last time this issue will be discussed.

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