Roach: Pascal will beat Kovalev if he fights smart
By Tim Fletcher: Trainer Freddie Roach is hoping to lead his fighter Jean Pascal (30-3-1, 17 KOs) to victory this Saturday night in his title shot against IBF/WBA/WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev (28-0-1, 25 KOs) at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada. Roach thinks Pascal, 32, can win the fight over Kovalev if he fights the perfect fight by fighting smart for the full 12 rounds.
Roach isn’t talking knockout for Pascal, but he’s not ruling it out that he could score a stoppage win with the new things he’s taught him.
Kovalev’s trainer John David Jackson doubts that Pascal will be able to make any real changes to his game in just one training camp with Roach. Jackson reportedly thinks Pascal is starting to look a little like a shot fighter after his questionable 10 round decision win over Cuban Yunieski Gonzalez last July in Las Vegas, Nevada. A lot of boxing fans thought Pascal lost that fight including this writer. Pascal didn’t look like a shot fighter, but he definitely had the look of someone who didn’t have the talent to turn back Gonzalez, who kept coming forward all night long in putting tremendous pressure on Pascal.
“He is boxing a lot better. We are shortening the combinations up. He is definitively ready to fight,” Roach said to ESPN.com about Pascal. “You will see a much better fighter this time around. It is a short amount of time. Jean has picked it up quickly. His power is still there also. If he fights smart, he can win this fight.”
By fighting smart, Roach means he’s going to have Pascal trying to box for 12 rounds instead of slugging like he was doing last time he fought the Russian fighter in March of 2015. Roach wasn’t training Pascal back then, but if he was training, he likely would have told him to stop slugging and start boxing because he was getting worked over by Kovalev from the early rounds of the fight. Pascal never changed his fighting style at all in that fight despite the fact that he was getting overpowered by Kovalev in the first five rounds.
“I thought he fought a poor fight [the first time against Kovalev],” Roach said. “I thought he was looking for a knockout too much and he can’t do that. You go out there and box, use your boxing ability, beat this guy every round at a time. If a knockout comes that’s a bonus. He totally understands that. I told him if you go out there and start swinging for the fences and get real wild like you can do at times when you get back to the corner I won’t be there. I’m going to go home. I said, ‘Don’t embarrass me like that. You are a professional fighter. You know how to box. Go out there and outbox this guy.’ That’s the biggest game plan for me.”
Roach obviously isn’t going to abandon Pascal in the ring, but it shows you how much he wants to be listened to by the Canadian fighter. If Pascal just ignores Roach’s advice in the corner and fights his own fight, then it’s probably going to end badly for him. Kovalev has too much punching power and size for a shorter fighter like Pascal to win the fight by slugging.