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Roach: Kovalev is slow and predictable

By Allan Fox: Trainer Freddie Roach says the plan for #3 WBO, #5 WBA, #6 IBF Jean Pascal (30-3-1, 17 KOs) for this Saturday night is to try and box unbeaten IBF/WBA/WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (28-0-1, 25 KOs) in their fight at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada.

Roach says he sees Kovalev as a slow and predictable fighter that Pascal can get the better of in their rematch. Kovalev knocked Pascal out in the 8th round in their first fight back in March 2015, but that was before Roach was his trainer.

Pascal stood in front of Kovalev and fought the Russian fighter’s fight by exchanging with him all night. Roach is going to have Pascal fighting completely different on Saturday night by having him using his speed to get in and out and stay out of range of Kovalev’s thunderous shots.

“The game plan is to outbox [Kovalev] and win every round one at a time,” Roach said to Fighthub. “I said ‘if the knockout comes, that’ll be a bonus.’ [Pascal] totally understands that now, we’re on good terms with each other at this point…but he’s turned into a very good student and I like that.”

Roach is going to need to hold Pascal back to keep him going to war with Kovalev, because Pascal feeds off the crowd. He’s always been the type of fighter that is motivated by the crowd. If he lands something big to get Kovalev’s attention, the pro-Pascal crowd in Montreal will likely go wild, and this in turn will cause Pascal to look to land additional shots.

Pascal cannot afford to get too greedy with Kovalev, because it’ll allow the Russian fighter to come back with his own power shots to get the better of Pascal. Kovalev hits harder than Pascal, so the judges will likely be more impressed by Kovalev’s shots than Pascal’s.

Another thing that Pascal will need to avoid is trying to retaliate with his own punches each time Kovalev lands something hard. Pascal is one of those fighters that fights on emotion, and he always looks to nail his opponents back with hard shots when they hit him hard. Roach might not be able to control Pascal’s anger in this fight, and it could lead to him getting knocked out by Kovalev if he doesn’t fight with discipline.

“He [Kovalev] does have a good understanding of the basics…but he’s very predictable though,” Roach said. “And the thing is if you are a little bit clever with him and use a little bit of speed with him – he doesn’t have a lot of speed and he’s a little bit of a long puncher. And so Pascal has to score and get out really quick and not just step straight back…we have to fight a very, very smart fight.”

Having Pascal box Kovalev this time is the smart thing for Roach to do, because he can’t go back to the same formula that he used in their previous fight last year. That’s not going to work for Pascal to try and slug with Kovalev. He doesn’t have the chin to slug with the Russian fighter, so boxing him is definitely the smart way to go for Pascal. Kovalev is much slower than Pascal, and that’s an area where Pascal and Roach can control the fight if they can utilize speed against Kovalev.

“I told [Pascal] ‘your jab will win this fight, you’ve got the best jab I’ve ever seen and I know you don’t use it, but in this fight you will’ and everyday we’ve been developing that left hand and it’s been getting better and better every day,” Roach said.

Jabbing might not work against Kovalev, because he has the much better jab and the loner reach than Pascal. It would be better for Roach to have Pascal moving around on the outside and coming in close to deliver one or two fast shots before moving away again. If Pascal stands on the outside and tries to jab Kovalev, he’s going to be getting hit with some hard jabs followed by right hands. That’s a recipe for disaster for Pascal. It’s worth a try for Pascal to attempt some jabs, but he shouldn’t make that his main weapon in the fight because Kovalev will get the better of him by landing his power shots and his superior jab.

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