Pascal has future with Roach despite Kovalev loss

Sergey Kovalev, right, from Russia, lands a left to the head of Jean Pascal, from Montreal, in their light-heavyweight world championship fight at the Bell Centre. (Ryan Remiorz/CP)

MONTREAL – It wasn’t the result Jean Pascal and his trainer Freddie Roach were hoping for.

After suffering the first TKO loss of his career to Sergey Kovalev 10 months ago in the Bell Centre, Pascal was dominated in the same building this past Saturday as the pair met in a rematch. The win pushed Kovalev’s unblemished record to 29-0-1 as he retained his WBA, IBF and WBO light-heavyweight titles.

“Kovalev was just the better man tonight,” Pascal said at the post-fight press conference. “Kovalev is a great champion. There is a reason why he has two belts. I lift my hat off to Kovalev, he’s the best guy in the division.”

From the opening bell the Haitian-Canadian was one step behind his Russian foe. Kovalev landed a shot in the opening stanza that was ruled a slip by referee Michael Griffin. Looking at the replay, however, many pundits argued that should have resulted in a knockdown.

Pascal (30-4-1, 1 NC) found some success in the second with his left hook, but it wasn’t enough to put Kovalev off his game. From there, the 32-year-old champion battered Pascal with shots to the body and by the fourth round the local favourite was in serious trouble. By the sixth round, Roach was ready to call the fight but allowed his pupil to continue after Pascal was adamant about continuing the fight. Unfortunately, Pascal’s lack of output in that round forced Roach to stop the fight heading into the seventh.

“[Pascal] told me, 'please give me one more round,' so I did, but it wasn’t enough to show me that he could win the fight.” Roach said. “I thought the best option was to stop the fight and have another day somewhere down the line.”

Ahead of this matchup, Pascal and Roach worked together for the very first time. Roach is considered one of the top boxing coaches in the world having trained Manny Pacquiao, former WBC mMiddleweight champion Julio César Chávez, Jr. and former UFC champion Georges St-Pierre among others. While they didn’t end up with the win this past Saturday, the two plan to work together again in the future.

“It wasn’t our best night that’s for sure – our first night together – we trained really hard for this fight,” Roach explained. “Warming up in the dressing room, he looked really sharp and everything was going really well. When we went out there he felt the power of his opponent he told me the power was overwhelming. [Kovalev’s] a very strong fighter, there are no excuses, we trained hard. I think Jean does still have a future, maybe not with Kovalev. I look forward to working with him again because he’s a great guy, he’s a friend now. We had a great training camp but it just wasn’t enough.”

Interbox -- the promotion that helped set up this fight -- also showed their support post-fight as its vice president Pierre Duc gave praise to Pascal.

“Interbox is very proud of Jean Pascal," Duc said. "It takes a lot of guts and courage to face that guy twice in a row like this. Obviously not the end result that we wanted to see. It doesn’t take anything away from Jean. So we’re supporting this guy a lot.”

Pascal echoed these statements as well and was adamant about his plans to continue fighting despite the setback.

“I still think I have a [bright] future and I’m still one of the top light-heavyweights in the world.”

Nothing is set in stone for Pascal’s next fight, although some pundits have suggested a rematch with countryman Lucian Bute is a possibility. Bute (32-3) is coming off a unanimous decision loss to James DeGale last November and the pair already have history with Pascal earning a unanimous decision over the Romanian-Canadian back in 2014. With Bute and Pascal being strong draws in Montreal, this could make sense for both fighters.