Kinks In Krusher Kovalev's Craft?

There can be little doubt that Sergey "Krusher" Kovalev is the best light heavyweight in the world. But after an exciting fight on Saturday, there also can be little doubt that he's human.

An aura of invincibility more easily follows heavy-handed punchers than slick boxers. It's because a knockout artist remains dangerous, we believe, until the final bell, while a slick boxer behind on the score cards into the late rounds has less of a likelihood of changing the tide of a fight. The body of work that Kovalev has been putting together in the past year and a half has gone a long way to building an aura of invincibility around him. He knocks out guys with overhand rights and jabs, with head shots and body shots. In the words of the creepy Soviet politician in "Rocky IV": "Whatever he hits, he destroys."

But like the fiercest bull to enter Plaza Toros Las Ventas, even Kovalev can be tamed. Jean Pascal just wasn't the man to do it, although he did provide some hints as to who might be able to.

Pascal brought the fight to Kovalev without showing his fear on his shoulders, at least not until the middle of the third round, which is when he was wobbled and then hit halfway through the ropes. In all, Pascal's performance can be called courageous, especially when compared to Kovalev's most recent opponents, the great Bernard Hopkins included. Pascal's willingness to mix it up with the noted puncher is a testament to his chin but also to a purposeful recklessness that has long endeared him to his Canadian fans.

Pascal's athleticism and caution-to-the-wind strategy allowed and forced Kovalev to show a range of his skills, including surprisingly quick feet and a keen sense of distance, both often rare attributed in a knockout artist.

Despite losing almost every round, Pascal had success in countering Kovalev, and in the middle to late rounds he even displayed an ability to dance around the not-slow Krusher. Taken together, it quickly made me think of how Kovalev would fare against a master counter-puncher with deft foot movement and ring generalship. I'm obviously talking about Andre Ward.

Adonis Stevenson is the challenge most want to see in the ring with Kovalev, but at this point it seems clear that he lacks the range of skills needed to fell Krusher. Stevenson brings too much of the same of what Kovalev already possess in greater quantity and better quality.

Ward, on the other hand, has the young legs and high IQ to neutralize Kovalev's strengths and exploit his shortcomings. But how realistic is a meeting between the two?

Kathy Duva, Kovalev's promoter, has already had one conversation (per RingTV) with Ward's new promoter, Roc Nation.

“I had one conversation with them [Roc Nation] ... I asked whether they were interested in doing it September. They said, ‘He’s going to have a couple more fights first. He’ll be ready around this time next year.’ I said, ‘OK. Tell me when you want to fight.’ That’s where we left it."

That's more encouraging than what many might have hoped for. But until that fight comes, the fans have Pascal's gladiator's performance to enjoy. The referee put an end to the fight in the seventh, when Pascal was still up on his feet but with little wherewithal left. Tactics and strategy had long been forgotten, only a survival instinct left. Still, he showed more holes in Kovalev’s game than Hopkins. He lost, but he went out swinging.

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