By Keith Idec
ATLANTIC CITY — Sergey Kovalev might fight a transplanted Canadian from Haiti after all.
Kathy Duva, whose company promotes Kovalev, said she is open to making a Kovalev-Jean Pascal light heavyweight title fight later this year. Pascal, a former WBC 175-pound champion, is the second-best light heavyweight in Quebec, but still an attractive alternative to Adonis Stevenson, the current WBC light heavyweight champion whose highly anticipated showdown with Kovalev fell apart last week.
“It’s obviously an opponent that makes sense,” Duva said of Pascal. “We are reserving all of our rights with Stevenson and I wouldn’t, at this point, say that [Kovalev-Stevenson is] not going to happen for sure. But talking in the alternative, if not now, later, at some point in time [Pascal is] certainly an opponent that’s very attractive. He’s definitely on our radar.”
Pascal (29-2-1, 17 KOs) is coming off a 12-round, unanimous-decision win over fellow French-Canadian fan favorite Lucian Bute (31-2, 24 KOs) on Jan. 18 at Bell Centre in Montreal. The Pascal-Bute bout was broadcast by HBO, which signed Russia’s Kovalev to a multi-fight extension last week to box exclusively on that premium-cable channel.
The 31-year-old Pascal also is one of the few saleable alternatives to Stevenson that is willing and available to face Kovalev (24-0-1, 22 KOs), who knocked out overmatched Cedric Agnew (26-1, 13 KOs) in the seventh round Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall’s Adrian Phillips Ballroom.
Philadelphia’s Bernard Hopkins (54-6-2, 32 KOs, 2 NC) and Kazakhstan’s Beibut Shumenov (14-1, 9 KOs) are scheduled to box April 19 at Washington’s D.C. Armory in a light heavyweight unification fight for Hopkins’ IBF championship and Shumenov’s WBA crown. Stevenson (23-1, 20 KOs) is expected to meet the Hopkins-Shumenov winner in his following fight if he overcomes Chicago’s Andrzej Fonfara (25-2, 15 KOs, 1 NC) on May 24 at Bell Centre in Montreal.
Mexico’s Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (48-1-1, 32 KOs, 1 NC), another potential opponent for Kovalev, has agreed to fight Kazakhstan’s Gennady Golovkin (29-0, 26 KOs) in an HBO Pay-Per-View main event July 19 at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. Unbeaten WBA super middleweight champion Andre Ward (27-0, 14 KOs) isn’t expected to move up to challenge Kovalev, either, and Kovalev cannot make the super middleweight limit of 168 pounds.
Those complications could leave Pascal in prime position to land a fight against Kovalev. Like Stevenson, Pascal was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, moved to Quebec at a young age and eventually became very popular among French-Canadian fight fans.
“[Pascal] has a name; people know him,” Duva said. “I believe a lot of this comes down to name recognition. He has that and he also has been in there with the very best. He’s an elite-level fighter. And yeah, of course, he’s a very attractive opponent.”
Yvon Michel, Pascal’s former promoter, has the contractual right to match any offer made for Pascal’s next fight. Duva said that wouldn’t stop her from pursuing a Kovalev-Pascal fight, despite that she and Michel have engaged in a very public disagreement over the past week regarding whether Stevenson, whom Michel also promotes, reneged on a negotiated deal to battle Kovalev in an HBO-televised clash in the fall.
“This is boxing,” Duva said. “It’s too small [to not work together]. We have a major difference of opinion here. Maybe we need to bring someone in to decide who’s right and wrong. But if we make a deal with [Pascal] and he wants to match it, fine. No problem.”
Duva added that a Kovalev-Pascal clash wouldn’t necessarily be staged in Montreal or Quebec City, where Pascal has done big box-office business for his two fights against Hopkins, the Bute bout and victories over Chad Dawson and Adrian Diaconu.
“I think, frankly, if Sergey gets big enough it could do big business here,” Duva said, referring to Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall. “It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen. But [Pascal] seems to want to fight in the United States and you can do pay-per-view in Canada. The fight could take place in the United States and you still could have that income stream coming from Canada, which is nice.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.