By Keith Idec
ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey – Dmitry Bivol was wary of Jean Pascal’s power right up until the final bell Saturday night.
The unbeaten WBA light heavyweight champion admitted after his unanimous-decision win that he felt the impact of Pascal’s punches early in their 12-round, 175-pound title bout and realized he had to careful against the former champion.
The 36-year-old Pascal also out-weighed Bivol by seven pounds on Saturday night, according to HBO’s unofficial scale.
Bivol beat Pascal by big margins on all three scorecards – 119-109, 119-109, 117-111. He still has drawn some criticism for not knocking out a faded former champion who appeared exhausted at times in their HBO “World Championship Boxing” main event at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino’s Etess Arena.
“When I sparred with Jean Pascal, it was two years ago,” Bivol said during the post-fight press conference. “I felt his power. He’s a really strong guy. He looks like a cross-fit man and he is really strong. [With] these small gloves, of course I felt his power. And he punched with [a wild] swing, this strong punch. Of course I felt a couple punches.”
His sparring experience, as well as Pascal’s two fights against Sergey Kovalev, also made Bivol aware that he couldn’t afford to get reckless versus the former WBC light heavyweight champion. Even though Kovalev stopped Pascal twice, Bivol noticed there were instances when Pascal caught Kovalev with hard right hands and occasionally left hooks.
“I was not aggressive because I knew he has this counter-punching technique,” Bivol said. “And I said this before the fight, he tries to counter-punch with the right. He tries to hide the punch behind his shoulder and sometimes he tries to counter-punch with the left, wide. I knew that, so my goal was to not to let him do that. A lot of times when people are aggressive with him, you’ve seen him land big shots on other fighters. … I had to do the work of moving on my feet and not let him do that to me. That was more important.”
The 27-year-old Bivol (15-0, 11 KOs) feels he hurt Pascal (33-6-1, 20 KOs, 1 NC), but he remained mindful of Pascal’s power even when his challenger appeared vulnerable.
“Yes, there were moments when I could’ve tried to stop him, I could’ve tried to take advantage of it,” Bivol said. “But to be honest with you, he’s sturdier than I thought he is. I already knew he’s durable, but he’s very tough. He’s tougher than I thought, because even at those moments he was still dangerous.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.