STILL A DE­STROYER?

Bivol eases to vic­tory over Pas­cal, but fails to daz­zle for the sec­ond ght in suc­ces­sion

Boxing News - - Contents - Nigel Collins RINGSIDE

Dmitry Bivol leaves more unan­swered ques­tions against Jean Pas­cal

IN an era when mar­ket­ing a boxer is al­most as im­por­tant as fight­ing abil­ity, it has be­come ap­par­ent that WBA light-heavy­weight ti­tle-holder Dmitry Bivol might not be quite the fear­some knock­out artist his team and much of the me­dia had branded him.

This sus­pi­cion, first raised when Isaac Chilemba lasted the dis­tance in Au­gust, was re­in­forced when for­mer WBC lightheavy champ Jean Pas­cal did like­wise at the Mark G. Et­ess Arena in­side the Hard Rock Ho­tel & Casino (Main Events).

Both vic­to­ries, the third and fourth de­fences of Bivol’s ti­tle reign, were unan­i­mous and wide, but failed to cre­ate the kind of ex­cite­ment re­quired to make the un­de­feated Rus­sian a ma­jor star in the United States. This is not to say he isn’t a good fighter. The Kyr­gyzs­tan na­tive is quick, ag­ile and pos­sesses ex­cel­lent box­ing skills, honed dur­ing a long and dis­tin­guished am­a­teur ca­reer. More­over, his sharp punches are ac­cu­rate and land with au­thor­ity.

Bivol does not, how­ever, seem to have the dis­po­si­tion to go all-out in search of a stop­page. When nu­mer­ous flush shots, of­ten thrown in rapid-fire clus­ters, failed to put Pas­cal on the can­vas, Bivol backed off in­stead of sus­tain­ing his at­tack. It was a pat­tern that re­peated it­self in most rounds.

Pas­cal is nowhere near the fighter he was in his prime. The 36-year-old Haitian­cana­dian’s tim­ing and bal­ance have no­tably di­min­ished. His punches against the 27-year-old Bivol were usu­ally wild, loop­ing blows, most of which missed. They seemed born of des­per­a­tion and the fol­low-through of­ten sent him stum­bling un­gainly across the ring in un­ex­pected di­rec­tions.

It ap­peared that Pas­cal wanted to play a cat-and-mouse game, feint­ing fre­quently in an at­tempt to lure the belt-holder into a po­tent counter. Bivol sel­dom took the bait, and when Pas­cal took the ini­tia­tive he dis­cov­ered that he no longer had the split-sec­ond tim­ing re­quired to ac­com­plish tac­tics that worked well for him in the past. Saint Peters­burg’s Bivol mixed his at­tacks in­tel­li­gently be­tween the head and body. His unerring right con­nected re­peat­edly, as did wicked body shots. In the fourth round, Pas­cal went down amid an ex­change, but ref­eree David Fields ruled no knock­down. By the sixth, Bivol was land­ing vir­tu­ally at will. Pas­cal was rocked re­peat­edly and had to grab and hold a num­ber of times to save him­self. Still, he ab­sorbed ev­ery­thing Bivol landed and bravely sol­diered on in what was clearly a los­ing cause. Sev­eral times Pas­cal be­gan a round with a short-lived as­sault, but they were gen­er­ally in­ef­fec­tive, and Bivol quickly re­gained con­trol. None­the­less, af­ter eat­ing a flurry of punches early in the 10th, Pas­cal launched a last-gasp at­tack, will­ing him­self for­ward, arms flail­ing madly. They were in the midst of an ex­change when Pas­cal landed a com­par­a­tively

straight right to the chin. There was no windup, just a punch thrown in the flow of things. It snapped Bivol’s head side­ways and forced him to clinch.

It was the only round that I gave to Pas­cal. Af­ter that he was too tired to do much other than de­fend him­self.

It was Bivol’s turn to go for a stop­page late in the 12th. He opened up with a sus­tained bar­rage. Pas­cal’s head looked like a speed bag, flap­ping back and forth with ev­ery punch. Just as it looked like Pas­cal was ready to fold, the old cam­paigner from Laval punched back, just enough to al­low him to make it to the fi­nal bell. The unan­i­mous tal­lies in Bivol’s favour were 117-111 (Henry Eu­gene Grant) and 119-109 twice (Lynne Carter and Car­los Or­tiz Jnr).

In the penul­ti­mate con­test of the evening, Murod­jon Akhmadaliev stopped fel­low south­paw Isaac Zarate at the 1-17 mark in the ninth of a sched­uled 10-round su­per-ban­tamweight bout. Uzbek­istan’s In­dio, Cal­i­for­nia-based Akhmadaliev, who en­tered the match with only four pro­fes­sional bouts to his credit, still had more than enough to beat Zarate, a 22-fight pro go­ing in.

Zarate proved a skil­ful boxer but with a punch that couldn’t put a dent in a bowl of mashed pota­toes. He did OK in the mid­dle of the ring, but was heav­ily pun­ished al­most ev­ery time he was caught on the ropes.

The un­beaten Akhmadaliev stalked, squared up and oc­ca­sion­ally erupted with lash­ing punches that made up for any tech­ni­cal short­com­ings, at least against this level of op­po­nent.

Zarate coura­geously ab­sorbed a beat­ing in ev­ery round and re­fused to ca­pit­u­late. Fi­nally, ref­eree Eric Dali had seen enough and called a halt im­me­di­ately af­ter the San Pe­dro, Cal­i­for­nia res­i­dent was hit flush by three con­sec­u­tive left hooks to the head.

THE VER­DICT An­other win for the qual­ity Bivol, but he needs to in­crease the ex­cite­ment lev­els.

TUCK­ING UP: Pas­cal de­fends him­self against Bivol

IN CON­TROL: But Bivol needs to go all out against Pas­cal

Pho­tos: ED MULHOLLAND/HBO BOX­ING

EN­DURANCE: Zarate has to take heavy pun­ish­ment from Akhmadaliev

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