STILL A DESTROYER?
Bivol eases to victory over Pascal, but fails to dazzle for the second ght in succession
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
ENDURANCE: Zarate has to take heavy punishment from Akhmadaliev