Canada's Jean Pascal wanted to work with Freddie Roach. Well, he found out quickly thin skin won't make it inside Hollywood's Wild Card Boxing Club.
Early in training camp, after leaning on the advice of countryman and former Ultimate Fighting Championship champion Georges St-Pierre to retain Roach, Pascal started throwing heavy punches at a sparring partner.
Roach would have none of it, saying he told Pascal, "You do that again, ever, and it's over. I'll be on my way home."
Saturday on HBO (6:45 p.m. Pacific time), former light-heavyweight world champion Pascal (30-3-1, 17 knockouts) has a second chance in Montreal to defeat dominant three-belt light-heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev (28-0-1, 25 KOs).
Kovalev beat Pascal by eighth-round TKO on March 14 and is confident a similar outcome is at hand, telling reporters he accepted the fight because the money was good. It's his first fight of a year that could include dates with fellow champion Adonis Stevenson and former super-middleweight champion Andre Ward.
Roach said his the Haiti-born Pascal, 33, needs to outbox the Russian. Roach said Pascal's footwork and use of both hands have improved dramatically at Wild Card.
"His left hand is almost as good as his right," Roach said. "He has to box. I told him, 'You look for the knockout, you're going to get knocked out again. You have to outbox this guy one round at a time. But you can't go in there thinking you're going to knock out a puncher. Why fight his game?' "
Roach said Pascal has shortened up his punches and done well to embrace the lessons in short order.
There are parallels, Roach said, to how he trained James Toney to a 2003 TKO of Evander Holyfield.
"I told James, 'You're too fast for this guy, use combinations and body shots, and don't stand in front of him after the combinations, because he's going to throw back,' " Roach said. "You have to use angles, walk the guy into the shot. If you stand in front of a puncher, he's going to throw back."
Pascal acknowledges, "I need to do everything different" in the Kovalev rematch.
"I know I'm much better than that. I have more skill than Kovalev," Pascal said. "I'll make sure this night will be my night."
Those who've watched Pascal in training say his power has increased, and the challenger hinted he will seek to unleash it.
"I hit a little harder than I have been," Pascal said. "If the first fight was so easy for him -- and he's saying he's going to knock me out before the eighth round -- let's bet on it, $50,000 to the charity of our choice."
Pascal said he is not intimidated by the imposing champion, and accepts the desperation of the challenge.
"I am the better athlete, and the other fight was a bad night for me," Pascal said. "I have the skills. I needed to polish those skills with Freddie. He'll bring me to the next level I need to be.
"This is a redemption fight for me. I need to win to get to the next level. I beat this guy, I'm right back on top."
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