The glory match, the comeback contest and the breakthrough bout – it’s all happening this weekend! Three world titles are on the line in the fight between Sergey Kovalev and Jean Pascal, George Groves and John Ryder are on their own roads to redemption, and Tommy Martin is hoping to win his first major honours against John Wayne Hibbert.
Sergey Kovalev v Jean Pascal – BET NOW
Yeah, there are loads of world champions in boxing but in the light heavyweight division one man holds three of the four belts and is considered one of the pound-for-pound best. Kovalev (28-0-1, 25 KOs) is a proper champion and, because the other title-holder is running scared, the Russian is having a rematch with former unified champ Pascal (30-3-1, 17 KOs) in Montreal this Saturday.
Kovalev-Pascal 1 was an action-packed battle last March, with Kovalev bringing the belts to the ring and leaving with them too after the referee called time on Pascal’s punishment in round 8. The Canadian wasn’t happy with the bout being cut short but Kovalev had landed almost twice as many punches than Pascal in the previous 20-odd minutes.
Edging the ring generalship and technique is Kovalev but Pascal probably has slight advantages in speed and timing. The differentiator is power. The world-titlist since 2013 has stunning force and only Bernard Hopkins has been able to hang tough for 12 rounds against Kovalev. The 2010 world champion, Pascal, only has one KO win in his last nine contests.
Rematch history points to Kovalev winning slightly quicker than last time and since the rematch the Haitian-born fighter only just came through another torrid battle to win on points, adding some wear to his already battered body. The smart money will go on Kovalev to make a successful seventh title defence by KO in rounds 7-9 at .
John Ryder v Sergey Khomitsky – BET NOW
The not-quite-as-prestigious ‘international’ title is available for the winner of the headline bout in London this weekend between Ryder (21-2, 12 KOs) and Sergey Khomitsky (30-12-3, 13 KOs). The British middleweight is supposed to win this contest and get back on track for bigger things but Khomitsky, not for the first time, is the gatekeeper.
Ok, he’s 41, but Khomitsky is not too old to do some serious trolling. The man from Minsk came to the UK to face Jamie Moore (in 2010), Frank Buglioni (2014) and Adam Etches (2015), and knocked them all out. He also went very close to beating former world title challenger Martin Murray in 2013 and drew with Nick Blackwell in 2014.
The same Nick Blackwell stopped Ryder within seven rounds last year and the two really worrying things we learnt from that bout were: the talented Londoner didn’t know what do when he was hurt, and that he can be seriously wobbled by a fighter with a KO ratio of less than 35%.
Ryder is aggressive and skilful but he has only won 52% of his fights inside the distance. Khomitsky has only been stopped by elite fighters and I think Ryder will have a hard time keeping him at bay. The Belarusian is to win by KO and that is well worth a bet.
George Groves v Andrea Di Luisa – BET NOW
Three failed world title shots in the last two years and only two wins from his last five fights means that Groves (21-3, 16 KOs) is stuck being the support act in his home town against an unknown Italian. The West Londoner can’t be happy. At least the 27 year old super middleweight has time to rebuild.
Over the last four and a bit years Andrea Di Luisa (18-3, 14 KOs) has notched up six wins and three defeats, meaning that, statistically, he has a similar record to Groves. The Brit and the Italian also have the same KO ratio and are the same height. But they operate on very different levels.
All of the unheralded Di Luisa’s losses have been before the final bell, including a retirement in round seven against the feather-fisted Christopher Rebrasse, an opponent Groves dominated. The man who once knocked down Carl Froch will land enough shots to make Di Luisa want to quit again, so load up on the for Groves to win in rounds 4-6.
John Wayne Hibbert v Tommy Martin – BET NOW
The most interesting fight on the London undercard goes to former sparring partners John Wayne Hibbert (16-3, 10 KOs) and Tommy Martin (13-0, 5 KOs). Hibbert is the current commonwealth super lightweight champ having taken the title from Dave Ryan in a see-saw contest last September.
But, and it’s a big one, Ryan was winning the bout when he pulled up injured in the tenth round. Hibbert needed that luck to keep his career alive at the championship level but Martin is an unbeaten opponent and a serious threat to Essex chap’s career.
Both have good KO ratio’s in recent bouts but Martin is a fresh 21 year old compared to Hibbert’s experienced 31 years. The age difference may not mean much on the night but Martin’s edge in speed and accuracy will. Back the youngster from St Neots to win on points at .