SPORTS

Trainers get in pre-fight trash talk as Pascal preps for title shot with Kovalev

03/11/2015 05:44 EDT | Updated 05/11/2015 05:59 EDT
MONTREAL - It's rare that a trainer is the target of pre-fight trash talk instead of his fighter. But that's what has happened this week to Marc Ramsay, the coach of Canadian boxer Jean Pascal.

Ramsay found himself under verbal attack from John David Jackson, the trainer of Russian knockout artist and unified light heavyweight champion Sergey (Krusher) Kovalev.

Kovalev (26-0-1) will defend three championship belts against Pascal (29-2-1) on Saturday night at the Bell Centre. Jackson, himself a former middleweight champ, is not impressed with what he's seen of Pascal or of another Ramsay-trained light heavyweight, Artur Beterbiev.

"Am I disrespecting him? No, I don't know him," Jackson said Wednesday at a news conference at which members of Pascal's entourage mounted a spirited defence of Ramsay. "I know he's trained Pascal and he didn't look that good in certain fights.

"He trains Beterbiev. No defensive skills at all. You tell me you're a great trainer but I don't think that's been proved with your fighters. I'm not being nasty, I'm just being honest. If you don't like it, why don't you and I get in the ring and we'll settle it all together?"

It didn't come to that. And Ramsay dismissed the assault on his competence as part of the pre-fight mind games.

"It's a tactic," said Ramsay. "I saw that before in boxing.

"Sometimes, when you want to destabilize someone, you attack someone close to that person. If you attack me, I don't care. But if you attack Jean, I'll be more aggressive."

Like most trash talk, none of it is likely to mean anything once they get in the ring.

Ramsay has coached Pascal since the Laval, Que. fighter was 14. He did well enough for Pascal, now 32, to win the World Boxing Council title in 2009 and defend it four times before losing to veteran Bernard Hopkins by 12-round decision in 2011.

Since then, Pascal has won four times, but has fought only two competitive rounds in the past 14 months.

Kovalev, 31, won the World Boxing Organization title in 2013 and then added the WBC and IBF belts when he manhandled the then-49-year-old Hopkins for 12 rounds in November.

Kovalev is a fearsome puncher, with 23 of his wins by knockout. Pascal leans on speed and instinct but Kovalev will be the clear favourite, even if he's fighting in Pascal's hometown.

If Kovalev doesn't land a knockout blow early, it promises to be a spectacular fight.

Jackson said Pascal tires himself out after four or five rounds. It certainly seemed that way against Hopkins, when he dominated the early rounds, scoring knockdowns, but then faded.

But Ramsay sees Pascal as the better fighter.

"Kovalev is a very solid boxer but to me he's one-dimensional," said Ramsay. "Jean is a more sophisticated boxer.

"He has more tools, and we'll use everything we need to beat Kovalev."

Ramsay has a co-trainer in former ring star Roy Jones Jr., who feels Pascal can also match Kovalev's punching power.

"When Kovalev dropped Hopkins, Hopkins fell while kind of leaning back," said Jones. "When Pascal dropped him, all three times he smashed the bones out of Hopkins. Who does that tell you is a puncher?"

Pascal compared Kovalev to Russian hockey players, who he said were "good in the regular season but not in the playoffs," while he will treat the bout as if it was Game 7 of a Stanley Cup final.

"I'm not saying I will knock him out, but I will give everything I have to win," he said.

The card will be aired on the HBO specialty channel.

MORE:cpSports