Jean Pascal and John David Jackson nearly come to blows at wild presser
The final press conference before the Sergey Kovalev-Jean Pascal fight took an ugly and bizarre turn on Wednesday when Pascal took his place on the dais and offered to start handing out bananas to black audience members, including Kovalev trainer, John David Jackson, who had to be restrained from going after Pascal by security.
“Do you want to keep it for your black coach?” Pascal said to Kovalev, holding up the banana. “Black people, do you want some?”
In a wild and uncomfortable rant, Pascal accused Kovalev of racially disparaging him and other opponents, such as 2013 foe Ismayl Sillakh, using the banana as a prop. Kovalev dismissed Pascal’s rhetoric as unfounded when he got up to speak.
“Everybody knows what is true,” Kovalev said. “But you will see on Saturday. It will be a personal fight for me.”
Jackson came to Kovalev’s defense, saying that Kovalev is not racist, otherwise he wouldn’t have him in his corner for Saturday’s fight at the Bell Centre in Montreal on HBO, a rematch of Kovalev’s eighth-round stoppage last March.
“It’s not about race,” Jackson said on stage. “Sergey may say things where at the time when he says them, they may come out wrong, but if he was racist, I wouldn’t be in his corner.”
Kovalev (28-0-1, 25 knockouts) remained calm throughout the proceedings. The two even managed to pose off without incident, though organizers initially balked at having them stand nose to nose. The two locked eyes and then stood side by side, nearly touching. Kovalev smiled, seemingly at ease, while Pascal (30-3-1, 17 KOs) appeared serious.
Jackson, a former two-division titleholder, didn’t react as calmly when he later got up to speak, getting into it with Pascal. (Kovalev promoter Kathy Duva of Main Events had a pained expression throughout Pascal’s rant.)
As the two exchanged words, Pascal alleged that RING pound-for-pound No. 2 -rated Kovalev doesn’t take Jackson seriously as a trainer because he only works with Kovalev close to a fight.
“He came to you for three weeks before the fight,” Pascal screamed at Jackson. “He don’t trust you because you’re black. He doesn’t respect you.”
Jackson’s response briefly quieted Pascal and had him searching for a comeback.
“Is that all? Why is [former trainer] Marc [Ramsey] not here?” Jackson said. “Because he knows you’re getting knocked out in this fight. That’s why he’s not here. No other reason. He told you you’re gonna get knocked out this fight. Yeah, put the mic away now, because that’s true. You know that’s true. That’s why you’re stuck right here.”
Security jumped in to restore order as Pascal then stood up to speak to Jackson directly at the podium. During the argument, Jackson gave as good as he took, telling Pascal to “Shut the (expletive) up, you had your time” and later challenging him to a fight outside. “Come outside and you’ll get knocked out,” Jackson said as security broke them apart.
“Stand up for black people,” Pascal screamed back at one point. “He has no respect. He don’t trust you because you’re black.”
The proceedings started calmly enough with Pascal introducing a fighter he’s promoting on the undercard. Then things got weird.
“I didn’t have breakfast so I feel kind of hungry right now,” Pascal began. “Let me get some food real quick.”
And with that, Pascal picked up a cluster of bananas and offered to start handing them out, even asking Kovalev if he wanted one.
“It’s only for black people, bananas,” Pascal later said. “Do you want to keep a banana for your black coach?” said Pascal, referencing Jackson. “Coach, I got you,” as he walked over to Jackson’s side and handed him a banana.
“I’m going to whoop your black ass,” Pascal accused Kovalev of saying. “That’s a racist comment. He called me a piece of (expletive) because I’m black. He didn’t say that to any white fighter.”
Pascal later translated his rant into French for audience members who may not have understood him.
Please return for updates to this story.
Mitch Abramson can be reached at [email protected]