LAS VEGAS (AP) — Sergey Kovalev had little trouble taking care of business against an outmatched Nadjib Mohammedi.
Now he can look forward to a homecoming bout in Moscow.
Kovalev stopped Mohammedi in the third round Saturday night, retaining his light heavyweight titles in a fight that was a mismatch from the start.
The unbeaten Russian dropped Mohammedi in the second round with a series of right hands, then put him down for good with a combination in the third round. Mohammedi got to his knees but was holding his nose as if it was broken and referee Kenny Bayless called a halt to the bout at 2:38 of the third.
Promoter Kathy Duva said Kovalev will return to the ring Nov. 28 in Moscow, likely against fellow Russian Artur Beterbiev.
“Sergey is really anxious to fight in Russia,” Duva said.
Kovalev, who stopped Jean Pascal in his last fight in March in Montreal, was defending his 175-pound crown against the mandatory challenger from France. Mohammedi was so little thought of that Las Vegas oddsmakers would not even accept bets on the fight.
“I wanted more rounds,” Kovalev said. “I wanted him to look like a clown. I wanted him to look foolish.”
Mohammedi, who fought most of his career in France, blamed his loss on being thumbed in the eye and not being able to see. But he did little against Kovalev, who urged him to get up and continue fighting after being knocked down in the third.
“I told him to stand up,” Kovalev said. “It was a short show. People didn’t see boxing.”
Earlier, Pascal overcame a slow start to beat Yunieski Gonzalez by unanimous decision to set up a possible rematch with Kovalev, who stopped him in the eighth round of their first fight.
The bout will have to wait until after Kovalev fights in Moscow, though, and perhaps longer if he is able to get a fight with unbeaten Andre Ward next spring.
“If Pascal is interested in a rematch I am ready,” Kovalev said. “It is boxing. I am ready for anybody.
Kovalev improved to 28-0-1 with 25 knockouts, while Mohammedi fell to 38-4.
Pascal (30-3-1) won by a 96-94 margin in the 10-round bout on all three scorecards to hand Gonzalez (16-1) his first loss. The decision was loudly booed by the crowd at the Mandalay Bay hotel-casino, and met with disbelief by Gonzalez himself.
Gonzalez had to be restrained in his corner as he lashed out after the decision was announced.
“It was a great fight, very close,” Pascal said. “I’m glad to give the fans another candidate for fight of the year because that’s what I think happened.”
Pascal, who was stopped in March by Kovalev in his last fight in his hometown of Montreal, took a lot of punishment early, getting hit with several big right hands by the aggressive Gonzalez. He rebounded in the later rounds, though, as Gonzalez seemed to tire.
“I am so sad. I was the real fighter,” Gonzalez said. “That was taken from me. He did not win, I did. I am the real winner.”
The fight was entertaining, with both boxers more than willing to trade punches. On several occasions Gonzalez seemed to rock Pascal, though the former champion landed some good right hands of his own.
“I was controlling the fight,” Pascal said. “The fight was following exactly the rhythm I wanted.”
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