LAS VEGAS

Sergey Kovalev had little trouble retaining his light heavyweight titles Saturday night, stopping Nadjib Mohammedi in the third round 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.

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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 oddsmakers would not even accept bets on the fight.

Kovalev improved to 28-0-1 with 25 knockouts.

Earlier, former light heavyweight champion Pascal overcame a slow start to beat Yuniesky Gonzalez by unanimous decision to set up a possible rematch with Kovalev.

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.