What's Next for Jean Pascal After Lucian Bute Injury Derails Canadian Showdown?

Zachary Alapi@@ZacharyAlapiCorrespondent IMay 7, 2013

Image courtesy of tvasports.ca
Image courtesy of tvasports.ca

When terms to a fight between former lineal light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal and one-time IBF super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute were agreed on, all boxing fans had a compelling and significant fight to eagerly anticipate. But Pascal-Bute, naturally, was even more meaningful to Canadian fans because it finally promised a marquee domestic match-up worthy of international attention. 

And yet, one could easily make the case that Pascal-Bute is already tiptoeing around its expiration date. After losing his lineal title to Bernard Hopkins in a lackluster performance in 2011, Pascal (27-2-1, 16 KO), 30, was coming off of a gritty win over Aleksy Kuziemski in December of 2012 where he sustained yet another shoulder injury. 

Bute (31-1, 24 KO), 33, of course, made nine successful defenses of his IBF super middleweight strap before being bludgeoned by Carl Froch after finally leaving the cozy confines of Montreal’s Bell Centre and Quebec City’s Pepsi Coliseum. Bute, who looked shaky in a comeback decision victory over Denis Grachev, needs the Pascal fight to propel him back to relevance. 

Despite this perfect alignment of high stakes and historical significance, Pascal and Bute’s proposed May 25 fight has been postponed due to Bute suffering a hand injury that will require surgery (per CBC.ca): 

A spokesman for Bute's promoter InterBox said Tuesday the southpaw will need surgery this week to remove bone fragments from his left hand. The injury occurred during training in Florida.

A makeup date has yet to be determined, he said. 

So, given this frustrating turn of events, what should Jean Pascal do in the interim? Should he pursue another fight as close to the original May 25 date as possible, or should he remain idle so as to preserve the integrity of his fight against Bute? 

In a sense, waiting is perhaps Pascal’s most realistic option. A loss before fighting Bute would mean that both boxers would enter their all-Canadian super fight nursing uneven performances, which would dampen the fight’s magnitude outside of Canada. On the other hand, Pascal is likely itching to fight since he’s only been in the ring once since May of 2011. 

At this point, the extent of Bute’s injury remains murky. Obviously he will require surgery to remove the bone fragments in his hand, but it is still unclear as to whether Bute is looking at a convalescence of a couple or several months. Regardless, Bute could likely be ready to fight by the time Pascal’s most attractive options are poised to fight again. 

Pascal, understandably, will not want to let months of high-intensity training go to waste. A recent tweet asking if former foe Bernard Hopkins is ready to step in on May 25 was obviously cheeky (Hopkins is fighting Karo Murat on July 13), but it does speak to the significance of the May 25 card, which could be in jeopardy without a marquee headliner. 

Pascal-Bute was supposed to be part of a split-site card on HBO featuring the highly anticipated rematch between current IBF super middleweight champion Carl Froch and WBA boss Mikkel Kessler from the O2 Arena in London. Naturally, this cross-pollination of cards would lead to speculation that the winners of the respective fights could end up clashing. 

Pascal fighting either Froch or Kessler would be tantalizing, but the soonest either could be ready for another grueling bout would be September (optimistically), at which point Bute could be ready, or nearly ready, to fight again. Plus, the layering of Pascal-Bute acting as both a historically significant bout and a stepping stone for the winner would be lost if Pascal simply bides his time for the Froch-Kessler winner. 

Plus, there is no guarantee that the winner of Froch and Kessler would opt to fight Pascal. And if they did, and if Pascal won, justifying a fight against Bute as a follow-up would be met with grumbles—at least south of the border—given that Bute is coming off of an implosion (against Froch) and an uneven victory (against Grachev). 

The point here is that Bute and Pascal are at the appropriate crossroads to be fighting, whereas Froch and Kessler are currently operating at a higher level. In order for Pascal and Bute to be taken with appropriate seriousness outside of Canada, they need to fight each other first to determine who is better. 

A similar case could be made for the upcoming June 8 fight between Chad Dawson and Adonis Stevenson. While there is no certainty that Froch or Kessler will want to move up to 175 pounds, Dawson and Stevenson will be battling for Dawson’s Ring and WBC titles. 

However, waiting to fight the winner between Dawson and Stevenson could again conflict with Bute’s return while offering potentially little reward. While Pascal has already defeated Dawson, “Bad Chad” is obviously a dangerous foe who was gaining some momentum in their fight before being stopped on a cut. A loss to Dawson would, in a sense, negate the most effective victory Pascal has scored to date. 

Obviously the promise of regaining the lineal title would appeal to Pascal. That said, both Dawson and Stevenson, despite the latter being Montreal-based, lack broad market appeal, and the fact that Pascal backed out of a second fight with Dawson to pursue a bout with Bute is telling. Pascal clearly cares about the historical implications of his fight against Bute. 

Someone like Tavoris Cloud, who lost to Hopkins in March, could be ready sooner, but what would Pascal stand to gain by fighting a now-former belt-holder who lacks popular appeal? Also, the fact that Cloud lost so convincingly to Hopkins to makes a proposed bout with Pascal far less meaningful than it would have been last summer. 

A tune-up fight offers tremendous risk without any prestige or reward for Pascal, and there is always the chance he could sustain another injury. If Bute’s injury isn’t debilitating (and that’s a big if), it might be for the best for both men to wait and not dampen the luster of a fight that could have been universally massive one or two years ago. 

Pascal-Bute will be the most important fight in Canadian boxing history. Waiting a few more months for it isn’t outrageous, and here’s hoping that Bute can recover quickly and that both men don’t do anything rash that could jeopardize this significant event. 

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