Montreal is not known as one of boxing's hotbeds, but it will be the site of the sport's first major fight of 2014 on Saturday, Jan. 18. Jean Pascal (28-2-1, 17 KO) and Lucian "Le Tombeur" Bute (31-1, 24 KO)—two men who have adopted Montreal as their home—will clash in an important fight on the light heavyweight landscape.
Pascal is a former WBC light heavyweight champion, and Bute held the IBF super middleweight title for almost five years. Saturday's bout will be for Bute's NABF light heavyweight title.
The crown at stake is not considered a world title.
However, gaining positioning for a potential shot at one of the world titleholders at 175 pounds is important. Both Bute and Pascal are in the process of rebuilding their status as championship-level fighters after losses.
Here are the particulars and the tale of the tape.
When: Saturday, Jan. 18 at 10:15 p.m. EST
Where: Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
|Lucian Bute||Category||Jean Pascal|
|Laval, Quebec, Canada||Residence||Laval, Quebec, Canada|
|210 rounds||Experience||221 rounds|
Info per BoxRec.com
Potential Ring Rust for Bute
Bute hasn't fought since Nov. 2012. He rebounded from his only career loss to Carl Froch with a unanimous-decision win over Denis Grachev. An injured hand forced a bout with Pascal to be postponed in May 2013.
Ring rust could be a factor after a 14-month layoff.
Pascal Set to Break One-Fight-Per-Year Trend
Pascal has fought just once in each of the last three years. He'll be battling the effects of inactivity as well.
He drew with current IBF champion and ageless wonder Bernard Hopkins in Dec. 2010. He lost the subsequent rematch in May 2011. That loss seemed a lot worse when it happened than it does now.
Hopkins continues to defy his age (49). He's won his last two fights against Tavoris Cloud and Karo Murat convincingly.
Pascal has rebounded with two straight wins. Most recently, he stopped George Blades in the fifth round of their Sept. 2013 bout. Still, he needs a win over an opponent with a big name to thrust himself back into the 175-pound title conversation.
What Could Be Next for the Winner
Lem Satterfield of Ring Magazine reports that a deal has been reached between Hopkins and Beibut Shumenov to unify the IBF and WBA titles. That fight gives Bute and Pascal something to shoot for. Even if facing the winner of Hopkins vs. Shumenov doesn't materialize, the prospect of facing WBO champion Sergey Kovalev or WBC titleholder Adonis Stevenson could be on the table later in the year.
Per Scott Gilfoid of Boxing News 24, Stevenson would like to face the winner of Pascal vs. Bute.
There is still a chance that Stevenson and Kovalev will give fans the fight they crave at 175 pounds, but nonetheless, Pascal or Bute could put himself in the thick of things by winning on Saturday night.
Though Pascal hails originally from Haiti and Bute is from Romania, both men live in Laval, Quebec. All but two of Pascal's bouts have taken place in Canada, and only six of Bute's fights have been outside the country.
Both men have legions of fans in Montreal, and that explains why Pascal's promoter Yvon Michel told Jake Donovan of Boxing Scene: "We’ve sold more than 20,000 tickets and are expecting a completely full house on Saturday night."
Montreal boxing fans are taking this bout seriously, and Pascal has been firing verbal shots to stoke the pre-fight flame.
Pascal has always been a bit of trash talker before fights. He took issue with Bute's pledge to shut his mouth and challenged him to say it to his face during a recent public news conference. Bute refused, and Pascal went in with myriad insults, per Herb Zurkowsky of the Montreal Gazette: "He has no guts. It’s easy to speak through the media, on Facebook or Twitter. If he’s a man of his own and not a puppet, man-up, standup, come to my face and say you’re going to shut me up. I think he’s a coward."
Well then, since we're being honest.
Pascal is trying to gain a mental edge over his opponent heading into the fight. You never know whether or not these tactics have an effect until the two men step in the ring, but pre-fight challenges and verbal jabs are almost always entertaining.
He has learned from the best. His mentor and idol Roy Jones Jr. will be in his corner for the fight. Jones Jr. told Bill Beacon of The Canadian Press that Pascal's boastful ways are a product of his influence:
I understand that in Quebec, you like silence — people that come off a little bit lower key than how Mr. Pascal comes off. That's partly my fault because a lot of guys grew up watching me. I didn't have good sense, so I said everything and did everything. But I always aimed for the sky.
Pascal will have to aim high to come up big on Saturday night.
Rebuilding Shattered Confidence
Pascal has reason to believe Bute may be vulnerable mentally. In his only loss, a fifth-round TKO at the hands of Froch, he looked discouraged and beaten emotionally. Though he did beat Grachev in his last bout, he didn't look overly impressive.
Bute's personal style and loss to Froch have people like Cabral Ibacka, the Romanian TV personality and former kickboxer, calling him soft.
That's not a moniker any fighter wants to carry.
Bute is trying to stay true to himself outside the ring, no matter what Pascal or his critics say. Per Zurkowsky, Bute said: "I have strategy. My head is clean. I’m confident and strong. There’s nothing to stop me. Saturday night, there’s just one winner — Lucian Bute."
You gotta love when they go third person on you. He continued:
I was a gentleman with every opponent — until now. I told him I would close his mouth. I don’t think it’s something bad. It’s just an expression. I’m nice outside the ring. In the ring, I’m very bad.
That's "bad" meaning good.
Who wins Bute vs. Pascal, and how?
There is no question Bute is the more skilled fighter. He throws punches from various angles and knows how to use his height and length. He'll have a near four-inch height advantage, although Pascal's long arms could serve to nullify that edge.
Pascal is the speedier fighter. He keeps a more manic pace, and Bute will have to show that he is capable of withstanding an early charge and maintaining his composure.
Pascal will be looking to take Bute's heart early, so the former super middleweight champion must be prepared.
Tom Gray of Ring TV acknowledges the fight is tough to call. Per another Satterfield article for Ring Magazine, he said this of the upcoming clash:
The trouble with making a pick based on form is that there is no form. But my hunch is that Pascal retains the ambition. I’m not convinced Bute still wants to fight and he could merely be doing what is expected of him by continuing his career. I see Bute starting well, but succumbing to a late round rally by Pascal.
One positive for Bute is that Pascal isn't a devastating puncher like Froch. Without night-changing pop on his punches, Pascal won't be able to disturb Bute's rhythm as easily.
Instead, Bute's southpaw stance, jab and signature body shots could spell trouble for Pascal. When frustrated, Pascal tends to abandon sound mechanics and get wild.
I'm going out on a limb with this prediction: Bute's boxing skill and desire to prove the doubters wrong will be enough to lift him to a unanimous-decision victory.
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