Pascal’s Fire Burns Bute and Earns Him Montreal Bragging Rights

by Kieran Mulvaney

Photo: Will Hart

During the build up to their Saturday clash in Montreal’s Bell Centre, Lucian Bute and Jean Pascal had been a study in contrasts. Bute, as is so often the case, was reserved, understated, confident yet quiet; Pascal was a constant bundle of nervous energy wrapped inside a coating of seething contempt for his foe. When the time came for words to cease and punches to fly, the two men approached their battle for Quebec supremacy in similarly divergent styles: Pascal all coiled aggression and Bute, the would-be matador, seeking to spear a dangerous and onrushing bull.

At the end of 12 rounds, there was no doubt which approach prevailed. Pascal’s fire melted Bute’s ice, securing the Haiti-born fighter a deserved unanimous points victory in front of over 20,000 wildly enthusiastic fans.

The tone, if not the result, was set in the early going, as Bute jerked his southpaw lead right in and out, seemingly slightly confusing Pascal, who stood on the outside, looking for an angle and an opportunity to be the attacker. In the second round, that desired assault erupted into a spell of highly effective aggression, as Pascal responded to a short Bute left hand by landing a flurry of hard lefts and rights; they didn’t appear to hurt his foe unduly, but they sent the spray flying and clearly scored points.

Bute appeared more composed in the third, and enjoyed some success in landing sharp deterrent punches as a crouching Pascal eyed his putative prey. In the fourth, Pascal exploded into action again, straightening up his punches and landing a sharp right hand, followed by a left and another right. Bute, wobbled, waved Pascal in, and Pascal duly obliged with another flurry until a round-ending bell that was drowned out by the cacophony that filled the arena.

As if over-enthused by his success, Pascal became sloppier in his approach for a couple of rounds, allowing Bute to gain a little confidence and snap a southpaw jab while dancing on his toes. At times, Pascal gave the impression of falling asleep and then waking up with a start that was marked by a series of wild rushes; but when he was fully alert, he was focused, dangerous and confident, and the next five rounds were the most dominant of the fight.

Demonstrating elements of technique and showmanship characteristic of Roy Jones, Jr., who worked with him in camp, Pascal crouched low and sprang into action whenever an opening presented itself, appearing to drop Bute in the eighth with a left hook followed by a right, although the fact that the second punch caught Bute on the back of the head caused it to be ruled a push.

Push or punch, the effect was much the same: Bute looked ragged and busted up, and it would have been no surprise if at any stage in the ninth, tenth, or eleventh Pascal had managed to finish him off. In the event, however, feeling correctly that he was clearly dominating, he moved into cruise control, even to the extent of playing possum somewhat in the eleventh, allowing Bute to jab at him in the corner before erupting into another fierce flurry that rocked Bute backward.

When Bute opened up the twelfth again pinning Pascal into a corner, and again landing with jabs and now straight lefts as well, the first thought was that Pascal was again leading him on. But Bute kept landing, and memories returned to Pascal’s fatigue issues in previous fights. A dramatic collapse and a sudden turnaround seemed possible, until Pascal fought back hard enough to keep a weary Bute at bay, and although the Romanian-born fighter summoned up one last effort, Pascal again responded in kind, the two men exchanging blows as the crowd roared in lusty approval.

At the beginning of the evening, Bute was the clear crowd favorite, and it remained that way at the end. But although Pascal’s victory was greeted with some boos, there were also cheers for both men, in recognition of an effort befitting of the Super Bowl of Canadian Boxing.

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In the co-main event, heavyweights Mike Perez and Carlos Takam battled to a majority draw in what was, candidly, a strange fight. For several rounds, Cameroon’s Takam circled away from the southpaw left hand of Perez – whose trunks bore the name of Magomed Abdusalamov, who is continuing a slow recovery from brain injuries suffered in a November bout with the Cuban. But beyond the occasional overhand right, Takam did little early on to assert himself in the contest. Perez seemed content to allow Takam to play keep-away, but at least demonstrated a degree of intent and an element of desire to cut off the ring.

It briefly appeared as if the contest might end prematurely when a clash of heads opened a deep gash on the right eyebrow of Perez. But the two men carried on, circling each other, until suddenly in the sixth round, a fight broke out.

As if tiring of constantly retreating and circling, Takam stood his ground, and the two men spent the rest of the fight leaning on each other and ripping each other with hooks and uppercuts to body and head. Takam got the better of the change in strategy and pace, rocking Perez on several occasions while the Cuban’s efforts to land counters between his foe’s punches had little effect.

Had the bout been 12 rounds, the Takam juggernaut would surely have ultimately run its way downhill to victory, but although he clearly swept the second half of the contest, it was too little, too late to gain the win, even if it was enough to avoid defeat.

Watch: Jean Pascal and Lucian Bute Weigh-In

On Friday, Jean Pascal and Lucian Bute met face to face one last time ahead of Saturday's main event (10:15pm ET/PT, HBO World Class Boxing).

More from Fight Week: Final Press Conference | A Canadian Boxing Super Bowl

One-on-One with: Jean Pascal | Lucian Bute | Mike Perez | Roy Jones Jr. 

Bute and Pascal Prepare to Do Battle for Local Crown

By Kieran Mulvaney

Photo Credit: Will Hart

Jean Pascal is considered the betting choice for his light-heavyweight clash with local rival Lucian Bute on Saturday night, but judging from the crowd reaction at a packed and chaotic weigh-in at the Montreal’s Sheraton Center on Friday, it is Bute who is the fan favorite.

The packed ballroom echoed to chants of “Bu-te, Bu-te,” as first the former super-middleweight champion, and then the erstwhile light-heavyweight kingpin, stepped on the scales. Bute, born in Romania but now a Canadian citizen, slid comfortably inside the weight limit at 173.6 pounds, while Pascal, who moved to Quebec from his native Haiti as a child, needed to remove an apparently quite heavy headband to hit 175 pounds on the nose. And all the while, the chants continued:

“But-te, Bu-te, Bu-te.”

Perhaps it is the fact that Bute has been fighting at a higher level for a longer period, or that he has never lost on home soil (his lone defeat, to Briton Carl Froch, came in England). Perhaps the taste is more for Bute’s reserved personality rather than Pascal’s eager self-confidence. Or perhaps Bute’s friends and family simply found it easier to spend their Friday lunchtime in downtown Montreal than did Pascal’s.

It certainly seems improbable that Pascal won’t have at least several thousand supporters in the Bell Center on fight night. Spend even a few minutes channel surfing on TV here and it seems impossible to miss at least some mention of, or detailed discussion about, the fight; this, one imagines, is what it was like when boxing was truly a mainstream sport, the topic of barroom debate and casual conversation on the street. Close to 20,000 people are expected to cram into the arena, roaring their chosen fighter to victory.

The case for Pascal rests principally on uncertainty over Bute’s fortitude; although he entered the Froch fight undefeated and on many pound-for-pound lists, he was annihilated inside five rounds by the Englishman, and looked less than dominant in his sole comeback fight since then. There is no doubt about Pascal’s toughness; the questions are about his boxing skill and his stamina, both of which were somewhat exposed when he dropped his title to Bernard Hopkins in this same venue three years ago. The conventional wisdom is that the contest will be either a points victory for Bute due to his superior technique, or a stoppage win for Pascal.

Convention, of course, counts for nothing once the fists begin to fly, and especially in a bout as full of emotion and significance as this one. Both men have been world champions before, but although neither presently wears that crown, the winner on Saturday will be the champion of Montreal, and it’s hard to escape the feeling that for both men, being able to boast that title will mean so much more.

Watch: One-on-One with Roy Jones Jr.

Roy Jones Jr. weighs in on Saturday's match between Jean Pascal and Lucian Bute in this one-on-one with Kieran Mulvaney:

More One-on-One with: Jean Pascal | Lucian Bute | Mike Perez

Watch: One-on-One with Mike Perez

HBO Boxing's Kieran Mulvaney goes one-on-one with Mike Perez, as he prepares to face off against Carlos Takam Saturday night at Montreal's Bell Centre:

More One-on-One with: Jean Pascal | Lucian Bute | Roy Jones Jr. 

Watch: One-on-One with Lucian Bute

HBO Boxing's Kieran Mulvaney meets with Lucian Bute for a quick one-on-one ahead of his bout against Jean Pascal, live from Montreal's Bell Centre, Saturday at 10:15pm ET/PT:

More One-on-One with: Jean Pascal | Mike Perez | Roy Jones Jr. 

Watch: One-on-One with Jean Pascal

HBO Boxing's Kieran Mulvaney goes one-on-one with Jean Pascal ahead of Saturday's meeting against Lucian Bute:

More One-on-One with: Lucian Bute | Mike Perez | Roy Jones Jr. 

CompuBox Analysis: Jean Pascal vs. Lucian Bute

by CompuBox

When Lucian Bute held the IBF super middleweight title and Jean Pascal possessed the WBC light heavyweight belt, a bout between the two was the most attractive and lucrative match that could be made in Quebec. Both were emigres who developed into local favorites that regularly jammed the Bell Centre but for whatever reason the match was never made.

Until now.

Neither has a belt but the intrigue remains. But, to paraphrase Larry Merchant, will Bute-Pascal be a case of "better late than never" or "better never than late?" Their respective CompuBox profiles offers clues as to who may emerge victorious.  Pascal is a 7-5 favorite (as of 1/8/14).

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