On August 11th, boxing fans should have been enjoying a compelling clash between current IBF light heavyweight champion Tavoris Cloud and former undisputed 175-pound king Jean Pascal. However, when Pascal (26-2-1, 16 KO) suffered a hand injury in late July, the bout was postponed, and the logistics of rescheduling the fight have proved maddening.
According to ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael, the fight was supposed to be postponed until October, but scheduling conflicts with available Showtime dates, Montreal’s Bell Centre and Quebec City’s Pepsi Coliseum have left both fighters and their respective promoters in the lurch and desperate for solutions or a compromise.
Because Pascal is a significant draw throughout Quebec and Canada—whereas Cloud (24-0, 19 KO) is a pedestrian draw in comparison—the realistic possibility of the fight taking place anytime soon is unrealistic. In Montreal or Quebec City, Pascal would draw upwards of 15,000 fans, and unless such a live gate can be counted on, another network picking up the fight is unlikely.
Rafael notes that “the later into the year the fight is pushed, the bigger the issues Cloud […] will have, given that he has a mandatory defense against Karo Murat to take care of.”
Rafael also speaks of the possibility of an NHL lockout opening up marquee dates in Montreal, but relying on such an outcome is the promotional equivalent of grasping at straws.
While Pascal’s injury is certainly legitimate and the scheduling conflicts are no fault of his own, the question that begs asking is: Is Pascal’s current layoff and injury trouble cause for major concern?
The answer, of course, is somewhat complicated. Before engaging in two surprisingly riveting and hotly contested bouts with Bernard Hopkins, Pascal was riding a strong wave of championship momentum.
In 2009, Pascal wrested the WBC light heavyweight title from Adrian Diaconu in an unforgettable slugfest, and the two Montreal-based boxers would engage in an equally compelling rematch sandwiched between Pascal’s first title defense against Silvio Branco. Having defeated Diaconu with a separated shoulder, Pascal proved his mettle and paved the way for an important fight against skilled American Chad Dawson.
Though he was a clear underdog, Pascal was the aggressor against Dawson. He rocked his American opponent in the middle rounds only to be staggered himself in the 11th and eventually gutted his way to technical decision after a cut over Dawson’s eye forced referee Michael Griffin and the ringside doctor to stop the fight.
Regardless of the anti-climactic outcome, Pascal had handed Dawson his first defeat and officially arrived on the world stage. Then came the Hopkins fights.
Bernard Hopkins’ crafty veteran style, at times dirty tactics and incredible physical and psychological abilities have ruined many younger fighters (Kelly Pavlik, anyone?), and one has to wonder what kind of toll the Hopkins fights have taken on Pascal, both physically mentally.
Pascal, often to his own detriment, has never been one to conserve his energy in fights, and his athletic, movement-based style has left him gassed at the end of significant contests. Nowhere was this lack of energy conservation more apparent than in the two Hopkins fights, the second of which was a deserved points victory for “The Executioner.”
While Pascal possesses unflappable self-confidence in his abilities, Hopkins seemed to rattle the Haitian-born fighter, especially when he taunted Pascal with between-round push-ups as a visibly exhausted Pascal remained on his stool as long as possible. This is not to say that Hopkins has killed Pascal’s confidence; however, what Pascal’s loss to Hopkins in the second fight glaringly exposed were Pascal’s two biggest weaknesses: stamina and the occasional breakdown in his fundamentals.
Other than his crowd-pleasing style and obvious skills, one reason Pascal is such a compelling fighter is because of his desire and willingness to tangle with elite boxers. However, after such a long layoff and two taxing fights against Hopkins, Pascal could be ripe for the picking against a talented, hungry and powerful fighter like Cloud.
At this point, Pascal needs to prove that he still possesses the passion and drive that got him to the top of the light heavyweight division, and an important part of that has to do with staying busy. Pascal has been idle since May 2011, but Rafael reports—in the above-cited article—that Pascal will fight in 2012, regardless of whether or not Showtime is involved.
A fight versus the ever-dangerous TBA opponent might actually be better for Pascal’s career at this point. Shaking off his ring rust could make a future matchup with Cloud even more enticing and competitive, and a tune-up fight should give us an indication of exactly where Pascal stands, both physically and mentally.
Montreal’s rise as a top-five boxing city has had much to do with Pascal and Lucian Bute’s championship success. Knowing Pascal and his competitive and confident nature, expect him to be highly motivated to recapture a belt not only for himself, but also for the pride of the city that so impressively supports him and is now craving world title redemption.
If and when Pascal-Cloud happens, it ought to be done right, and if that means waiting another six months for that tantalizing matchup, the class of both men will make it worthwhile.