According to RingTV's Corey Erdman, former lineal light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal will make his long overdue ring return when he faces Aleksy Kuziemski on Dec. 14, at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
Pascal (26-2-1, 16 KO), who has not fought since May 2011, was last seen losing the lineal light heavyweight title to Bernard Hopkins in a rematch of their controversial majority draw. Hopkins (52-6-2, 32 KO), of course, made history by becoming boxing’s oldest ever world champion with the victory.
Pascal, on the other hand, was undoubtedly left wondering what had happened to his momentum after upsetting Chad Dawson only two fights prior to his defeat to Hopkins.
In electing to face Kuziemski (23-4, 7 KO), Pascal has made a wise decision that will likely set him up for significant fights as soon as the first quarter of 2013. After such a prolonged layoff, immediately jumping back into the ring with elite fighters at 175 pounds could have proven detrimental to Pascal.
Kuziemski won a bronze medal at the 2003 World Amateur Championships, and he also represented Poland at the 2004 Olympics in Athens where he was eliminated in the first round by current WBA light heavyweight titlist Beibut Shumenov.
What Kuziemski represents for Pascal is a respectable opponent who should give the former light heavyweight champion some desperately needed rounds. As a professional, Kuziemski has parlayed his amateur pedigree into marginal success; most notably, he has captured both the WBO Inter-Continental and EBA (European Boxing Association) light heavyweight titles.
Kuziemski, however, has been defeated every time he has genuinely stepped up in class. His first setback came in 2009 when he lost a bid for the interim WBO title against Juergen Braehmer via 11th-round TKO. Then, in 2011, current WBO champion Nathan Cleverly stopped Kuziemski inside of four rounds.
As a fighter who lacks power, Kuziemski should offer Pascal the chance to work out his kinks, which will be crucial for Pascal moving forward. Erdman, in his article, points out that after several false starts, significant opportunities are looming for Pascal:
Most recently, an August date with IBF titleholder Tavoris Cloud was canceled after the Canadian injured his hand in training, forfeiting a date on Showtime in the process.
According to [Yvon] Michel, Pascal has two option proposals for 2013, barring a victory over Kuziemski. The first would be to revisit the ill-fated Cloud bout in February on Showtime, and the second, a rematch with Chad Dawson in March on HBO.
Both Cloud (24-0, 19 KO) and Dawson (31-2, 17 KO) are intriguing options for Pascal. If Cloud looks impressive when he defends his IBF title against Karo Murat on Nov. 24, it will further fuel what was already seen as a highly anticipated fight against Pascal.
Pascal, however, must do his part. Luckily for Pascal, he has some leverage in terms of securing fights with either Cloud or Dawson. Because of his popularity in Canada, Pascal remains a bigger draw than both Cloud and Dawson. This marketability can help sustain Pascal’s viability as a top light heavyweight, even if he looks rusty against Kuziemski.
Pascal’s career circumstances are somewhat peculiar, especially when compared to his Montreal compatriot Lucian Bute. Since Bute (31-1, 24 KO) defeated Denis Grachev via underwhelming unanimous decision to set up a rematch against Carl Froch, it has become reasonable to suspect whether Froch-Bute II is a bad idea.
Pascal, on the other hand, does not have to worry about his comeback fight carrying such popular and public significance, unless he loses. For one, unlike Bute, Pascal embarks on his ring return coming off of a narrow defeat, albeit against a significantly older fighter in Hopkins.
More importantly, whereas Bute finds himself working toward a bout with a fighter who annihilated him and has positive career momentum in Froch, Pascal and his team have set their sights on two fighters—Cloud and Dawson—who are also in need of redemption.
Cloud, who was recently awarded a gift decision against Gabriel Campillo, can restore his credibility to a certain degree against Murat (25-1-1, 15 KO), but this fight will do little to solve his dilemma of being a largely anonymous champion. A fight against Pascal offers Cloud exposure and the chance to score the biggest win of his career.
A rematch against Dawson is, perhaps, a more enticing option for Pascal. Of course, Pascal handed Dawson his first career defeat in 2010. In that fight, Pascal seemed to surprise and outwork a lethargic Dawson, hurting him in the middle rounds as he piled up points. Dawson did rally late, hurting Pascal in rounds 10 and 11 before the fight prematurely went to the scorecards due to a Dawson cut.
Recently, Dawson moved down to super middleweight to challenge lineal champion Andre Ward. The fight between two prime, undisputed champions ended up being a whitewash, and Ward (26-0, 14 KO) dominated Dawson, knocking him down three times en route to a 10th-round stoppage.
The prospect of Pascal-Dawson II makes sense for both men on multiple levels. From a financial standpoint, it will be lucrative for both fighters, and Dawson, who is still the lineal 175-pound champion, would surely enjoy the chance to avenge his defeat to Pascal.
That said, the path to Pascal-Dawson II might not be so straightforward, especially for those hoping to see the bout in March. In fact, the proposed rematch brings up more immediate questions than answers: Where will the bout take place? Will Dawson want his own tune-up bout before fighting someone of Pascal’s class?
As Erdman points out, a proposed rematch between Pascal and Dawson could happen in March, which would not give Dawson ample time to take an interim bout. Whether this proves realistic after the devastating nature of Dawson’s loss to Andre Ward remains to be seen.
Still, Pascal-Dawson II is a fight both men should strive for. Given the way Pascal dominated early before fading in the face of Dawson’s rally, it isn’t abundantly clear as to who holds the edge going into a rematch. This will make for an interesting and lengthy pre-fight debate.
Also, some might wonder whether Pascal’s struggles against Hopkins show that he simply benefited from Dawson underestimating him during their first encounter. Regardless of how one feels, both Pascal and Dawson should be highly motivated if a rematch is made.
Ideally, Pascal will defeat Kuziemski and secure a bout with Cloud in February 2013. This is a fight that should, logistically, take place in Montreal, and the winner of that bout could then face Dawson for light heavyweight supremacy. This would also give Dawson the chance to win a comeback bout as Pascal and Cloud move toward their own fight.
Regardless of how these hypothetical scenarios unfold, the fact remains that Pascal is skilled and entertaining, and he usually finds himself in exciting fights. Whether Pascal eventually fights Cloud, Dawson or maybe Carl Froch (29-2, 21 KO)—if “The Cobra” eventually moves up light heavyweight—in a rematch of their thrilling 2008 encounter, boxing fans will benefit from the return of the brash former champion.