Recently, the respective teams of former lineal light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal and ex-IBF super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute agreed to terms that will pit the two Quebec-based fighters in a historic bout.
Both Pascal (27-2-1, 16 KO) and Bute (31-1, 24 KO) have rabid Canadian fanbases and remain close enough to the broader championship picture at 168 and 175 pounds to give their matchup genuine appeal.
Before Pascal vs. Bute was made official, the 1980 welterweight championship bout between Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran at Montreal’s Olympic stadium had been the country’s most significant boxing event. That Pascal and Bute are ready to supplant that fight in the collective memory of Canadians reinforces the country’s surprising emergence as a burgeoning boxing hotbed.
But will Pascal vs. Bute match these exceedingly high expectations and prove to be a watershed moment in Canadian boxing history? And can the fight do justice to the country’s most productive decade of professional prizefighting?
Pascal vs. Bute, to many, will serve as a marquee event that could mark the culmination of Montreal’s emergence as one of the world’s best fight cities. After hosting the 1976 Olympic Games, which featured arguably the greatest ever American boxing squad, and the aforementioned 1980 Leonard-Duran clash, it wasn’t until the mercurial Hilton brothers and the likes of Eric Lucas that boxing in Quebec started to gather momentum.
The relocation of fighters like Pascal, Bute, Herman Ngoudjo and Troy Ross—originally from Haiti, Romania, Cameroon and Guyana, respectively—either after the Olympics or early enough to represent Canada in international competitions has been a massive boost to the country’s fight culture.
Combined with the emergence of Quebecois fighters like David Lemieux, Mikael Zewski and other international prospects who have settled in Montreal, this melding of established and emerging talent has turned the province and city into a fertile breeding ground for championship-caliber fighters.
But back to Pascal vs. Bute. As the flagship fighters of the current class of Canada-based boxers and their respective promotional companies—Pascal is with Yvon Michel’s GYM Promotions while Jean Bedard of InterBox has guided Bute’s career—the fight possesses the ideal combination of hype, class and historical significance to potentially exceed expectations.
First, one must define or establish exactly what these expectations are.
Had Pascal vs. Bute occurred in early 2011—before Pascal lost to Bernard Hopkins and Bute was bludgeoned by Carl Froch—it would have been one of the sport’s biggest fights, period. With either Pascal’s lineal title or Bute’s IBF belt at stake, the bout could have carried fringe pound-for-pound implications.
The reality, however, is that both Pascal and Bute have slipped in recent bouts. After losing his title to Froch, Bute looked pedestrian and vulnerable in scoring a decision win over rugged Russian Denis Grachev.
Pascal, of course, struggled with his stamina against a then 46-year-old Bernard Hopkins, settling for a controversial draw to retain his title before losing a competitive but clear decision in the rematch. In his comeback bout after an extended layoff, Pascal injured his shoulder yet scored a gutsy and entertaining victory over Aleksy Kuziemski.
It is these vulnerabilities, however, that could make Pascal vs. Bute even more compelling.
In a sense, both fighters have been dislodged from their pedestals. And yet, the winner of Pascal vs. Bute promises to again be a relevant, championship-level fighter. The stakes for this bout are astronomical in the sense that the loser, especially if he is stopped or looks sluggish, is likely finished as an elite boxer.
While the magnitude of Pascal vs. Bute is obvious, some of the logistics are still unclear. That said, as ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael reports, a potential television deals offers exciting possibilities:
Although the promoters did not announce the U.S. television deal, they are in the process of finalizing an agreement with HBO, which will have a split-site doubleheader on May 25 with Pascal-Bute from Canada and the super middleweight title rematch between Mikkel Kessler and Carl Froch from London.
Pascal vs. Bute is a genuine event, and the prospect of the fight selling out the Bell Centre and a recent staredown at centre ice at a Montreal Canadiens game attest to this. Furthermore, the idea of a split-site HBO telecast involving the Froch vs. Kessler bout is an ideal way to promote a future fight between the winners.
While the fight’s extracurricular elements imbue it with significance, as well as the opportunity to produce something memorable, the bout is also an intriguing stylistic clash.
Pascal can take a punch and has supreme natural skills and athletic ability, yet he is prone to abandoning his fundamentals and fading late in fights. Bute has good power, hand speed and footwork, but he can be rocked and bullied.
Given their combination of positive and negative attributes, both Pascal and Bute have legitimate chances to exploit the other in what could be a back-and-forth fight.
Will Pascal walk through Bute’s punches, corner him and bully him into submission? Or will Bute’s precise combination punching and movement keep a wild and advancing Pascal off-balance?
Either way, the fight should be filled with clean punching and consistent action.
Pascal vs. Bute is not on the level of Leonard vs. Duran, but that doesn’t matter. Both men know the historical significance of their fight and realize that a win will rejuvenate their careers. Ultimately, what Pascal vs. Bute will offer is that which only boxing at its best can provide: high stakes, high skill level and high drama.
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