- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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The much-anticipated showdown between Montreal's most popular active fighters, former light heavyweight champ Jean Pascal and former super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute, turned out to be more super wipeout than superfight.
After seeing how Pascal dominated, it definitely wasn't worth the long wait -- the fight should have happened two or three years ago -- and laughable that there were suggestions from both sides about a rematch in the aftermath, especially with another Montreal star looming for Pascal in light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson.
Save for a difficult 12th round -- and it really wasn't all that difficult -- Pascal essentially did as he pleased in rolling to a lopsided unanimous decision victory against Bute on Saturday night before a packed house of 20,479 at the Bell Centre, the arena where they have both drawn big crowds for years and have had fans salivating over their inevitable summit meeting.
And then when the fight was finally signed and scheduled to take place last May, it was postponed for eight months because the southpaw Bute badly injured his left hand three weeks before the fight and needed surgery and a lengthy rehabilitation.
When they finally met, Bute's left hand was fine, but he couldn't do anything with it. He couldn't do much of anything with the right hand, either.
"It means a lot," Pascal said of the victory. "I've been working really hard for this. It's been five years [since] I've been chasing Bute to show the people I'm the best in town, and today I proved it."
While Pascal, energized by the presence of good pal and former light heavyweight kingpin Roy Jones Jr. in his corner as an assistant trainer, was fast and more accurate with his punches, Bute looked like a shell of the fighter who had racked up nine title defenses before Carl Froch annihilated him in five rounds in 2012.
That loss seemingly took everything from Bute -- his title, his undefeated record and, most of all, his confidence. When he came back after the loss, Bute looked awful in a serious struggle with Denis Grachev 14 months ago. Bute, whose usual ferocious uppercuts and body punching were dormant, looked worse against Pascal, who overflowed with confidence. After all, he had been the one chasing Bute for years, not the other way around. It was only when Bute was out of big-money options that he finally agreed to face Pascal, who has always been No. 2 -- behind Bute -- in the hearts of Quebec fight fans.
Even on Saturday night, when Pascal was tattooing Bute with combinations and body shots, the crowd was still mustering chants of "Bute! Bute! Bute!"
But Pascal, who admits that Bute got the best of him during sparring sessions they had when Bute was a novice pro and Pascal was training for the 2004 Olympics, stayed focused -- something he sometimes has trouble with. Although it wasn't a lights-out performance, Pascal landed more than enough clean shots and unloaded several hard combinations to clearly win round after round, to the tune of official scorecards of 118-110, 117-111, 116-112. ESPN.com had Pascal winning 118-110.
Pascal swelled Bute's left eye early in the fight, and it became much more noticeable by the eighth round. An accidental head-butt opened a cut on Bute's forehead in the 10th, the same round in which Pascal pulled one of Jones' old tricks, playing to the crowd by looking away from Bute while still throwing punches at him. Everything was going his way.
It was only in the 12th, after trainer Stephan Larouche implored a lethargic Bute (31-2, 24 KOs), 33, to at least drop Pascal (29-2-1, 17 KOs), 31, that he responded with any meaningful offense.
Bute had Pascal trapped in a corner and was hurting him with punches, and it briefly looked as though this might be a night reminiscent of Julio Cesar Chavez Sr.'s legendary last-second comeback against Meldrick Taylor. But Pascal remained on his feet, weathered the storm and had his hand raised.
"I'm really disappointed. I trained well, but for some reason things didn't go as I planned," Bute said. "I want a rematch."
Pascal tried to explain away his 12th-round problems by saying he let Bute attack him to make a lopsided fight closer in order to create demand for a rematch. Nice try.
Pascal landed 187 of 438 punches (43 percent), most with far more power than anything Bute landed. He connected on 150 of 411 blows (36 percent), according to CompuBox.
Stevenson was ringside for the fight, certainly watching with interest. He is a distant third in Montreal popularity compared with Pascal and Bute, but he is much newer on the scene as a top pro, having just won the world title last year. But he's a knockout artist with a big personality and has begun to also draw big crowds to the Bell Centre.
A fight between Stevenson and Pascal now looms. Many fight fans want to see Stevenson first unify belts with Russian knockout machine Sergey Kovalev, but a Stevenson-Pascal fight is bound to happen eventually -- although ideally it will be sooner rather than later. Just look at how overbaked Pascal-Bute became.
Whether it happens next is unclear, but it probably won't, even though it would surely fill up the Bell Centre -- or any other venue in Quebec. But both men have other options at the moment, and this could turn into another long wait.
Similar to how Pascal and Bute sparred years ago, Pascal and Stevenson (23-1, 20 KOs) -- who are both from Haiti but moved to Montreal long ago -- have also been in the ring with each other. They boxed twice as amateurs in 2003, with Pascal winning both times. Pascal considered those victories revenge for the late-1990s victory that Stevenson notched against his brother.
When asked about fighting each other as pros, they were non-committal.
"He can become an opponent in the future," is all Stevenson would say during a prefight interview with HBO's Max Kellerman.
When asked about the prospect of the fight after disposing of Bute, Pascal offered only: "I don't care what's next. Adonis is a world champion. I'm very proud of him. He's black like me; he's from my Haitian community. Big shoutout to 'Superman' Stevenson."
Big shoutout to both fighters and to their promoter, Yvon Michel, if they don't make us wait as many years as we had to wait to see Pascal-Bute.
Why should Jean Pascal bother with a Lucian Bute rematch after Saturday's dominant win? Instead, bring on another all-Montreal matchup: light heavyweight champ Adonis Stevenson.