- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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In a surprise move, rival Montreal promoters Yvon Michel and Jean Bedard of InterBox have come to an agreement to match their Montreal stars, former light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal and former super middleweight titleholder Lucian Bute, in what would easily be the biggest fight in Canadian history.
"Bute and Pascal are going to fight each other, it's just when we don't know," Michel, Pascal's promoter, told ESPN.com on Monday. "We are working on different scenarios."
The likely scenario is that they will meet in the spring, probably May 25. A less likely scenario is that they would meet in the fall with each having an interim bout. Either way, Bute would rise in weight from 168 pounds to 175 to fight in Pascal's division, Michel said.
The biggest fight in Canadian history was in 1980, when Roberto Duran won a 15-round decision to win the welterweight world title in his first fight against Sugar Ray Leonard at Montreal's Olympic Stadium. Pascal-Bute would be bigger in Canada because it would involve fighters who are beloved in Quebec where they are big ticket sellers.
"I have already had phone calls from the Bell Centre, from Olympic Stadium and a football stadium in Quebec City," Michel said. "It's the biggest ever fight in Canada."
Said Bedard: "Everybody here [in Canada] has wanted the fight for a long time. It will be the biggest event in boxing history in Canada."
The fight has been talked about by fight fans and media for the past few years, but was never close to being made or even seriously discussed while the two fighters were on separate tracks making big money in other fights.
But with Pascal (27-2-1, 16 KOs), 30, having chronic shoulder problems and Bute (31-1, 24 KOs), 32, getting knocked out and losing his title to Carl Froch last May and then struggling to win a decision against Denis Grachev in his last fight in November, they are finally poised to cash in this mega fight before it goes sour.
The reason the deal comes as such a surprise, however, is the timing. Pascal has had a deal in place, although not signed, to face light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson on May 25 on HBO in a rematch at the Bell Centre. The fight was originally scheduled for March 9 but postponed because Pascal re-injured his shoulder in a unanimous 10-round decision win against Aleksy Kuziemski on Dec. 14 and needed additional time to recover.
Pascal beat Dawson in a dominant 11th-round technical decision in an August 2010 world championship fight. Dawson had a rematch clause, but a series of events delayed it. Pascal was allowed to take an interim bout, which wound up as a draw with Bernard Hopkins. The Pascal-Dawson rematch was put off while Pascal instead faced Hopkins in their rematch with Dawson appearing on the undercard to keep them on track to fight each other again.
But this time Hopkins pulled the upset against Pascal and won the title. Hopkins wound up fighting Dawson twice, a no contest and a lopsided decision loss, while Pascal was out for 19 months after the loss to Hopkins because of his shoulder before returning to fight Kuziemski.
Although Dawson is still light heavyweight champion, he was knocked out by Andre Ward in September. However, that was in a super middleweight championship fight and his light heavyweight title was not on the line. Still, HBO owes Dawson another fight and planned to do the rematch with Pascal, even if there is very little public demand for it.
Michel said Pascal's interim bout before facing Bute could be the rematch with Dawson, but he was not very convincing. It would be a big gamble to take with the Bute fight looming.
"This is what we haven't decided yet. This is what we are evaluating right now," Michel said of whether to fight Bute or Dawson next. "But Pascal will make $700,000 to fight Dawson. He will make more than $2 million fighting Bute."
On Saturday, Michel, Bedard and Bute were all in Atlantic City, N.J., at HBO's Adrien Broner-Gavin Rees fight. Bedard said that while he and Bute were looking at undercard winner Sakio Bika as a possible next Bute opponent -- a rematch of a 2007 Bute decision win -- they also were talking with Michel about the bout with Pascal. Bedard initially called Michel in recent weeks to discuss Pascal-Bute.
The key question is what does HBO want to do? It committed to a Pascal-Dawson rematch but would probably also be interested in Pascal-Bute, which is clearly the more attractive fight. It is almost certain that HBO executives discussed Pascal-Bute with Bedard and Michel, who were with them at Saturday's fight. No HBO executive could be reached for comment.
"There's a lot of interest from people in Canada and outside of Canada for this fight," Bedard said. "HBO already planned for Pascal-Dawson II, so this is an issue for them, but it's their decision. They say that have already planned to work with [Dawson promoter] Gary Shaw and Yvon.
"But Pascal wants to fight Bute more than Dawson and there is a lot more money for him in the fight. HBO likes to be part of very big events. May 25 would be a big event because HBO has [the Mikkel Kessler-Froch super middleweight title rematch] in London and after that (on the same telecast) you could have Pascal-Bute. That's big. The boxers are there, the promoters are there, the fans are there for this fight. Everybody is on the same page."
Shaw is not happy about Pascal-Bute likely killing the May Pascal-Dawson rematch.
"I met with Yvon this week in New York, where he told me that Bedard had offered him a fight with Bute and he would put Dawson on the undercard, give him $600,000 and we could bring our own opponent. I told him, I would never do that to my fighter or HBO," Shaw said. "We finished lunch, I asked, 'Do we still have a fight,' and Yvon said, 'Yes,' and shook my hand, and said, 'We have a deal.'
"That is everything I know. Yvon has always been honest and I would be very disappointed to find out that Yvon has done anything underhanded. But remember, this is boxing, and stranger things have happened."
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