Canadian Civil War

By Steve Bateson on January 9, 2014
Bute and Pascal will fight on January 18th. Can the winner earn a world title tilt later this year?

“I might retire Lucian Bute”.

That is a strong proclamation ahead of the January 18th show-down between Jean Pascal and the afore mentioned Lucian Bute, but Pascal is extremely confident that this is his moment to propel himself right back into championship contention.

These two Canadian fighters are set to meet in a HBO televised bout from Montreal in just over a week, the biggest fight in their home country’s history, and for one of them it may be the last time we see them in a boxing ring, it is a real sink or swim moment.

Bute, coming off the back of a ragged twelve round decision over previously unbeaten Denis Grachev, was quite simply destroyed by Carl Froch in their Super Middleweight clash back in May 2012 and ever since there has been serious questions about his punch resistance. Is a move to Light Heavyweight likely to help his suspect whiskers?

On the other hand there is Jean Pascal. There are no question marks about his ability to take a punch, see his fight with Carl Froch for proof, but more than once his stamina has been called in for discussion, if he is unable to bomb out Bute like Froch did then will he be able to handle the pace of a full twelve rounds?. Then there is the small detail of the shoulder injury that side-lined Pascal for an extended period of time, could that be a factor in a fight where he will be required to throw a lot of punches to pick up the victory?

Pascal’s finest hour came when he ripped the WBC Light Heavyweight crown from Chad Dawson in 2010 but his two fight series with Bernard Hopkins (one drawn, one defeat) show that the Haitian-born fighter can be frustrated and he does have a tendency to just walk forward, taking unnecessary punches and punishment.

That flaw in Pascal’s game could potentially present an opportunity for Bute, if he is on form, because the Canadian-Romanian does possess a sharp jab, neat boxing skills, and the power to make Pascal think twice should he take too many liberties. Bute is the taller man but there is not much difference in their reach, he has to win the battle of the jabs and survive the first five rounds to give himself any chance of victory. Dragging Pascal into the deep waters of the championship rounds could prove very effective.

But Pascal is powerhouse of a fighter and he will have studied the tapes of Bute’s famous demise in Nottingham, he knows that the career Super-Middleweight can be bullied and harassed to the point where his guard lowers and he is open to devastating punches. If Pascal is on Bute for the get-go, not affording him any space, then the result could be very similar to Bute’s defeat against Carl Froch and I would be surprised if he came back from another one-sided beating.

The inactivity of both fighters means that neither holds a particular advantage over the other, Pascal has fought just twice since losing to Hopkins in 2011, a ten round UD over Aleksy Kuziemski in 2012 and a fifth round knockout over George Blades in September last year, and Lucian Bute was last in action back in November 2012, an injury forced him to postpone this fight by a few months, so ring rust could lead to a very slow, ponderous, opening from both fighters. We boxing fans certainly hope that is not the case.

The prize for the winner? The Light Heavyweight division is filled full of talent but the main target for both of these fighters will be another all Canadian show-down with the man of the moment, WBC boss, Adonis Stevenson. Stevenson has a big fanbase in Canada, growing with each knockout, and HBO are high on him right now which means big money fights are a definite. Everyone wants to see Stevenson and WBO Champ, Sergey Kovalev clash in a mouth-watering, titanic tussle of the power-punchers but if that is not possible then surely the winner of Bute-Pascal will be a shoe-in. Stevenson is 36 years old and looking to make some big money before the end of his career, a fight with either of these two will guarantee him a lucrative purse in a fight that he would be confident of winning.

If Pascal wins then he may also look for revenge against Bernard Hopkins, granted it won’t be a thrill-a-minute fight but it gives Pascal the chance to right the wrongs of three years ago whilst also getting a world belt for bargaining power. There is also WBA Champion, Beibut Shumenov who will be looking for more serious tests in 2014 to prove he belongs at the top of this weight division.

If Bute is victorious then it will be interesting to see whether he stays at 175 pounds, those who question his chin would advise he steers clear of Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev, or whether he moves back down to Super Middleweight to seek retribution against Froch or perhaps another beltholder, he already holds a win over WBC Champion, Sakio Bika, so that could be his next port of call.

It really is a cross-roads fight for both competitors and a really intriguing bout that could shape the championship landscape at 175 in the coming months. Hopefully the first of many big boxing events of 2014.

Fight prediction: Perhaps a slow first round but Pascal will come out swinging from round two onwards. Bute will try to box off the back foot and it may prove successful for a time, his power may even score him a knockdown, but I expect Pascal to catch up with him around the midway stage and the referee to call a halt to proceedings between rounds 6-7.

The co-feature fight promises fireworks in the Heavyweight division as the Irish-Cuban, undefeated, Mike “The Rebel” Perez will go up against hard-hitting Carlos Takam. This fight has “slobber knocker” written all over it but Perez’ superior boxing skills show allow him to prove elusive when the time calls for it and pick his shots better. Takam can punch but he hasn’t fought anyone on this level as of yet, it will be interesting to see whether he can rise to the occasion. I predict Perez to pick up a late stoppage and move himself into the WBC Championship mix later in 2014.

All in all it should be a great night of action in the Bell Centre, Montreal. Boxing is back with a bang in the new year.

 

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