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HBO is kicking off its boxing for 2014 schedule with a big time all-Canadian showdown between former IBF Super Middleweight champion Lucian Bute and former WBC Lt. Heavyweight champ Jean Pascal tomorrow evening at the Belle Centre in Montreal. This is an excellent kickoff to the 2014 boxing season on HBO and kudos to them for picking up this fight. On paper this is an excellent matchup of fighters on the comeback trail. I’m really looking forward to this one and the Bell Centre should be rocking.
Bookmakers William Hill have Jean Pascal a close favourite at 4/6 while Lucian Bute is 5/4 against, a draw is 20/1.
Heading into 2012 Lucian was one of the hottest fighters in the sport. He was Super Middleweight champ and coming off of a string of very impressive performances , including a stoppage of Librado Andrade in their rematch, a KO over the dangerous Edison Miranda, and an impressive decision win over the always tough Glenn Johnson. In fact, there were folks within boxing circles wondering if Bute could challenge to Andre Ward for Super Middleweight supremacy.
Then, Bute went to Manchester, England to face Carl Froch for the biggest fight in his career on May 26, 2012. In what was supposed to be a showcase fight for Bute became a disaster as Bute was destroyed and stopped in five rounds by “The Cobra”. It seemed that the moment got to him and the fight left many with serious questions regarding Bute. Bute has only had one fight since, a shaky 12 round win over Denis Grachev in November 2011. Bute hasn’t fought since (in part due to a hand injury that required surgery) and the question heading into this bout with Pascal is has he fully recovered both physically and mentally from the beat-down he suffered against Froch.
With a technical decision win over Chad Dawson on August 2010 and back to back tough fights with Bernard Hopkins (first fight a draw, second fight a unanimous decision loss) in December 2010 a May 2011, Jean Pascal has established himself as one of the best Lt. Heavyweights in the world. Pascal is now a mainstream attraction and a star in Canada drawing near sellout crowds every time he fights.
Since those two losses fights with Hopkins, Pascal has been dealing with a nagging left shoulder injury. In his last bout, a five round stoppage of George Blades last September, his shoulder held up fine. Hopefully the nagging injuries are over and done with and we will see the Pascal at his very best.
Breakdown of the Fight
A large part of this fight is on Bute and whether he’s recovered from the loss to Froch. Technique wise, I think that Bute is the more skilled of the two. A southpaw, Bute is a very good boxer with above average speed and power. His best punch is his left hook/uppercut to the body which is one of the best punches in the sport and has been devastating in past (just ask Librado Andrade during their rematch) He’s moving up in weight for this bout, so it’ll be interesting whether he can carry his power with him. The one prevailing weakness seems to be his chin as it was exposed by Librado Andrade in their first fight as well as by Froch who seemed to hurt Bute with every hard punch he landed.
Pascal is slightly awkward and in many ways fights like a poor man’s Roy Jones. He makes it difficult for his opponents based on his athleticism, quickness, and power in both hands. Pascal isn’t really a boxer, but more of a guy who pot-shots and relies on his speed, quickness, and athletic ability to get him through. Pascal’s main weakness is that he seems to fight in spurts. Jean Pascal rarely if ever fights for a full three minutes of a round. He’s often guilty of taking periods off during a fight and can be wild with his punches. It seems as if it’s a product of Pascal not pacing himself properly during a fight and leads to questions about his conditioning. One thing you can’t take away from Pascal is his toughness. It was that will and toughness that was the difference in his fight with Chad Dawson and has been a constant theme throughout his career.
For me, if Lucian Bute is back to the fighter he was before the Froch bout, he can outbox Pascal. Bute is simply the better and more consistent boxer of the two. If he on his A game he can take advantage of the fact that Pascal is a spot-fighter and time him with pinpoint counter-punches. The key is to box Pascal, who likes to jump in with his punches and take the bout into the later rounds to take advantage of Pascal’s stamina issues. However, we just don’t know if Bute is fully recovered mentally from his bout with Froch. If Pascal forces Bute into a dogfight, Bute is in trouble because I don’t think has the chin to handle the punches of Pascal over the long haul.
I don’t like making definitive prediction because this is boxing and anything can happen. I will say for this fight my lean is towards Pascal because we just don’t know what kind of Bute we will see. There are still too many unanswered questions about him. Can Lucian Bute beat Jean Pascal? Absolutely. Not only that, if Bute lands that vaunted left uppercut to the body and find Pascal’s chin (which is good, but not great) I can see a scenario in which Bute could stop him. However, it is my belief that at some point Pascal catches Bute with a few big shots. Bute is moving up in weight and has more questions marks regarding his chin and mental state. Plus, Bute is coming off of a 13 month layoff. This is tricky fight to pick because of the unknown. I’m going with Pascal in this fight to win by mid-late rounds stoppage in what should be a good one.