Jean Pascal has been written off more times than a teenager’s first car and last night pretty much no one was giving him any chance of upsetting undefeated light heavyweight contender Marcus Browne (23-1) at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. After all, Montreal’s Pascal (34-6-1) was coming off a one-sided loss to Dmitry Bivol in November, a bout many assumed was his last. Indeed, his most recent victory over an elite-level fighter was in 2014 when he dominated an anemic Lucian Bute, and one has to go all the way back to 2010 and his victory over Chad Dawson to pinpoint a truly impressive performance.
To be blunt, Pascal’s past batterings from the fists of Sergey Kovalev and a lop-sided defeat to Eleider Alvarez, plus the Bivol drubbing, made Browne vs Pascal look like nothing more than a record-building outing for the undefeated southpaw who was coming off a title-winning effort over Badou Jack this past January. Indeed, some were calling this bout a blatant mismatch.
But then again, we had seen this same kind of upending of expectations before from Pascal. Back in December of 2017 he was brought in to be a sacrificial lamb for undefeated prospect Ahmed Elbiali and the grizzled veteran dished out a lesson in pain and humility, stopping Elbiali in six rounds. And a similar script unfolded last night as Pascal made it clear to all he was still a dangerous kind of stepping stone when he sent Browne to the canvas three times.
However, it must be noted that if you subtract the knockdowns, Browne was the sharper and more capable pugilist, if for no other reason than he is 28 and in his prime and Pascal is 36. But he got a bit careless and sloppy, not to mention a bit overconfident, and a relentless Pascal took advantage, landing two huge counter right hands, one in round four and another in round seven. Those two shots created three knockdowns which effectively negated all of the good work Browne had done up to that point.
In round eight a determined and revitalized Pascal came on strong, charging Browne and forcing him to give ground before a brutal clash of heads opened up a deep gash over Browne’s left eye. The ringside doctor deemed the cut too severe to allow the match to continue and so we went to the scorecards where all three ringside scorers had Pascal ahead by one point, an example of controversy-free judging we don’t see too often. And just like that, Marcus Browne is undefeated no longer and the many pundits and fans who had loudly written off Jean Pascal sat down to a hearty serving of crow.
No doubt Pascal’s name will very soon reappear on everyone’s top ten lists for the light heavyweight division but even so, there’s really no reason to think the former champion can look forward to different results should he face Bivol, Alvarez or Kovalev again. Despite the big upset win, this is still an aging fighter utilizing a ring style predicated on superior reflexes and speed, something he no longer possesses. But that said, you can’t argue with success. Browne’s two title belts now belong to Pascal and he will no doubt cash them in for another big payday.
The logical opponent for that will likely be Browne as he will be looking to redeem himself after this huge setback. But that nasty cut will need a few months to heal, so we can likely look forward to Browne vs Pascal II in the fall or towards the end of the year. And at that time, we will all have to decide if we’re ready to once again take the risk, one proven hazardous, of writing off Jean Pascal. — Neil Crane