Here’s the truth: the Jean Pascal vs Carl Froch fight for the vacant WBC super middleweight championship is an absolute, under-the-radar classic. Not many talk about it today, and that’s a shame. Because that fight, which went down a mere nine years ago, had the kind of action and gripping drama boxing fans love. Despite losing by unanimous decision, Pascal performed brilliantly and if you haven’t seen it, by all means, check it out; it’s definitely worth your time. Besides, watching the bout with the distance of a decade separating your eyes and ears from the actual event will give you some perspective now that Jean Pascal’s career clearly looks to be winding down. Froch, of course, has already retired.
Pascal is in action this Saturday night in Montreal, in a major fight, chasing a shot at the WBC light heavyweight crown and likely a last chance at glory. To get that chance he needs to first get past undefeated top contender Eleider Alvarez. And if he does, he gets a chance to battle for the belt now in the possession of Pascal’s fellow Canadian, Adonis Stevenson, a man who, fairly or not, has earned himself the reputation of being boxing’s greatest sponge, a champion who absorbs easy money by vanquishing one over-matched opponent after another. Stevenson may well be innocent of the variety of slams against him, but if that’s the case, he’s never helped himself in the public arena by coming across as truly wanting a serious challenge.
To me Pascal is more the sportsman, more the real competitor. I’ve taken some heat in the past for my opinion on Adonis, but I stand by my assertion he’s never seemed genuinely eager to take on all comers. And when you think about it, it’s kind of ironic. Because it’s Stevenson who holds a major title; Pascal hasn’t had one since losing to Bernard Hopkins six years ago. But meanwhile it’s Pascal who has faced a “who’s who” of name fighters and champions. Besides Froch and Hopkins, there’s Adrian Diaconu, Chad Dawson, Lucian Bute and, of course, Sergey Kovalev. So give Pascal the credit he deserves. He’s gutsy and game; somehow those adjectives don’t seem as apt for Adonis.
But I fear those two battles with Kovalev have taken a serious toll on the man. The first bout ended by stoppage in the eighth; the second when Pascal’s trainer for that match, the great Freddie Roach, decided his man had clearly had enough after the seventh. That particular beating was tough to watch. What’s more, Pascal’s one bout since that defeat was a win against Ricardo Marcelo Ramallo, whose record was 21-10-1 and who had lost five of his last ten previous bouts. This, of course, led to perfectly legitimate questions as to whether or not the 34-year-old Pascal remains a top light heavyweight.
Well, we’ll definitely find out on Saturday night when he steps into the ring to face the undefeated Alvarez, a fellow Canadian, by way of Colombia, who boasts a 22-0 record and who has long looked to be in Stevenson’s future. The consensus may be that Alvarez should emerge victorious, but it’s obvious Pascal wants to prove to the world that he still has what it takes. And frankly, I’m concerned. As a fight writer, one of the things I hate is to see a career go on when a boxer’s health is in question. Alvarez may not be known as a knockout artist – he’s stopped half his opponents within the distance – but that second battering from Kovalev has me worrying about Pascal’s well-being.
But then again, who knows, maybe Pascal still has what it takes to battle top-level competition. Perhaps the gloved hands of Kovalev didn’t inflict long-term damage to the man’s career. If that’s the case, it would be great to see the inspiring comeback tale happen should Pascal emerge victorious at the Bell Centre. But if Alvarez proves to be a bridge too far, it’s likely time for the former champ to pack it in. This will be particularly true if he ends up taking some serious punishment from the fighter they call “Storm.”
But either way, Jean Pascal is known for his bravery and for giving fans what they want, namely, action. Again, just watch his clash with Carl Froch and you’ll see what I mean. And his battles against Diaconu and Dawson were crowd-pleasers too. And then there’s his brawl with Kovalev in their first meeting; yes, “Krusher” won in violent fashion but not before taking some heavy shots from Pascal. This is why Alvarez vs Pascal has a good chance of being the true main event tomorrow night. Both men badly need this win and both are going to leave it all in the ring.
And even if “Storm” Alvarez comes out on top, Pascal is more than just a stepping-stone, his career, should he retire, more than just a footnote. He’s faced the top fighters out there and been a world champion. In all the excitement swirling around the Ward vs Kovalev light heavyweight universe at the moment, it would be wrong to let Pascal slip from our collective memory. He’s fought the best and fought them bravely. He’s also met and bested some top names in his own right. Some fighters who fall short of greatness, like say Earnie Shavers or Yaqui Lopez, still earn collective respect years after leaving the ring. But others — far, far too many others — are all too easily forgotten.
Here’s hoping that doesn’t prove to be the case with Pascal. The guy, frankly, deserves better. Much better. — Sean Crose