Featured Fighter of the Week: Jean Pascal
At 37 years old, Jean Pascal is fifteen years into an eventful career. A two-time and current World Light Heavyweight Champion, twelve of those years have been at the world-title level.
A Haitian-born Canadian, Pascal started his professional career in Montreal in 2005. During the first 21 fights of his career, Pascal competed as a super middleweight, earning Canadian and North American championships. On December 6, 2008, Pascal took a 21-0 (14) record into his first world title fight against Carl Froch, 23-0 (19) in Froch's hometown of Nottingham, United Kingdom. Froch won a unanimous decision, and the WBC Super middleweight championship.
Following this loss, Pascal competed one more time at super middleweight, then stepped up to the light heavyweight division. In demonstrating the unsinkable quality that has since become a hallmark of his career, in only seven months after the Froch loss, Pascal fought fellow Quebecer Adrian Diaconu. Pascal won his first world championship, the WBC Light Heavyweight title, by besting the previously unbeaten Diaconu by unanimous decision.
Successful defenses against former world champion Silvio Branco (KO 10) and Diaconu (W 12) followed. Chad Dawson was Pascal's next challenge. Coming off of two wins each against former world champions Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson, Dawson was the undefeated lineal light heavyweight champion with a record of 29-0 (17). Pascal handed Dawson his first loss, by unanimous technical decision.
In his next bout, Pascal faced his most accomplished rival. Bernard Hopkins, a veteran of over 25 world title fights, challenged Pascal on December 18, 2010. In a spirited contest, Pascal and Hopkins fought to a draw. Six months later, in their rematch, Hopkins won by unanimous decision.
After an 18 month hiatus, Pascal resumed his career, with wins over Aleksy Kuziemski and George Blades. These victories lead into an all-Quebec showdown against former Super Middleweight champion Lucien Bute. Bute, 31-1 (25), was the NABF Light Heavyweight champion, and had made nine successful title defenses of the IBF Super Middleweight championship, before losing that title to Froch.
Pascal defeated Bute, setting up his next world title challenge, a March 14, 2015 contest against Sergey Kovalev. With a record of 27-0-1 (24), Kovalev was the undefeated, unified WBA and IBF Light Heavyweight World Champion. A fearsome puncher, Kovalev entered the bout as a heavy favorite, having dominated Hopkins in his previous bout.
In the third round, for the first time in his career, Pascal was knocked down. Pascal rose from the canvas, and fought spiritedly over the next few rounds, ultimately succumbing to Kovalev by TKO in the eighth round. Pascal earned respect in defeat, being the first of Kovalev's challengers to mount any offensive success against the champion.
Pascal, who disagreed with the referee's stoppage, earned a rematch with a unanimous decision win over 16-0 (12) Yunieski Gonzalez. In the January 2016 rematch with Kovalev, Pascal was not able to improve upon his performance in the first bout. Kovalev won by stoppage after the seventh, with Kovalev winning each round up until that point.
Pascal rebounded at the end of that year with a TKO win over Ricardo Ramillo. In June 2017, Pascal lost a majority decision against undefeated Eleider Alvarez. Alvarez went on to win a world championship in his next bout by knocking out Kovalev.
In what Pascal indicated would be his final bout, he closed out 2017 with a TKO win over Ahmed Elbiali. Pascal did not stay away from the ring for long. A 2018 return was successful with a TKO win over former hockey and MMA competitor Steve Bosse.
Pascal once again attempted to become world champion, challenging WBA Light Heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol. While putting on an determined performance, Pascal was largely neutralized by the skilled Bivol. Bivol won by unanimous decision, 119-109, 119-109, 117-111. This decision loss was by a larger margin than Pascal's decision losses to Froch, Hopkins, or Alvarez.
Coming off this performance, losing four of his last eight bouts, Pascal was undeterred. In his next contest, Pascal fought undefeated Marcus Browne in his home town for the interim WBA World Light Heavyweight title.
Facing his fifth consecutive undefeated opponent, Pascal turned in a decisive performance. Scoring a knockdown in the fifth, and two knockdowns in the seventh, Pascal was in control when the bout was stopped in the eight round because of cut Browne suffered over his left eye due to an accidental head butt. The three knockdowns were sufficient for Pascal to secure a unanimous technical decision victory.
Pascal's first defense of his second title reign was against former Super Middleweight and Light Heavyweight champion, Badou Jack.
The bout was an eventful, back-and-forth affair. Pascal started out strongly in the contest, including scoring a knockdown against Jack in the fourth round.
Weathering the pressure from Pascal, Jack demonstrated the same composure he did against James DeGale and Adonis Stevenson. Against both DeGale and Stevenson, Jack fell behind on the scorecards early, and in the second half of the fight took control of the bout.
Jack's increased momentum versus Pascal culminated in Jack scoring a knockdown against Pascal in the final round. Pascal rose from this knockdown, and despite continued pressure from Jack, was able to finish the contest on his feet.
The knockdowns scored by both men, with Pascal winning most of the early rounds, and Jack winning most of the later rounds, left the verdict in doubt. Pascal won the contest, by split decision, with scores of 114-112, 114-112, and 112-114.
With the Browne and Jack wins, Pascal is in the midst of a career renaissance. For next his next contest, Pascal has a variety of options. Browne, Elbiali, and Jack have all expressed interest in a rematch with Pascal. Artur Beterbiev, the undefeated WBC and IBF Light Heavyweight champion, would make an interesting, all-Quebec matchup. Dmitry Bivol is the WBA "Super" Light Heavyweight champion.