Memorable Nights: Jean Pascal

The two-division world champion and current light heavyweight title-holder reflects on some of the most memorable nights of his historic 15-year career.

Jean Pascal started out as an ice hockey player. That’s a rite of passage for every red-blooded French-Canadian boy, even one born in Haiti. 

Pascal was good, which is no surprise to those who have followed his career in the ring. He’s quick, athletic and tough, attributes that must’ve served him well on the ice.

Pascal’s primary role model wasn’t a hockey player, though. His older brother, Nicholson Poulard, was a successful amateur boxer. And young Jean wanted to be like his sibling.

The rest is history. Pascal won his first amateur national championship in 1998 and would go to win it six more times, finishing his amateur career with a reported record of 103-18. “I think I lost one fight in national championship [tournaments] in Canada,” said Pascal..

His aggressive, power-punching style was well-suited to the professional game. The 37-year-old is a two-time light heavyweight titleholder, the second being the WBA’s “regular” title, and has won world titles in two divisions. 

“In life, I’m risk taker,” said Pascal, explaining his fighting style. “I like to take risks. At the same time, I like to take calculated risks. I’m a crowd pleaser because I like to take risks but I don’t box like everyone else.

“I’m a little bit unorthodox. That’s why it’s sometimes so awkward to fight me, why sometimes people have a problem with me in the ring.”

Pascal (35-6-1, 20 KOs) has had a number of ups and downs in the sport. Here are his thoughts on five key fights in his career.

CHAD DAWSON

Date: Aug. 14, 2010

Location: Bell Centre, Montreal

At stake: Pascal’s WBC World Light Heavyweight title 

Result: Pascal TD 11 

Background: Dawson (29-0 at the time) was unbeaten and near the top of some pound-for-pound lists at the time Pascal fought him, with victories over Antonio Tarver (twice), Glen Johnson (twice), Tomasz Adamek and Eric Harding. He was rolling.

Pascal (25-1) was well aware of the opportunity at hand.

“I was happy, of course,” he said. “I knew it would be a big test for me. At the time Chad Dawson was one of top pound-for-pound fighters because Floyd Mayweather had retired. I knew the pressure would be on me. I like pressure. People thought Dawson was better than me. I knew I had more skill than Dawson, I knew I was faster than him, I knew I had better footwork than him.

“I think people counted me out because I was from Canada. ‘Oh, they’re no good, they’re not this and that.’ I always believed in myself. And I guess Dawson underestimated me a little bit.”

Pascal was right. He fought at a higher level of intensity than a curiously flat Dawson, outworking him for much of the fight. The television commentators said late in the fight that Dawson needed a knockout to win. And it seemed as if it might happen. Dawson hurt Pascal in the 11th round, which combined with fatigue made the local fighter suddenly vulnerable.

And then, in an instant, it was over. An accidental clash of heads caused a deep gash above Dawson’s right eye, it went to the scorecards and Pascal won a clear unanimous decision – 106-103, 106-103 and 108-101.

Many wonder whether Pascal on his way out at the moment it was stopped but we’ll never know.

“I had great preparation for [the Dawson] fight, a great camp,” Pascal said. “I went to Bogota, Colombia. I think I had an eight-week camp. My game plan was to move and punch. That’s what I did the whole fight. I know he had his moment in the 11th round but it wasn’t as bad as some people think. I think the cut saved him the same way the cut saved Marcus Browne [last August].

“[Dawson] was a good fight. It put my name on the map, it put my country, Quebec, on the map. After that, people started to respect boxers from Canada.”

BERNARD HOPKINS I

Date: Dec. 18, 2010 

Location: Pepsi Coliseum, Quebec City

At stake: Pascal’s WBC World Light Heavyweight title 

Result: MD 12

Background: Pascal took advantage of his momentum from the victory over Dawson, going directly into a fight with a 45-year-old legend.

Hopkins, trying to become the oldest to win a world title, was two fights removed from a sensational victory over Kelly Pavlik but coming off a so-so performance in a one-sided victory over an aging Roy Jones Jr. It wasn’t clear what the old man had left.

Pascal acknowledged that he didn’t give Hopkins enough credit going into the fight.

“People were telling me that Hopkins was done, Hopkins was finished,” he said. “… People don’t’ know s—t about boxing. Hopkins was far from finished. He gave me a great fight. Maybe I let the opinions of people into my mind a little bit, maybe I underestimated him. People told me he was old. And he didn’t look good against Roy Jones.

“I thought it was an easy test for me because I had just been in with a pound-for-pound fighter. It was a mistake. And I learned from the mistake.”

Pascal got off to a strong start, putting Hopkins down with a right to the head in Round 1 and left hook in Round 3. It appeared to be an “easy test.” Then Hopkins dug in, tapped his reservoir of knowledge and innate toughness and turned the tables. One judge scored it for Hopkins 114-112 but the other two had it even (113-113 and 114-114).

Pascal later revealed that he entered the fight with a rib injury that he believes was known to Hopkins.

“When I knocked him down the first time, I remember thinking, ‘I just put down a legend,’” Pascal said. “I was kind of confused. When I knocked him down the second time, I thought, “What’s going on? This fight is too easy. Then, after the sixth round, he started working my body.

“Someone from my camp, one of my sparring partners, leaked that I had a rib injury because he targeted it. If you watch the second fight, he didn’t do that. You have to be careful who you use as sparring partners.”

The decision didn’t sit well with Pascal.

“Every time you fail to win, especially at the highest level, it’s disappointing,” he said. “It’s painful. You just have to go deep into yourself [afterward] and try to get better for the next fight.”

MARCUS BROWNE

Date: Aug. 3, 2019  

Location: Barclays Center, Brooklyn

At stake: Browne’s Interim WBA “regular” Light Heavyweight title

Result: Pascal TD 8

Background: Pascal had mixed results after the Hopkins fights. He easily outpointed once-feared Lucian Bute in January 2014 but then had a stretch in which he lost four times in a span of eight fights, two knockouts against a prime Sergey Kovalev and decisions to Eleider Alvarez (close) and Dmitry Bivol (wide).

The Bivol fight took place in November 2018. Pascal was 36 and had been in many taxing wars. Many observers were certain that he was in decline.

“Honestly, people are always going to have something to say,” Pascal said. “I don’t care what people say about me. People were asking me to stop [fighting] after the Bivol fight. Now they’re asking me what’s next after the Marcus Browne and Badou Jack fights.

“The Bivol fight motivated me to continue. I lost, but it was a win for me mentally. I saw the tank wasn’t empty.”

Pascal said he had one of his best camps in preparation for Browne, a then-unbeaten (23-0), flashy boxer-puncher who was on an ascent. The challenger put everything else aside – including his family – and focused solely on the task at hand. And it was a good thing he did. The Browne fight wasn’t a walkover.

In effect, Pascal won with his power. He put Browne down with a short right in Round 4. And in Round 7, Pascal, picking up steam and perhaps on his way to a knockout victory, put Browne down again with a huge right hand that hurt him. He followed with a barrage that sent Browne to canvas one more time.

That final knock down decided the fight: Browne won five of the other six rounds yet came up short when the fight went to the cards after an accidental head butt left him with a bad cut over his left eye.

All three judges scored it 75-74 for Pascal, who became the WBA’s interim “regular” titleholder and reclaimed his position as an elite 175-pounder.

“I knew Browne was a solid fighter,” Pascal said. “I knew he was younger (28) than me. My trainer told me that I’d probably lose the first two, three rounds … because I was getting a little older. Then, from the fourth round, I needed to pressure him. He was going to fall for sure.

“I knocked him down in the fourth round. That gave me confidence. And then I dropped him twice in the seventh round. I was very happy.”

BADOU JACK

Date: Dec. 28, 2019  

Location: State Farm Arena, Atlanta

Result: Pascal SD 12

Background: Pascal’s motivation going into the Jack fight was simple: “I wanted to show to the world that the Marcus Browne fight was no accident. I wanted to cement my legacy. I wanted people to call me the best boxer in Canada in the 21st century.”

If they didn’t believe that before the Jack fight, they do now.

“I was the underdog again,” Pascal said. “To be the underdog was the story of my life. I was happy to be the underdog. I was fighting a [Floyd] Mayweather fighter on a Mayweather card on the Mayweather network, Showtime, in the States. So I had everything against me.

“I had a 12-week training camp for that fight. Not six, not eight, a 12-week training camp. I was fully prepared.”

It was two fights in one. Pascal dominated the first five rounds on all three cards against a notoriously slow starter and made a statement by putting Jack down in round four even though he was stunned himself earlier in the stanza. Then Jack took charge, outworking Pascal to catch up on the cards.

Jack hurt Pascal in the 12th with a straight right and then sent him to the canvas with two minutes left in the round but it wasn’t enough. Pascal, fit and determined, survived and won 114-112, 114-112 and 112-114 to prove the victory over Browne was no fluke.

“I knew I had the power to hurt him,” said Pascal, referring to the knockdown in Round 4. “After that, I was trying to knock him out. Maybe that was a mistake. He was able to catch up in the late rounds and I got tired, as well. I was throwing only bombs.

“I’ll know exactly what to do if a rematch comes. I’ll know exactly what to do to win again.”

CONCLUSION

“I’m not satisfied with anything yet,” Pascal said. “Does it feel good to be back on top? Of course. But the best is yet to come. … One of my goals is to retire on top. I need to be careful. I need to be ready for my next fight. Now I’m the target. I was the hunter but now, because I’m champion, I’m the target.

“I know I’m getting older. I don’t want boxing to retire me; I want to retire from boxing. I want to retire on my terms.”

For a closer look at Jean Pascal, check out his fighter page. 

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