By Cliff Rold
At the end of Rocky, Apollo Creed whispered to the Italian Stallion ‘ain’t gonna be no rematch.’ Rocky replied, ‘don’t want one.’ As both men talked about a resumption of their one-sided affair following the fight on Saturday at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, one could imagine any sane fan borrowing from Rocky.
Rematch? Don’t want one.
What would be the point after Haitian 31-year old former lineal World Light Heavyweight Champion Jean Pascal (29-2-1, 17 KO) won a lopsided unanimous decision that offered drama only in its last four minutes? Romanian 33-year old former IBF Super Middleweight Lucian Bute (31-2, 24 KO) beltholder had few answers for the superior speed, unorthodox technique, and explosiveness of Pascal until late in the eleventh round. The long building clash between a pair of Canadian imports, both of whom make their home in Laval, Quebec, left little doubt about the better man.
Pascal weighed in for the bout at the Light Heavyweight limit of 175 lbs. Bute was under the limit at 173 ½. The referee was Michael Griffin.
With the crowd in a frenzy, both men came out of the corner fired up at the opening bell. Pascal landed to the body, Bute over the top to the head, and an intense feeling out process ensued. Single hard shots would explode forward but nothing genuinely damaging landed for either, Bute boxing and Pascal pushing being the story in round one.
A deliberate chess match took place for the first two minutes of the second but a Bute jab in the final minute changed Pascal’s approach. Blinking, Pascal responded to the stiff southpaw right with a flurry of power punches. A Pascal right hand caught Bute’s attention and put him on the defensive as Pascal let loose. Bute went to the corner seemingly okay.
Pascal had the better of it in the first two minutes of the third with stinging lead right hands but Bute adjusted in the final minute. His left hand popped Pascal and gave the Romanian a confidence boost. Another clipping left landed late and Bute was firmly into the fight.
Bute managed not to get knocked out of the fight late in round four. A Pascal assault against the ropes in the final thirty seconds left Bute covering and a right hand seconds before the bell visibly wobbled Bute. Bute answered by holding his arms wide to say he wasn’t hurt but his body betrayed his bravado.
There was no drama for the next four rounds as Pascal maintained steady control with hard leads and flurries while Bute kept his guns in the holster. In the eighth, Bute went to the floor and Pascal thought he’d scored a knockdown but replays showed Bute and tripped over the leg of Pascal while being hit behind the head. Bute got up fine but had no new answers for the man in front of him.
Pascal was all but toying with Bute in round nine, landing a lead uppercut from a distance and a left hook later followed by a confident step away. He even got away with a two-hand slap, something he should have been warned for. Pascal closed the round with a hard right to the body as Bute followed him with no leather in his favor.
An accidental head clash briefly halted the action in round ten, Bute leaving the worse for wear with a crimson stream flowing to the left off a cut between the eyes. The blood gave Bute some life, his punches starting to flow, but Pascal was undeterred. Taunting Bute by looking away from him, Pascal landed a left to punctuate how in control he was.
Round eleven gave the fight a round worthy of the enthusiastic crowd both men drew. Bute, finally fighting to win, backed Pascal into the corner and had his attention with the left hand. Pascal looked buzzed, and stopped throwing while waiting out the storm, exploding out of the corner to stop the Bute rally with a violent rally of his own.
Bute wasn’t done after eleven. Again working Pascal into the corner, Bute landed bombs and Pascal covered up. Again, Pascal burst out with offense, turning Bute into the ropes and firing back with power shots. Then it was Bute’s turn, closing the show for a moral victory if nothing else as he kept Pascal on the defensive and let his hands go in search of a miracle. Pascal wobbled in the waning seconds but stayed on his feet to hear the bell.
It was too little too late and Pascal simply had too many rounds in the bank for round twelve to matter. Scores came in at 116-112, 117-110, and 117-111, all for the Haitian import.
During his post-fight interview, Pascal expressed satisfaction with his backyard victory. “It’s been five years, seven years, I been chasing Bute to show people I’m the best in town and today I just proved it.” Pascal gave ample credit to former Light Heavyweight kingpin Roy Jones, who trained Pascal for the fight, for his assistance and thanked Bute’s fans for packing the arena. Asked to explain how he got through the turbulent twelfth, Pascal said, “It was all about the rematch, to make the fight a little closer,” Pascal started with a smile. “I let him throw to try to make him a little tired and maybe knock him out in the end.”
Pascal’s knockout aim missed the mark and he was friendly more than challenging when asked about a potential challenge of current Light Heavyweight Champion Adonis Stevenson. Regardless, the fight would surely be a hit in Montreal though perhaps not as desirable for the rest of the world with dreams of Stevenson-Sergey Kovalev simmering.
Bute was understandably disappointed after the fight, his second loss in three fights dating to his 2012 humbling at the hands of Carl Froch. Through an interpreter he said he’d trained well but things didn’t go as planned. He stated the real Lucian Bute was the one who showed up in the final round and expressed interest in a rematch.
Let’s hope not. It was a fine final round. There are better fish to fry moving forward.
28-year old Cuban Heavyweight Mike Perez (20-0-1, 12 KO), 231 ¼, of Cork, Ireland, built enough of an early lead to hold off surging 33-year old Cameroonian Carlos Takam (29-1-1, 23 KO), 256 ¼, of Noisy-le-Grand, Seine-Saint-Denis, France, keeping his unbeaten mark with a majority draw. Perez was cut with an accidental headbutt in round three and clearly lost the second half of the bout but stayed on his feet throughout. The referee was Frank Garza.
It was Perez’s first start since a brutal victory over Magomed Abdusalamov on November 2 of 2013, a fight that ended the career of Abdusalamov and left him in a coma. Takam has not lost since an eight-round verdict in 2009.
Takam came out with a wise strategy, playing off the back foot and letting Perez come to him but seemed bothered by his right eye. Perez took no undue risks, working his southpaw right jab and looking for overhand leads and big lefts.
A measured pace in the first round was no anomaly for the fight’s first half. Both men struggled to find places to engage, their styles not providing much in the way of clash early. A headbutt opened a bad cut over the right eye of Perez in the third but he stayed on his game plan. Perez pressed, looked for straight lefts, and Takam largely backed away looking for one shot at a time.
Takam began to turn the tide in the fifth and the action picked up significantly in the sixth, both men going to close quarters and banging each other in the body. Takam looked for the right uppercut and Perez used the chance to land some stiff lefts to the head. Takam landed a good right and left, Perez answering back to the flanks. In the final ten seconds, Takam landed a big left and let loose a bevy of hard power shots that backed Perez to the ropes.
In the next two rounds, Takam stayed a problem for the favored Perez, outworking him and building a case on the scorecards. Round nine picked up in the same trend, Perez being forced to back up as Takam grinded away to the body and head. It stayed that way for most of the next three minutes and, with a round to go, Perez’s undefeated mark appeared in jeopardy.
Takam, who didn’t sit between rounds, shook his head as his trainer gave him final instructions and came right out winging. Perez gamely fired back through fatigue but he took more than he could give through the first half of the round. Down the stretch, Perez kept his head down and kept burrowing into Takam, landing and being landed on as he sought to salvage the night. Takam had the last word, landing the superior blows in the closing moments. Both men ended on their feet and waited for the verdict of the judges.
The scores came in at 96-94 for Perez and 95-95 twice, the verdict a draw that favored the flow of the fight. Perez controlled the bulk of the first half, Takam the second but it was the second half most will recall. Perez came into the bout rated #5 by the WBC and WBO while Takam was unrated. Takam deserves another look in future ratings.
The card was broadcast on HBO as part of its “World Championship Boxing” series, promoted by Interbox/GYM.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]