By Jake Donovan
HBO makes its boxing debut Saturday evening, offering a doubleheader which airs live from the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada. The main event pits two of the nation’s most popular attractions, as fellow transplants Jean Pascal and Lucian Bute meet in a scheduled 12-round light heavyweight affair.
The bout serves as the perfect time marking scenario: the popularity of both fighters satisfies the financial demands of both fighters, while the winner is left as a leading candidate for another all-Canada showdown with lineal light heavyweight king Adonis Stevenson.
Pascal (28-2-1, 17KO) once roamed as the World light heavyweight champ, but his August ’10 decision win over Chad Dawson so far serves as the pinnacle of his career. A disputed draw and subsequent loss to ageless Bernard Hopkins brought a brief close to his reign, having fought just twice since May 2011.
Bute (31-1, 24KO) was riding high as the nation’s top attraction and believed to be the greatest threat to lineal super middleweight king Andre Ward. The Romanian-Canadian southpaw wasn’t invited to the Super Six World Boxing Classic that locked up most of the best super middleweights for 2 ½ years.
Instead, he built his case as the next best challenger to whomever emerged as the tournament winner. Bute never made it past runner-up Carl Froch, however, suffering a humiliating 5th round stoppage in the first major post-Super Six super middleweight affair. The bout serves as his lone loss, but has only fought once since then – a struggling points win over Denis Grachev 14 months ago.
Tonight’s showdown was originally on the docket for last May, but postponed due to an injured hand suffered by Bute. Pascal wisely accepted a stay-busy bout in September, but has remained in public spotlight thanks to his flair for constant trash talk.
The Haitian-Canadian rubbed so many the wrong way that Friday’s weigh-in saw him tape his mouth shut, a visual confirmation that he would not say another word (for once) until fight night.
With that night now upon us, read on to see how the staff at Boxingscene.com believes fight night in Montreal goes down.
BOXINGSCENE.COM STAFF PREDICTIONS – JEAN PASCAL vs. LUCIAN BUTE
“Pascal stops him late in the fight.”
- Damien Acevedo (Pascal by TKO)
“Pascal is too strong and quick, plus should have a big advantage with the fight taking place at light heavyweight.”
- Ryan Burton (Pascal by TKO)
“It’s clear the nation of Canada is rallying hard behind Bute, and for good reason. Pascal does little to make himself likeable… but that has nothing to do with what happens in the ring. Bute looks like a fighter who has seen his best days. It’s possible he outboxes Pascal, but I don’t have faith in his chin holding up or remaining mentally strong enough to put together a dominant 12-round performance.”
- Jake Donovan (Pascal TKO11)
“There is a mindset that Bute is done and his best days are behind him and with his last few outings make a strong case for that. However, I think there is something to prove for the proud one time champion and being that this is such a huge event I think he rises to the occasion. The fight will have a lot of emotion behind it and with both careers at stake I expect some hesitance at first but once the action picks up I like Bute's straight more accurate punching.”
- Ernest Gabion (Bute UD)
“It's highly possible that the time off and the move up in weight have rejuvenated Lucian Bute. It's also possible that the Bute we saw in 2012 get blown out by Froch and then look shaky at times against Denis Grachev is close to being done. In this case, I'm going with the guy I believe to be less done, and will pick Jean Pascal by stoppage.”
- David P. Greisman (Pascal TKO)
“I think if Jean Pascal can apply his ambushing style in a consistent manner over 12 rounds, he will outwork Lucian Bute, if not stop him late. I just didn't see Bute recover his past form against Denis Grachev, especially coming off the stoppage loss to Carl Froch. Combine that with over a year of inactivity and I believe Bute has too tough of a task ahead of him on Saturday.”
- Ryan Maquiñana (Pascal UD)
“It feels like Bute is being written off too easy. Pascal can be a technical mess sometimes and his output is erratic. Bute is the more skilled boxer. It doesn't matter. Pascal is tougher, quicker, and Bute's chin is suspect. Pascal will find it.”
- Cliff Rold (Pascal TKO)
“Flip a coin here - now that's a real toss-up. With instability being a major factor I can only hope my finger pointed the winner right. But the choice is that Bute will hardly win by a kayo, and he is fragile enough to be put down even by an average-punching fighter like Pascal. Bookies also lean slightly to the latter. That's enough for me. Pascal with a close two-way action win in a good fight.”
- Alexey Sukachev (Pascal MD)
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox