Joshua Buatsi will have to explore another route to enter the light heavyweight title mix.
BoxingScene.com has confirmed that IBF has defaulted the existing purse bid in place for England’s Buatsi to have faced former lineal champion Jean Pascal in a light heavyweight title eliminator. Signed contracts were due back to the IBF by September 15, with a courtesy extension granted through Tuesday evening before the sanctioning body elected to cancel the previously ordered fight.
Quebec’s Pascal will be ordered to face the next highest ranked available contender in the IBF light heavyweight rankings. Had the original deadline been honored, former WBO titlist Joe Smith Jr. would have been next in line. However, the latest rankings update saw Germany’s Michael Eifert (11-1, 4KOs) advance one spot ahead of the Long Island, New York native and is expected to receive an invitation from the IBF sometime Wednesday.
DiBella Entertainment—founded and headed by Hall of Fame promoter Lou DiBella—secured the rights to Buatsi-Pascal during an August 30 purse bid hearing. DiBella posted a winning bid of $975,000, outpacing longtime promotional adversary Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing—Buatsi’s promoter—who offered $875,000 as the only other bidder.
Buatsi (16-0, 13KOs) would have earned $585,000 based on an entitled 60 percent of the winning bid as the higher ranked challenger. Pascal (36-6-1, 20KOs) would have earned $390,000, or 40 percent of the bid. Buatsi is ranked number-three by the IBF, which has Pascal at number-six.
Both boxers accepted an invitation from the IBF on July 22 to enter talks for their final title eliminator, to determine the sanctioning body’s mandatory challenger to unified light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev. Pascal entered the mix after number-four ranked Anthony Yarde (22-2, 21KOs) and number-five Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez (44-0, 30KOs) passed on the opportunity due to their commitment to separate title fights with other sanctioning bodies.
Yarde was previously due to challenge Beterbiev (18-0, 18KOs) as the WBO mandatory challenger, though their scheduled October 29 bout in London has been pushed back as Beterbiev continues to recover from knee surgery earlier this summer. Yarde will likely take a stay-busy fight while awaiting his due title shot.
Mexico’s Ramirez is confirmed to next face WBA light heavyweight titlist Dmitry Bivol (20-0, 11KOs) on November 5 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. A deal was reached for that fight at the eleventh-hour, canceling a scheduled August 21 purse bid hearing barely a couple of hours prior to the start of the session.
Talks never went far. Hearn was tasked to reach terms with Pascal, who is represented by longtime manager Greg Leon. A deal never came from the allotted time period, though Hearn has been on record stating that big plans are in store for Buatsi later this year.
Those plans remain to be seen after passing on a domestic title fight with England’s Callum Johnson and now having Buatsi removed from the IBF mix.
Tentative plans called for Buatsi-Pascal to take place in the UK, granting London’s Buatsi a regional advantage though with DiBella planning to stage on a Queensberry Promotions show. Representatives for Buatsi—including Matchroom Boxing chairman Eddie Hearn—insisted that the 2016 Olympic Bronze medalist and current top contender would go through with the fight.
However, the claim was accompanied with concerns over drug testing standards, drawing attention to Pascal testing positive ahead of his canceled June 2021 rematch with Badou Jack.
The September 14 deadline approached with only Pascal on board. Buatsi's side contends that DiBella Entertainment did not submit a contract for their review until the September 14 deadline, at which time they requested clearer language on random drug testing. The matter was not of any concern to Pascal, who submitted his paperwork to the independent organization with the understanding that testing would have been begun the moment all contracts were signed and returned to the IBF.
BoxingScene.com has verified that VADA was in possession of signed and completed paperwork for both fighters.
The development will leave Pascal with a new round of negotiations in lieu of a return to the ring in a timely fashion. He still remains within a win of being guaranteed another shot at becoming light heavyweight champion.
The 39-year-old Pascal previously held the WBC light heavyweight title following June 2009 points win over unbeaten countryman Adrian Diaconu. Four successful defenses followed, including an August 2010 technical unanimous decision win over Chad Dawson to establish championship lineage.
Pascal’s reign ended in a points loss to Hall of Fame two-division champion Bernard Hopkins in their May 2011 rematch in Montreal, five months after fighting to a draw in Quebec City. He returned to the title stage following a technical decision win over then-unbeaten Marcus Browne in August 2019 on the road In Brooklyn, winning a secondary version of the WBA light heavyweight title after three prior failed bids at the full title held by Sergey Kovalev (twice) and Dmitry Bivol.
The win over Browne was followed up by a thrilling split decision win over Jack in their Decmeber 2019 clash in Atlanta that saw both fighters hit the canvas. The two were due to meet again last June 6 in Miami Gardens, Florida, only for Pascal to test positive for multiple banned substances through testing contracted by VADA.
Pascal has since proven to be a clean fighter and still a top player at light heavyweight following a twelve-round, unanimous decision win over previously unbeaten Meng Fanlong on May 20 in Plant City, Florida.
Fanlong entered the fight as the number-one contender and with hopes of challenging Beterbiev. Pascal ruined those plans, dropping Fanlong in the ninth-round of their ProBox TV main event en route to a competitive but unanimous decision in his first fight following a 28-month layoff.
Should Eifert accept the IBF’s invitation to enter talks with and eventually face Pascal, it will mark a massive leap in competition.
The 24-year-old from Magdeburg, Germany has fought exclusively in Germany and against domestic-level opposition. He has won five straight following his lone defeat, an eight-round majority decision to unbeaten countryman Tom Dzemski in August 2020.
Eifert has since avenged the loss, outpoint Dzemski over ten rounds last July in Magdeburg. Two more wins have followed, including a ten-round decision over Adriana Sperandino on a July 16 show in Magedburg that was carried live on ESPN+ in the U.S.
Should Pascal-Eifert head to a purse bid, Pascal will be entitled to the favorable end of a 60/40 split as the higher ranked contender.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox