Jean Pascal hasn’t fought in almost 2½ years, not since he edged Badou Jack by split decision in an all-action WBA light heavyweight title fight in December 2019.
Almost a year has passed, too, since Pascal’s 12-round rematch with Jack was canceled because Pascal tested positive for four performance-enhancing drugs. The former WBC 175-pound champion is 39 and obviously has been inactive, but Pascal portrays Meng Fanlong as the light heavyweight with something to prove in their 12-round fight Friday night in Plant City, Florida.
China’s Fanlong is 17-0, including 10 knockouts, and is the IBF’s number one contender in the 175-pound division. Quebec’s Pascal pointed out, however, that Fanlong will take a steep step up in competition when they meet in a main event of a five-fight card that’ll be streamed at www.ProBoxTV.com from ProBox Events Center ($1.99 per month).
“Fanlong Meng is going to the unknown,” Pascal told BoxingScene.com. “He’s going to the unknown. We have been there many times – been there, done that. So, I know where I’m going to. He doesn’t know. He’s gonna find out on Friday night, but I can say that I have to be careful because he’s younger than me, he wants to prove that he belongs at the top, so I know he trained very hard, he had good sparring partners. So, I’ll always be ready for any fight that I have, and that won’t change today. I’m in shape, I trained very hard. I had a long layoff, but that was enough and now it’s time to return in the ring.”
Whereas Pascal (35-6-1, 20 KOs, 1 NC) has faced an impressive list of top light heavyweights during his career, the 34-year-old Fanlong has beaten a largely low level of opposition since the 2012 Olympian made his pro debut in January 2015.
The skillful southpaw defeated Germany’s Adam Deines by unanimous decision in an IBF elimination match in June 2019, but his shot at IBF/WBC light heavyweight champ Artur Beterbiev, scheduled for March 2020, was scrapped at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Deines received Fanlong’s title shot by default because Fanlong couldn’t travel to Russia when Beterbiev’s co-promoters, Top Rank Inc. and Group Yvon Michel, rescheduled that fight for March 2021 in Moscow.
Beterbiev (17-0, 17 KOs) recorded a 10th-round stoppage of Deines (21-2-1, 17 KOs), who remains the toughest opponent of Fanlong’s seven-year pro career.
“I really don’t know much about Meng Fanlong because there’s not much about him on the Internet,” Pascal said. “I know that he’s been an Olympian in 2012, he represented China. So, I guess he has a good amateur background. He has professional fights, but we don’t see a lot of things on YouTube. But one thing that I noticed is he’s the number one IBF contender, so there’s a reason for that. So, you know, I’m expecting a tough fight, a good fight, but like I said, I’m gonna use my experience to win that fight because I have way more experience than him.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.