Gervonta Davis's star power and ability to attract fans has dominated the storylines heading into Saturday’s Showtime-televised card in Atlanta.
But underneath his title fight with Yuriorkis Gamboa, beneath the deserved hype for one of the sport's top young talents, resides an intriguing matchup between Badou Jack and Jean Pascal — two fighters who have long been written off in their careers.
And watching from ringside on Saturday in Atlanta will be light heavyweight Marcus Browne, who is preparing to face the winner of Pascal-Jack and is also trying to rehabilitate his reputation after suffering the first loss of his career.
This fight-triangle between Jack, Pascal and Browne may not be front-and-center on Saturday, but it has all the makings of a fun, enduring, personality-driven rivalry that could capture the public's attention, not unlike the rivalry between Jermell Charlo and Tony Harrison, whose dislike for each other and verbal and fistic fireworks produced one of the better match-ups and rematches last week. Pascal handed Browne his first loss back in August after Browne won a decision against Jack in January in a fight that was marred by a grotesque cut on Jack’s forehead from a head-butt.
If Pascal retains his interim title in Atlanta against Jack, he is basically required to face Brown next since there was a rematch clause in their contract for their fight in August that stipulated that Pascal was allowed to take another fight before he had to face Browne again, according to a source.
If Jack walks away the winner, it’s basically understood that Browne will likely also face him next, in a rematch of their January bout.
Browne said he won't root outwardly for either Pascal or Jack in their light heavyweight title match in Saturday’s co-feature.
But he will be inwardly and quietly pulling for Pascal to win.
Well, Browne’s inner monologue will actually be screaming for Pascal to win.
And who can blame him?
Brown wants payback after Pascal sent him to the canvas three times on his way to a technical- decision victory.
The fight was stopped due to a cut over Browne’s eye, the final indignity on a night that Browne described as a “series of unfortunate events.”
While Browne (23-1, 16 knockouts) could live with another fight with Jack — whom he decisoned in January to win a vacant interim title in the biggest victory of his career — he has retribution on his mind against Pascal.
“Hopefully he does win,” Browne said in a phone interview on Thursday. “I want to get that win back. Hey, we’re in a season of rematches in boxing, right? Anthony Joshua got his (against Andy Ruiz). Charlo got his (against Harrison). Why can’t Marcus Browne get his?”
Browne, a 2012 U.S. Olympian, believes that Pascal will be too explosive, unpredictable and rugged for Jack, who at 36, may be on the back-nine of what has been a widely admired and decorated career.
“He’s very crafty and Badou is going to have to respect that,” Browne said. “I just think Pascal has a lot of dog in him. He’s going to do whatever it takes to get the ‘W.’”
He speaks from experience. Browne was boxing beautifully against Pascal, gobbling up early rounds against the former champion when he momentarily let down his guard, his concentration lapsed, and he was clipped three times by Pascal right hands and floored in the fourth and twice in the seventh.
In the next round, an accidental head butt opened a cut over Browne’s left eye, and the bout was stopped after consultation with the ringside doctor. Browne suffered his first loss by scores of 75-74 on all three scorecards. What's worse, he was even with Pascal heading into the last round, so the bout was decided by the eighth round, which was stopped halfway through because of the cut.
“Everyone saw what happened that night,” Browne said. “He dropped me but he was continuously head-butting me throughout the fight. I tried to tell the referee, but hey, no excuses. He’s a veteran and a professional and at the end of the day he did what he had to do to get the win and I respect that. I just want to get him back. He can’t run forever.”
Though it may not have the intrigue of a fight with Pascal, Browne does have a built-in incentive to face Jack again if Jack wins on Saturday. Browne wants to quiet the whispers that Jack was diminished due to the horrific cut he sustained during the fight. In other words, Browne beat an injured fighter back in January, is what he’s hearing.
“Leonard Ellerbe kept on saying that Jack was flat that night and he blamed the cut,” Browne said. “He’s a top tier fighter and I respect that he wants to face me again and has something to prove as well, just like I have something to prove against Pascal.”
Browne expects to get a little camera time on Saturday when he’s picked out of the audience during the co-feature.
“I’ll be ringside licking my chops,” he said. “I definitely have a vested interest in what happens.”