By Dave Spencer
Photos Herby Whyne
After years of jabs and verbal sparring, it looks like the largest fight in Canadian history between domestic rivals Lucian Bute and Jean Pascal is now imminent, if not immediate. With both fighters approaching the back nine of illustrious careers, it has been decided that now is the time that both freight trains will finally collide inside the ring. Both are former world champions one fight removed from losing their titles and both had mediocre results in what were supposed to be comeback or tune-up fights.
“This fight is bigger than any belt,” Bute’s trainer Stephan Larouche told FightNews about the matchup. “To tell you how big the fight is, we had ESPN here for Stephane Ouellet and Davey Hilton (referring to the 1998 tilt that sold out the Bell Centre), now we’re moving to HBO so it gives you the kind of credibility that’s behind that fight.”
Pascal’s promoter Yvon Michel said the deal for the bout is already in place and will know in the next few days as to whether it will be May 25th or in the fall.
“This is not what we requested,” said Larouche in an interview with FightNews referring to the May date adding, “But if Jean wants to step aside from Chad Dawson and fight Lucian, we never said we wanted to do anything now, but we said we’re ready anytime.”
Given the recent history of both fighters, sooner might be better than later for both combatants.
Pascal lost his WBC light heavyweight crown in May 2011 to Bernard Hopkins and after a number stops and starts finally got back into the ring this past December with Aleksy Kuziemski, a fight where the flashy Montrealer was forced to fight with one arm for eight rounds.
Former IBF super middleweight champ Lucian Bute didn't fare much better in his post title match-up. After getting crushed and losing his title in May to Carl Froch, the southpaw came back in November and pounded out a decision in what trainer Stephan Larouche graded a 60 percent effort against previously undefeated Denis Grachev.
Larouche has said in the past he wants Bute who turns 33 next week to retire when he is 34 or 35. “When we first signed Lucian, I told him, I showed him, I took him to the Hall of Fame,” Larouche told FightNews earlier last year in the weeks leading up to the Froch fight. “I wanted Lucian to see those guys who have been there too long, to listen to them. You might get a second chance, but what’s left in you? Lucian always planned it to be over at 34 or 35 years old.”
The destruction to the hands of Froch only goes to reiterate the point that the clock is ticking for both men, meaning time and opportunities to meet inside the ring will be few and far between.
Add to the equation for making the fight now is Pascal’s brittleness and propensity to injury and you soon realize that time is of the essence. Pascal is coming back from a torn bicep and partially torn rotator cuff suffered in his last fight that forced him to fight eight of ten rounds with just his right arm.
It was the third time in Pascal’s career that he fought with one arm, but the first time he lost use of his left. Against Adrian Diaconu in his second title defence Pascal separated his right shoulder three times during the fight forcing his corner to pop it back in and still went on to a comfortable decision.
In 2007 Pascal injured his right shoulder in the second round versus Mexican Esteban Camou. The injury added a sense of urgency to the proceedings and the local fighter finished things a round later with a definitive left hook.
Along the way there have been a number of bumps and ailments that have hampered the fighter’s productivity including his year-and-a-half layoff after the second Hopkins fight that scuttled the plans of a Tavoris Cloud fight.
But with Bute winding down and Pascal’s health concerns, something else could be driving this contest to be made sooner rather than later. Pushing the envelope is the current contract of Jean Pascal. The Montreal fighter signed a two-year agreement plus a one year option in August 2010 at the time of his original fight with Chad Dawson. Pascal has fought just three times since.
Pascal’s promoter Yvon Michel wouldn’t discuss terms of the deal but said that a potential fall fight if they chose to go that way would not be in jeopardy. “This is a private matter,” said Michel on details of when the deal might expire before adding, “His contract has not expired, He is still under contract with us. Whether the fight is there (in May) or in the fall, we are together with Jean.”
Sources close to FightNews familiar with the original deal were of the belief that Pascal’s contract is in fact scheduled to expire in August but a provision does exist in the document that if a fight is made with Bute that the terms are extended for that time period. An agreement in principle to meet Bute, and Bute alone, would therefore allow a fight in the fall and past the original August expiration date.
A 2 million dollar-plus payday for Pascal is the expected payout for the clash with Bute and the numbers presently being bandied around by the promoter. It is approximately three times what he would earn in a rematch against Dawson, and could certainly be used as leverage in a contract extension to securing the fighter long term.
“At this point we have a commitment, we’re going to have a fight with Pascal-Bute” Michel told FightNews, “We just don’t know when. We’re currently evaluating what will be the best. My goal is to finalize everything by this week and to announce next week exactly where we’re going.”
Additional reporting by Mat Casavant contributed to this report