Pascal looks to shake off rust
Chad Dawson looms for former champ

By Matt Casavant

As Jean Pascal (26-2-1, 16KOs) worked out Monday morning in front of members of the media and a few onlookers at the GYM headquarters in anticipation of Friday’s night matchup at the Bell Centre in Montreal against Aleksy Kuziemski (23-4, 7KOs), it became evident that the 35 year old Polish fighter won’t be Jean’s only concern come fight night: “I won’t lie to you, I’m going to be rusty, it’s part of the game, but I trained really hard to be rusty as little as possible.”

The former champion went on to cite welterweight contender Andre Berto and UFC Champion George St-Pierre as fighters and friends who admitted to Pascal that their respective layoffs were felt once they finally returned to action. Questions and concerns over Pascal’s inactivity are to be expected considering he hasn’t fought since May of 2011, a fact not lost on Pascal: “Of course I’m nervous, it’s been 19months, right now I’m going somewhere that I’ve never been, so of course I’m a little bit nervous.”

For what it’s worth, Pascal did look sharp while doing a few rounds on the mitts with trainer Marc Ramsay and assistant Luc-Vincent Ouellet. Ramsay insists no sign of decline or rust was noticed during training camp: “I know what he’s capable of and I want to see what he did during training translate into the fight. We did a tune up on a Ferrari and I’m eager to see the results.”

Training that involved more sparring than usual according to Ramsay, who utilized the services of GYM stable-mate Eleider Alvarez (who’s also fighting on Friday) and another fighter he did not want to disclose the identity of for Pascal’s sparring sessions.

One might assume with such a long layoff that the game plan Friday might involved his pupil getting rounds in the bank in order to knock the rust off, a theory his trainer quickly dismisses: “At his age now with his experience he doesn’t need to do extra rounds, what I want to see is Jean perform to the best of his abilities. And if he performs to his full potential then it could be a short night’s work.”

Pascal now 30 years of age, last won a fight when he was 28, versus current light-heavyweight champion Chad Dawson. Coincidentally, Dawson is the same man who awaits the Montreal fighter in the spring of 2013 provided he wins and comes out unscathed against Kuziemski Friday night. When asked by a reporter if there was any chance Jean was already looking ahead to Dawson, Pascal shot that notion down: “I’m looking at Friday night. I’m thinking about Aleksy Kuziemsky, I don’t even think about Chad Dawson or anyone else...” Pascal might not be looking ahead but many fight fans are, however no Dawson rematch or marquee matchup is possible unless Jean conquers both Kuziemsky and the rust first.

Matt Casavant is host of the weekly After The Bell Podcast Click here for the latest episode as Matt is joined by Russ Anber, Gabriel Montoya & Tony Luis