It has been nearly 10 years since Jean Pascal’s name first appeared in the boxing headlines, when he narrowly lost to Carl Froch in December 2008.
There have been many high-profile fights since that night, including against Chad Dawson, Bernard Hopkins and Sergey Kovalev – twice each – Lucian Bute, Eleider Alvarez, and now the fearsome Dmitry Bivol.
It has been an adventure, and at 36-years old, and without a world championship win since 2010, Pascal is in a funny old place that so many fighters find themselves.
The Haitian-Canadian will still be convinced that he has what it takes to once again rule in this Light Heavyweight division, now dominated by young and hungry champions – barring the evergreen Adonis Stevenson.
Meanwhile the WBA champion, Bivol, will have his eyes set on joining fellow Russian Kovalev as the only man to beat Pascal 33-5-1(20KO’s) inside the distance.
Kovalev beat down Pascal on two occasions inside schedule, in a rivalry that became rather too personal when Pascal accused Kovalev of racism following a distasteful and ill-advised social media post aimed at Stevenson. The pair never saw eye-to-eye and likely never will, but there is no such feud in the air with the more relaxed Bivol.
Bivol 14-0(11KO’s) cruised to a world title when he dispatched Trent Broadhurst in a single round. But his two defences have shown us much more of what Bivol brings to the table.
Sullivan Barrera was thoroughly outboxed for 11 rounds before Bivol closed the show in splendid fashion with a 12th round stoppage. But things were not so straight forward when he met the awkward, yet ageing, Isaac Chilemba. It was another bout in which Chilemba thoroughly frustrated his European opposition, much the same as he did in a previous meeting in Russia with Kovalev. A pair of 120-108 scorecards were outrageous, while the 116-112 tally for Bivol was a far better reflection of just how tough a night it was.
In truth, a meeting with Chilemba would have proven a far more fitting match for Pascal at this stage of his career. That bout could have served as a chief support to any world title fight across America or Canada, but the name Pascal still carries weight, enough weight to make Bivol’s latest world title defence the main attraction in Atlantic City.
At this late stage of his career, Pascal fights in bursts, and while that is enough to cause Bivol some problems inside the ropes, it will not prove too much of a factor for judges outside of them. Pascal’s flurries will make rounds closer, but not the fight.
The chief question ahead of this clash on Saturday night is whether Bivol can finish his third world title defence inside of 12 rounds. That one is hard to answer. Bivol never looks in a considerable rush to finish his opposition off, reverting to boxing intelligently, and waiting for his opponent to crumble under the consistent power that comes from the accuracy of his punches. Meanwhile Pascal is hardened, and even when dropped to the canvas, he has the powers of great recovery to shake it off swiftly.
The pick however is for Bivol to close his 2018 with an impressive stoppage win. Patient as always he will command the contest from range, while Pascal’s quick volley of punches cause the champion to step back and shake off the sort of power punches he has yet to taste in his professional career.
By round 8, Pascal’s burst will become less and less frequent, the consistent accurate punches of Bivol will begin to take their toll. Pascal will rise from the canvas once or twice before he is saved from further punishment. Pascal’s punch resistance fading and Bivol now on the offensive, the bout will be stopped in round 10.