HBO's Jim Lampley calls light heavyweight ex-beltholder Jean Pascal "the betting favorite" entering Saturday's 175-pound bout against former IBF super middleweight titleholder Lucian Bute at Bell Centre in Montreal, even though he views Bute as the better boxer.
"He's clearly the better technician when they are both fighting at their best, but Bute doesn't have Pascal's speed, quickness and athletic explosiveness," said Lampley. "I understand that Pascal is the betting favorite in the fight, and I think that it's warranted for Pascal to be the betting favorite in the fight."
Bute, nevertheless, has said that he plans to “have fun" in the ring opposite Pascal, who has stated that Bute's "team conspired to postpone the fight” from its original date of May 25 “in order to demoralize me.”
Bute (31-1, 24 knockouts) is coming off a unanimous-decision victory over previously unbeaten light heavyweight Denis Grachev in November which followed a fifth-round knockout loss to Carl Froch that cost him his IBF 168-pound belt in May of 2012. A subsequent injury to Bute’s left hand forced the postponement of the Pascal bout, which will happen at Bell Centre in Montreal.
Pascal (28-2-1, 16 KOs), meanwhile, has scored a unanimous decision over Aleksy Kuziemski and a fifth-round knockout of George Blades since losing his WBC title via unanimous decision to Bernard Hopkins in May of 2011.
Bute's victory over Grachev may not bode well for him against Pascal, considering that Grachev was destroyed by Edwin Rodriguez in the first round of his next fight in July, and that Rodriguez, in turn, was dominated during a unanimous decision loss to RING 168-pound champion Andre Ward in November.
"Bute, at this point, is not a known quantity. He was terrible against Froch, and that's not terribly surprising given that Froch was on a high coming into the fight, and that he was fighting on his home turf in England. But Bute was not impressive against Grachev. He also has not fought in 14 months. The only one of them who has fought within the past year is Pascal," Lampley said of Pascal, loser of a unanimous decision to Froch as a 168-pounder in December of 2008.
"In his fight against Blades, Pascal looked good. Blades is not a strong opponent, but Pascal turned in a strong performance. Based on everything that we've seen over the past year and a half, I think that Pascal has to be regarded as the more reliable physical commodity coming into the fight, and it's logical to expect him to be the more confident fighter coming into the fight, so it's going to take a little bit of a reversal of fortune here for Bute to get this done."
RingTV.com polled 22 boxing insiders as to their thoughts on what will transpire in Pascal-Bute, the results of which are below.
Mike Coppinger, RingTV.com/USA Today
Jean Pascal TKO Lucian Bute: This is an intriguing coin-flip matchup, and if it took place two years ago Lucian Bute would be heavily favored. But the image of Bute being shellacked by Carl Froch is burnt into my memory.
So too, is Bute's life-and-death struggle with Denis Grachev. Bute's chin and durability is now a question, as is his inactivity. Jean Pascal is the superior athlete and puncher, and I expect a good scrap between the fellow Canadians.
Pascal employs a rougher style, and I expect his aggressiveness and toughness to pay off with a late-round stoppage.
Jean Pascal W 12 Lucian Bute: Even if he's all the way back at full strength, I don't like Lucian Bute's chances against any top light heavyweight. I'm still not convinced Jean Pascal can recapture past glory, but I like his chances in this matchup, winning with plenty of room to spare.
Jean Pascal W 12 Lucian Bute: Bute is the better overall boxer with the sharper technique, in my opinion, but I think Pascal is tougher and he has more heart. Plus, I think Pascal's unorthodox style (some would call it "wild" or "raw") and athleticism will continually disrupt Bute's smooth boxing rhythm. The southpaw has a chance to win if he can hurt Pascal to the body (and Bute is a damn good body puncher when he wants to be) but I see the former light heavyweight champ sucking it up and gradually overwhelming his fellow Montreal star. If Pascal were a more complete fighter with a more consistent attack, I'd have picked him to win by KO or TKO, but he's the kind of boxer who gets off in spots.
Jean Pascal TKO 8 Lucian Bute: There's no sure pick here, other than to say Adonis Stevenson would beat Jean Pascal, Lucian Bute and anybody else in Quebec. Picking between Pascal and Bute is a virtual coin flip because of all the questions that have arisen in the years since both fell short of their advertised potential.
Vulnerabilities were initially exposed by Carl Froch, who stopped Bute in the fifth round and scored a unanimous decision over Pascal. Pascal's subsequent loss to Bernard Hopkins in a rematch left doubt about his stamina and ability to adjust. But the bigger question is in Bute's corner. He's coming off hand surgery that postponed a May date with Pascal.
In the wake of the Froch loss — his only defeat — he looked like a fighter suddenly past his prime in a decision over Denis Grachev. Pascal still has great speed and enough power for an effective early assault of Bute, who figures to be tentative in his first bout since bone chips were removed from his left hand. Bute won't be able to hurt Pascal. Midway through the fight, he'll know that he can't beat him either.
Jean Pascal W 12 Lucian Bute: It's a new year on RingTV.com, and what better way to kick it off than with a personal resolution to keep things simple when analyzing these fights and picking winners.
In Jean Pascal, we have a talented but troubled light heavyweight contender in deep for the first time since being embarrassed by Bernard Hopkins in 2011. Across the ring from him will be southpaw Lucian Bute, a less dynamic light heavy in only his second fight at that weight since a crushing TKO loss to Carl Froch in 2012 at super middleweight.
I expect the relative rustiness of both fighters to be offset by the disparity in confidence displayed by each. Pascal just KNOWS he can bang with Bute, but the Romanian must have doubts after his collapse against "The Cobra" Look for a more active Pascal to be less tentative than Bute en route to scoring a comfortable decision or possibly a late stoppage.
Jean Pascal TKO10 Lucian Bute: What a strange fight this is. Despite the hype this is a showdown between two part time fighters and it could be a question of who is damaged the most. Jean Pascal was taken to school twice by Bernard Hopkins and, for the most part, has been playing hooky ever since.
He’s had two fights against undistinguished opposition and seems more focused on being seen at fights with Curtis Jackson (aka 50 Cent) than performing in them. Bute was taken to the slaughter house by Carl Froch. The previously unbeaten southpaw wasn’t just beaten in a prize fight by the Englishmen, but given an outside a bar ass-whipping, which may have removed his swagger and fighting heart permanently.
Bute has fought once since May 2012. The trouble with making a pick based on form is that there is no form. But my hunch is that Pascal retains the ambition. I’m not convinced Bute still wants to fight and he could merely be doing what is expected of him by continuing his career. I see Bute starting well, but succumbing to a late round rally by Pascal.
Jean Pascal UD 12 Lucian Bute: Had this fight happened a couple of years ago, I would have had no problem picking Lucian Bute. However, with Bute being exposed by Carl Froch, an injury plagued 2013, and a less-than-impressive victory over Denis Grachev, it becomes increasingly difficult to see Bute being the same fighter he was when he was champion at super middleweight.
It's not as if Jean Pascal is that much better, rather, it is about how far Bute has fallen. Pascal should be keenly aware of Froch's strategy that saw him firing right out of the gate and, if you couple that with Bute's inactivity, it will likely be the formula to either get an early stoppage or give Pascal a large enough lead in the early rounds that Bute cannot overcome.
Given Pascal's tendency to start fast and fade late, this strategy is the only way he'll win. Bute is a harder puncher and slicker boxer, but with Pascal's swarming style, Bute will likely struggle to keep up early. The battle for Montreal will likely end with Pascal proving that he has more gas in his career tank than Bute.
Jean Pascal TKO10 Lucian Bute: This is still a great fight for boxing in Quebec, even though neither fighter is what he was a couple years ago. But Lucian Bute hasn't fought in 14 months, didn't exactly look good against Denis Grachev in his last fight and might never really recover psychologically from the beating he took from Carl Froch in May 2012. Jean Pascal appears to have more left and eventually will wear down a seemingly fragile fighter in the later rounds.
Lucian Bute UD 12 Jean Pascal: While Lucian Bute is seriously unpredictable, he should have the ability to out-box Jean Pascal. There should be some good moments as it think Bute is not iron-chinned.
My heart wants Jean Pascal, but my brain is sold on Bute via slightly wide unanimous decision. I believe that Pascal could work as a fringe contender with a loss.
Jean Pascal W 12 Lucian Bute: I think if Jean Pascal can apply his ambushing style in a consistent manner over 12 rounds, he will outwork Lucian Bute, if not stop him late.
I just didn't see Bute recover his past form against Denis Grachev, especially coming off the stoppage loss to Carl Froch. Combine that with over a year of inactivity, and I believe Bute has too tough of a task ahead of him on Saturday.
On a side note, the Bell Centre will be packed to the brim despite only a regional belt being on the line, once again proving that the fighters involved — not the trinkets — dictate the real magnitude of a fight.
Jean Pascal TKO-11 Lucian Bute: This looks like a great way to kick off 2014. Should be a terrific action fight. I used to think Lucian Bute was close to indestructible, but the overriding visions in my head now of Lucian are Round 12 against Demetrius Andrade and the last couple of rounds against Carl Froch. in both, he was in terrible, terrible trouble.
Jean Pascal has had his share of rough moments too, but I think he is more capable of surviving in the difficult situations. He is more clever than Bute, rangier and quicker-handed.
Although Lucien may at times overpower Pascal and appear about to win, I look for Pascal to start winning the exchanges about midway through the fight, start building up a big volume of punches and eventually land so many in the later rounds that Bute will not be able to stand up to it.
Jean Pascal MD 12 Lucian Bute: This battle, between Canadian stars Jean Pascal and Lucian Bute could come down to two factors: Rustiness and confidence.
Pascal has fought three times in the past thirty-six months. He lost his light heavyweight title to Bernard Hopkins way back in 2011. Bute was annihilated by Carl Froch and won a hard-fought decision over Denis Grachev last year.
Bute looked shaky and unsure of himself. Bute needs to use angles and keep Pascal guessing. If he does that, he wins. Pascal will press the action and swarm him. I see Pascal rallying in the later rounds to win by majority decision.
Jean Pascal W 12 Lucian Bute: This is like picking straws because I have no idea what either of these fighters have left at this stage of their careers. A few years ago, I would have picked Lucian Bute. But now?
After he seemingly had his confidence beaten out of him by Carl Froch, I'm not sure if he will ever look as good as he did before then. Jean Pascal, meanwhile, isn't the most skilled guy around but he makes up for it with heart and determination.
Pascal may not have a lot left in the tank either — his most recent performances have been difficult to gauge — but I assume, at this point, he has a little more than Bute. With a gun to my head, I'll pick Pascal to escape with a close decision win. But it may be hard down the stretch if he fades — which he may.
Jean Pascal W 12 Lucian Bute: I like Jean Pascal to win a spirited decision over Lucian Bute in a good, tough fight. Pascal appears to be very focused for this opportunity and I think his style might catch Bute off guard just a bit. Excellent matchup in this one.
Jean Pascal KO Lucian Bute: It feels like Lucian Bute is being written off too easy. Jean Pascal can be a technical mess sometimes and his output is erratic. Bute is the more skilled boxer. It doesn't matter. Pascal is tougher, quicker, and Bute's chin is suspect. Pascal will find it.
Jean Pascal W 12 Lucian Bute: This is a tough one. I think Lucian Bute is a better boxer and probably a harder puncher than Jean Pascal, but I think Pascal is tougher. I'll go with Pascal by a close decision.
Jean Pascal KO 10 Lucian Bute: Though they've both had considerable time off, my leaning is toward Jean Pascal. Carl Froch, I believe, really exposed Lucian Bute. Pascal will expose him even more.
I'm not convinced Bute can hang with someone as physically imposing as Pascal. He seems to have put the injuries behind him. It should be a good fight, but Pascal has too much firepower.
Jean Pascal W 12 Lucian Bute: I'm going to go with Jean Pascal to win a decision over Lucian Bute in a very exciting and tactical match that will have the arena in Montreal going bonkers for the whole 12 rounds.
I just think Jean's energy and big punching style will offset Bute this time out. I think Lucian will be right there for most of the way and will have his moments, but Pascal's aggressive punching will be the ultimate difference.
Jean Pascal W 12 Lucian Bute: I have Jean Pascal by decision. I didn't like the way Lucian Bute looked in his last fight against Denis Grachev. He doesn't seem to be a real light heavyweight yet.
Jean Pascal has a steady chin, is unorthodox and will be able to land from unorthodox angles against him. I still think it will be a tough fought, competitive fight, but Pascal will take this, I believe.
Jean Pascal UD 12 Lucian Bute: This is a tough fight to handicap considering the fact that Lucian Bute is coming off of a 13-month layoff and consequently an injury.
Jean Pascal figures to be the fresher fighter, while Bute will probably need a few rounds to shake off the ring rust.
Not only is Pascal a couple of years younger than Bute, but he is the bigger man, having been a light heavyweight for much longer. Pascal will outwork Bute for much of the fight and will be the aggressor.
Bute, who is a murderous body puncher, definitely can win this fight. But I believe that Pascal will out-hustle him on his way to a close but clear unanimous decision.
Jean Pascal TKO 11 Lucian Bute: Lucian Bute and Jean Pascal will be opening 2014 with the first big fight of the year in what should be an outstanding display of boxer vs gladiator. Lucian Bute has had a tough two outings, losing one by knockout to Carl Froch, and looking sluggish and rather complacent over the course of a decision in the other against the rugged but limited Denis Grachev.
Pascal, meanwhile, has won two straight to rebound from the unanimous decision loss to Bernard Hopkins for and the WBC title. The question is whether the Romanian-born Bute is an elite athlete who can withstand the potentially overpowering Pascal?
Bute will box from angles off his back heel, building a lead over the first eight to nine rounds. But as Bute fades, he will engage more, and that will give Pascal the opportunity of a life-time. In the 11th, Bute will be exhausted, battered and left reeling along the ropes, forcing the referee to put a halt to their Canadian mega-fight.
Jean Pascal W 12 Lucian Bute: After getting taken apart by Carl Froch, Lucian Bute looked less than impressive returning against Denis Gratchev. That was 14 months ago. Of course they were due to meet last summer until Bute broke his hand. I think that having the time away from boxing may well have helped him physiologically.
As for Jean Pascal, his career over the past few years has also been blighted with inactivity for a myriad of reasons. Just two fights in the last two and a half years. Pascal looked impressive stopping George Blades in five rounds last September.
That win will likely have helped him shed some ring rust. I think heading into this bout, its a fight both will believe they can win, and opinion will be spread. I see Pascal's greater athleticism being a key factor. I see Pascal winning a points decision here, though I expect Bute to have his moments along the way.
By a landslide 21-to-1, the experts believe that Jean Pascal win be the winner of Saturday's 175-pound bout with Lucian Bute.