MONTREAL — It was heating up into a classic on HBO, one where Jean Pascal was leading but Chad Dawson had him hurt in the 11th. Then, an accidental head butt ended matters, forcing it to the scorecards, where Pascal rightly got the unanimous decision win over Dawson to become the lineal, true Ring magazine light heavyweight champion of the world. Pascal’s unorthodox offense and improved defense made a ton of difference, but so too did Dawson’s excessive caution.
A couple years ago, when writing about Canadian boxing being on the rise, I spoke to Canadian promoters and boxers who noted that Canada has had some good fighters over the years, but none of them had ever scored a win over a top pound-for-pound guy. That changed with Pascal’s defeat of Dawson — a top-5 boxer, regardless of weight — Saturday evening.
It wasn’t a complete triumph, though. The ending was unsatisfactory, to say the least, and it could very well have been a barnburner to the end if not for the head butt.
I had it 105-104 for Pascal, counting the 11th. Two of the scorecards in Pascal’s favor were close enough for my tastes at 106-103. 108-101 was more than a bit much — only two rounds for Dawson? I gave Pascal the 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 7th, 8th and 10th, and there were a couple close ones that could have gone his way, too, as well as vice versa.
Early on, Pascal’s speed, the way he moved backward against the inferior puncher and unorthodox charges gave Dawson trouble. But there wasn’t much happening in those rounds, and Dawson was connecting with a superior jab and landing some hard shots. Dawson appeared to adjust somewhat, and got more aggressive, but that came with its own toll — Pascal countered well, even with his back to the ropes.
Finally, in the 9th, 10th and 11th, Dawson threw caution (mostly) to the wind, even though the only round where Pascal genuinely had Dawson hurt was the 8th. He began beating up Pascal. And with each round, it was more and more of a FIGHT.
Then came that moment in the 11th. Pascal was leaning down, and Dawson came up with an uppercut that literally stood up Pascal. He didn’t wobble him so much as he turned him into a sitting duck. Dawson maybe didn’t recognize how bad he had Pascal hurt, but he eventually followed up and kept Pascal in trouble. Ah, but that head butt. It sliced Dawson up badly, and there was no choice but the referee to stop it and force it to the scorecards.
There will be people who think that head butt was intentional. I don’t. Pascal’s awkward, and a wobbly, desperate Pascal was an even more awkward Pascal.
The screaming fans — and they were the loudest I’ve ever encountered — loved the result. But Pascal very well may have gotten lucky, with the way things were going. Meanwhile, Dawson can blame the butt for the way things ended, but he should blame himself for not being the winner to that point, because if he’d been more aggressive he might not have suffered his first loss.
Pascal boxed better than he ever had, and he’ll get some consideration for pound-for-pound lists himself. He’s really the light heavyweight king, with wins over Adrian Diaconu and a close loss to Carl Froch one division south, and he’ll be a hero in Canada, where some fans have been ambivalent about his arrogant attitude.
But if Pascal wants to end any dispute, he’ll defeat Dawson in a rematch — Dawson has a rematch clause, and said he plans to use it. What opponent could possibly be better for him than that? Maybe the Lucian Bute fight makes him more money, but I guarantee Pascal-Dawson II packs the house nearly as well, after their technical affair turned into an exciting brawl, with an inconclusive ending. If he wants to know what avenging a controversial win can do for a career, he need look no further than Bute’s own rematch win over Librado Andrade.
And if Dawson wants to redeem his standing, he’ll fight in the rematch like he did in the 11th round.