(Jean Pascal, left; Chad Dawson, right)
MONTREAL — If nothing else, last night’s light heavyweight fight between Chad Dawson and Jean Pascal offered a pretty rich tapestry for fingers to be pointed, for credit to be given and for perceptions to be altered. There were a lot of nuances, although there was also a considerable amount of flamboyant emotion on display afterward.
In no particular order:
- The two big laugh lines at the news conference after the fight were, paraphrased, as follows: Dawson promoter Gary Shaw claiming that the Pascal head butt was intentional, and Pascal saying he wasn’t hurt in the 11th round, never got tired and that it was all a “trick” to fool Dawson before Pascal finished strong. They hardly merit much discussing, these claims. They were laughable.
- Dawson’s team had plenty of excuses — I still haven’t seen the interview with HBO’s Larry Merchant where Larry called Dawson for making excuses even as he said he wasn’t making excuses, which is a long overdue thing for someone to say to a fighter after he does that. They complained about earlier head butts (there were some, but they looked unintentional to me) about Pascal holding and hitting (which he did a little bit, but got warned about it) and about the fight being stopped because of the cut (it was a horrendous cut — there really was no other option). They didn’t argue that Dawson deserved to win, though, so they didn’t go full-bitch. I think perhaps referee Michael Griffin could have been a touch more aggressive in warning Pascal here and there, but it wasn’t anything that stood out as bad refereeing. It was all borderline stuff.
- Not that it’s relevant to the fight’s outcome, but Jack Woodburn is trying to take the title of world’s worst boxing judge. He somehow gave the 11th round to Pascal, and only gave two rounds to Dawson overall. He also was the only judge who had Carl Froch beating Jermain Taylor on the scorecards a couple years ago. Non.
- There was some tension at the news conference, to say the least. Shaw started off chippy with the attending crowd since they scoffed at him and laughed at some of his remarks or booed them. He scolded everyone for that, saying “I thought I was talking the legitimate press.” I haven’t been to a post-fight boxing news conference that wasn’t filled to the brim with partisans, and it’s a bit annoying — sometimes, it’s hard even to fit in the room, and I’m not sure why every member of a boxer’s entourage needs to be at a press conference anyway. This phenomenon went both ways, and, I’d estimate, Dawson’s camp was indulging in more of the partisan behavior. Dawson’s wife kept interrupting Pascal, even, saying things like, “Nobody ever heard of you.” (Pascal’s reply: “You know who I am now.”) It was all inappropriate, really. Shaw kept griping about French remarks not being translated into English, prompting some barbs between himself and the press, some maybe meant to be humorous toward the end: “I’ll remember your face the next time I’m in town,” Shaw told one media member. “So you better find a new language to talk to me in.”
- Shaw acknowledged the rematch would have to be in Canada, most likely. “I have no choice,” he said. “I’ve got to go where Jean wants to go.” But, he said, “That ref and Jack Woodburn won’t be involved in that fight.” Per the rematch clause, Pascal can take one fight before having to rematch. I’d prefer it right away, but that’s just me. I asked HBO’s Kery Davis about airing a rematch, and he said “It was a terrific fight… If the two fighters and promoters can get together for a rematch, we’d be glad to televise it.”
- Asked if he was happy with his fighter’s performance, Shaw answered quickly, “No.” “I thought he was a little flat,” he added. “I know how talented Chad Dawson is… I think you saw splurges of that.” He thought Dawson gave away some early rounds to Pascal, which allowed Pascal to set the tone for much of the fight rather than Dawson seizing command and keeping it. He didn’t think Dawson was tight or intimidated by the hostile crowd — something many spectators observed — saying, “He’s got ice cold veins.”
- Dawson himself took the wrong attitude about his performance. He credited Pascal for fighting a good fight and said he was the “best technical fighter” I faced so far. He also said Pascal stole some rounds with flurries at the end, which is fairly true — Dawson would have good stretches of each round, but Pascal would land something telling toward the end of some stanzas. But you would hope Dawson had learned from the experience. Instead, he claimed that in a rematch, “I wouldn’t do anything different.” He criticized Pascal for “running like a chicken” after claiming beforehand that it would be Dawson who ran like a chicken — and, in that way, I think Pascal did trick Dawson. Clearly, this wasn’t the fight Dawson expected, with Pascal coming forward all the time, and Pascal often took advantage of Dawson’s apparent confusion. One hopes that if Dawson reviews the tape, he’ll see the error of his ways.
- It’s often the case that a fighter who’s accused of “not trying hard enough to win” is, in actuality, trying hard, but has a good reason for appearing not to be. There were some modestly justifiable reasons for Dawson’s apparent lack of effort. For instance, Dawson would occasionally trap Pascal on the ropes, and some saw Dawson not taking full advantage of that. But if you’ve seen any tape of Pascal, he loves to lay on the ropes, take or block a few shots, then out of nowhere explode with a big left hook. And Pascal did that a couple times to Dawson. You’d think twice about going off on Pascal on the ropes under those circumstances, too. But it’s really the case this time that Dawson should have done more, and inexplicably didn’t. You need look no further than his success in some of the late rounds, or the way he had success against Pascal for a stretch in the 7th after some thought Dawson was hurt and Dawson retaliated with voluminous fury.
- This might be the upset of the year so far. Certainly, Dawson is the highest-ranked pound-for-pound guy to get knocked off, and he got knocked off by a guy with no pound-for-pound credentials, unlike some of the other upsets this year like Fernando Montiel knocking off Hozumi Hasegawa or Sergio Martinez knocking off Kelly Pavlik. I have seen betting odds cited as putting Pascal as the 5-1, 4-1, 3-1 or 2-1 underdog. I personally would have leaned at more like the 2-1 odds than 5-1 odds, as Pascal’s no joke, and he offered a lot of things to Dawson he hadn’t seen before — even though I predicted Dawson to win. Depending on how much emphasis you put on betting odds, other fights might warrant consideration as bigger upsets. But it is a very nice upset by Pascal, for sure.
- Pascal was his usual egotistical self after the fight, not that I’m as bothered by it as some other people are. I didn’t have a major problem with him celebrating the win emphatically despite the ending’s circumstances. He won, fair and square, getting the major upset, the win of his career and a huge win for Canadian boxing. Who wouldn’t celebrate that? Sure, the ending left questions, but I’ve rarely seen a fighter win a bout under controversy and be upset about it.
- “I’m getting ready to invade America,” Pascal said. I’d welcome him. But if there’s money to be made, it seems the majority of it is in Canada. I’m not sure who he fights next if not Dawson, and he wasn’t saying who he wanted — only that he was the top 175-pounder, and whoever wanted him could come get him by issuing a challenge, be it Froch in a rematch after the Super Six tournament, super middleweight Lucian Bute or Tavoris Cloud. He was impatient, justifiably, with Dawson’s complaining. “I lost to Carl Froch. I came back stronger,” he said. “I beat Chad Dawson and he has to come back stronger.” But he also said Dawson was a good fighter and that it was a good fight. I gather these two respect each other, but don’t like each other. P.S., If it seems like I have more quotes from Dawson’s team, it’s because I missed Yvon Michel’s part of the news conference and because a significant percentage of the quotes by Pascal and his team were in French.
- Some thought Dawson hurt Pascal with body shots. He did connect on some good ones, and could have (as with everything in the fight) done more, but I didn’t see Pascal hurt by them. Maybe it was where I was sitting. Which, I’ve been told, landed me on TV plenty. That’s neat, I guess.
- I honestly have no idea what to do with these guys in my pound-for-pound top 20. Most likely, I’ll drop Dawson to near the bottom and install Pascal just above him, but there’s a case to be made for less (and more) drastic measures.
- It’s also hard to tell just now whether Dawson helped improve his stock with fans in a loss in a watchable fight or hurt himself by being so timid for stretches.
- In the list of excuses Dawson’s team employed, none of them included the turmoil he’s reportedly endured outside the ring. There was the feuding with Shaw that spilled into public. There was the reported fallout with manager Mike Criscio, but also a feud with adviser James Prince that Michael Marley has reported on extensively, and even reportedly a feud with his father plus financial woes. Dawson comes off as a quiet guy, but he’s had a lotta upheaval outside the ring, most notably with his near-constant shifting of trainers. I’m sure somebody will find a reason to attack Eddie Mustafa Muhammad after this loss, but from where I was sitting right behind the corner, Muhammad was constantly imploring Dawson to pick it up mid-round, and I’ve heard tell that HBO cameras captured him doing the same between rounds. This one has to be on Dawson, I think, and even if he’s got some financial problems or things aren’t going so swell with his dad or whatever, he could’ve fought better. Period.
- The undercard featured few highlights, but for me the biggest was junior welterweight prospect Dierry Jean. Not everyone appreciated his performance in a 6th round stoppage, thinking that he could have put his foot on the gas a bit more. But I saw a very good young fighter, a somewhat larger Ivan Calderon with more power, who knows how to fight and has a gift for defense. I say “somewhat” because Jean is tiny, listed at 5’6″ in the only place where I’ve ever seen his height listed, and he probably ought to go down as low in weight as he can. He fought at welterweight Saturday against Antonio Soriano, who usually fights even higher. Soriano — an experienced trial horse who once fought Tyrone Brunson to a draw — tried hard but couldn’t land a thing on Jean, and meanwhile Jean was pot-shotting him at will with counters. I think Jean has real potential. The other highlight, if any, was 2-4-1 heavyweight Rubin Rivera upsetting Canadian Wayne John in a split decision. Lotta fat in that fight. Rivera was a jiggly boy in particular, with fans screaming remarks about Jell-o and burritos, and one cleverly saying in French, “go for the breast!” But there was some guile in that blubber, as Rivera countered and switched stances enough to confuse John. In other fights, lightweight prospect Arash Usmanee scored a knockout of Hugo Pacheco but looked slow to me; junior lightweight Kevin Lavallee scored a quick knockout in his second fight, showing some explosiveness against second fight-caliber opposition, Genaro Garcia; and lightweight Tony Luis dominated Adrian Verdugo to win a decision in that odd subcategory of fight that didn’t lack for activity but still was utterly non-compelling.
- Montreal fans are dynamite. It was bar none the loudest crowd I’ve ever witnessed for a boxing match, even with just more than 8,000 reported in attendance. After he pulled off the upset, Rivera got some love from the Montreal fans, with people asking to have their picture taken with the man they’d previously mocked for his blubber. They love Bute like nobody’s business — he got a rock star reception when he appeared on the big screen. They went nuts for Pascal’s elaborate entrance, featuring three different music tracks.
- It’s been a great trip from start to finish. Besides some of the antics I already mentioned, my pals and I — including boxing folk like Mike Coppinger of SecondsOut/USA Today, Corey Erdman of The Score/New Haven Register/etc., friend of the site JasonTO and Andrew Fruman of The Boxing Bulletin — hit the town Friday to great effect, visiting the cougariest cougar bar of all time and taking turns on the rotating dance floor. Some of us even had a visit with the local dancing ladies of Quebec, if you get my drift, which is becoming something of a peculiar tradition for me when hitting far-off lands for boxing matches. Old Montreal is lovely, there was a cool skateboarding/graffiti-painting event we passed by today… I could go on and on. It’s true, what they said. Montreal is a helluva city.