You know, call me immature, but I get a lot of enjoyment out of hearing a 20,000 strong Montreal crowd chant “Bute, Bute.” I might even tune in to premium cable just for that. Thankfully, though, that won’t be the only attraction when light heavyweights Lucian Bute and Jean Pascal do battle in Montreal on Saturday night.
Bute and Pascal are superstars in Canada (or at least Quebec), where they regularly pack out the Bell Center. What we’ve got here, then, is a regional superfight and the atmosphere is likely to be intense, to say the least.
The fight itself, though, is a bit of a headscratcher. While Pascal and Bute are both proven fighters (Pascal is the #3 contender at light heavyweight according to the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board), their lack of recent activity (or meaningful activity, in Pascal’s case) make it difficult to predict the outcome.
Bute (31-1, 24 KO) hasn’t fought in over a year and the last time he was in the ring, against Denis Grachev, he didn’t exactly set the world on fire. Grachev, a tough but limited stalker, backed Bute up and rang his bell (center) for quite a lot in that fight. Before that, Bute was beaten up and stopped in the fifth round by a rampaging Carl Froch. Not the ideal preparation for a superfight, and one that makes it difficult to tell exactly where the Romanian import is at.
Unlike Bute, Pascal (28-2-1, 17 KO) has been fighting, just not against anyone of note. Since his loss to Bernard Hopkins in their 2011 rematch, Pascal has fought two nobodies. He only looked impressive against the second, George Blades, who he hurt with virtually the first punch he threw. So, like Bute, there’s a bit of a question mark hanging over the Haitian émigré.
Pascal has in his favour athleticism and a natural size advantage. The guy is just built like a Mack truck. He’s a herky-jerky kind of fighter who does a lot wrong, but gets away with it because of his speed, chin and awkwardness. He has a funky jab that he’ll use every now and then, but leaping power shots are his bread and butter. The way he fights doesn’t look right, but it gets the job done.
Pascal’s best chance to win, I think, is to land something big early, before Bute gets used to his wacky rhythm. His straight right hand might be just the ticket, because his wild left hook won’t be as effective against a southpaw. Of course, if Bute is a bit fragile after the Froch and Grachev fights, that’s going to be a huge advantage for Pascal. This is Bute’s first real fight at light heavyweight (the Grachev fight was at a catchweight), so there’s yet another known-unknown that could favour Pascal.
Bute’s best weapon is his sneakiness. There was a while there when his uppercuts to the body were among the most feared punches in boxing. He sets them up with cheeky little lateral movements and then BOOM, you’re on the floor wondering where all the air in your internal cavity went.
That routine works best when his opponent is dead in front of him, though. Pascal probably won’t be. But Bute is far more skilled overall than Pascal, and can be quite accurate with his southpaw jab and straight left. The last time Pascal fought a lengthy southpaw in Chad Dawson, he did well early but Dawson was coming on strong when the fight was ended.
When it comes to making up my mind about who wins, I’ve kind of talked myself out of the Bute prediction I made in the weekly schedule earlier in the week. So, y’know, apologies if you bet the farm on that one. Both guys have question marks hanging over their heads, but I have to go with Pascal. He just doesn’t fight like your typical Bute victim, and he’s the more physical boxer here. I can see Bute winning it with his skills, but I think the evidence favours the Haitian. I think Pascal will land just enough leaping, eye catching shots to win a decision, without roughing Bute up as badly as Grachev or Froch did. Too bad his name doesn’t lend itself to a good chant.