Lucian Bute set to return, where’s Jean Pascal?

Credit: Will Hart - HBO

The recent announcement that Lucian Bute would be making the first fight of his second comeback at the Bell Center in December should serve as a reminder to keen boxing observers to ask not only what the future holds for Bute, but also to wonder what happened to the career of fellow Quebec-based boxer Jean Pascal. After all, it was Pascal who derailed Bute’s first comeback by defeating him in January.

The Higher You Climb, The Harder It Gets

The career prospects don’t look as bright for Lucian Bute as they were three years ago. By staying out of Showtime’s Super Six tournament and continuing as the undefeated IBF super middleweight titlist, Bute had positioned himself sweetly and played both Showtime and HBO for maximum paydays against subpar opposition. After the Super Six was over, the buzz surrounding Bute was that he was the #2 guy in the division, after Andre Ward, despite having done so little to prove it.

Then Bute was clobbered by Carl Froch, proving once and for all that the Romanian-Canadian’s chin is merely average at best. Wisely choosing to not seek a rematch with The Cobra and deciding at the same time staying the 168 lbs weight class had little reward left in it, Bute started the comeback trail at light heavyweight with a respectable win over Denis Grachev. That was followed by a cross-town rivals match with Jean Pascal, ostensibly an eliminator for the WBC’s mandatory challenger slot. Bute lost on points by a clean margin.

Bute has gone from sitting pretty with plenty of options to a much harsher place since January. The top dogs in the division are Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev, and the one thing Bute doesn’t need is the sure loss that would come from taking his average jaw into a contest with two of the biggest pound-for-pound punchers in boxing today. He also isn’t very likely to get a shot at Bernard Hopkins, since The Alien is fighting “Krusher” next.

But What Happened To Jean Pascal?

So if Jean Pascal won the WBC light heavyweight eliminator and eventually has a (supposedly) guaranteed shot at the titleholder, Adonis Stevenson, surely he is in a good career spot, right? Then why haven’t we heard much from Pascal in the last eight months? Stevenson vs. Pascal would be a cinch to promote, since both men are Montreal guys and the fight would be another cross-town rivals match.

Enter Jean Pascal’s falling out last month with Yvon Marcel, his promoter of ten years. Ostensibly Pascal and Michel were negotiating over a bout with ex-titlist Tavoris Cloud in September, but with Pascal’s contract expiring and the two unable to reach terms, the failure to make Pascal vs. Cloud led to a parting of ways. Michel is also Stevenson’s promoter, so now it will be “Superman” Stevenson who will fight in September. For the time being, Pascal is promoting himself.

Obviously if Pascal wanted to cement his place as Stevenson’s next big fight, staying with Yvon Michel was the way to go. Pascal is now calling out Stevenson, but unless he can patch things up with Marcel to at least some degree, that fight may not happen, Pascal’s status as WBC mandatory challenger or no.

Where To Now?

From where matters stand right now, the next year looks slow for both Bute and Pascal. Bute can begin his comeback with some journeyman- or fringe contender-level opponents, but so long as Kovalev and Stevenson are at the top, his route to the peak of the division is too dangerous to attempt. Pascal looks set for a period of promotional limbo unless he patches things up with Yvon Marcel, because otherwise all the major players are closed to him either because they have busy dance cards or for promotional reasons.

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