Feature Story

Pascal rose to the occasion

By Graham Houston
Photo by Mike Greenhill

You could put Saturday’s light-heavyweight title bout between Jean Pascal and Chad Dawson into the “What if” category of contest, as in “What would have happened if Dawson had fought with more fire?” or “What would have happened if the head clash hadn’t ended matters in the 11th round?”

Something similar happened in March when Arthur Abraham lost by disqualification against Andre Dirrell, also in the 11th round and with Abraham making a late charge. People wondered if Dirrell could have held off Abraham in the closing few minutes and observers will no doubt be debating whether Pascal could have survived a Dawson onslaught in the final round.

Photos: Mike Greenhill

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We will never know the answer to these questions and discussions are an exercise in futility. It did seem to me, though, that Pascal was pulling himself back together after by far his shakiest moment in the fight.

“Jean wasn’t hurt, he was letting Dawson punching himself out,” Pascal’s promoter, Yvon Michel, said over the phone from Montreal on Sunday morning. “It was Jean’s plan to take the 11th round off and then have a big 12th round to finish the fight impressively.”

I don’t know about taking the round off — I thought for a moment that Pascal was in danger of being taken out of the fight. Pascal did seem to slow Dawson’s surge just a little, though, with a sneaky counter, and while the danger had not passed I thought that the worst was over.

When a well-conditioned, skilled boxer knows that he has just one round to go it is very difficult to stop him. Late — or even last-round — knockouts come when a fighter has been hurt several times during a fight and is becoming increasingly vulnerable (say, Shannon Briggs vs Sergei Liakhovich); when he has been worn down by attrition (Julio Cesar Chavez vs Meldrick Taylor) or when he gets caught by surprise (Jake LaMotta-Laurent Dauthuille).

Pascal had seemed to be in difficulties in the ninth round but rallied in the 10th; I think he had it in him to move, duck and dive and get through the last round — maybe even to make one last rush.

Certainly there was no doubt that Pascal was clearly ahead and a deserving winner of the unanimous technical decision, although the wide 108-101 scoring of Canadian judge Jack Woodburn was a surprise. Did Woodburn really believe that Dawson won just two of the 11 rounds? Really? The 106-103 scores of the judges from the U.S. and the U.K. seemed much closer to what really happened.

Pascal fought a smart fight, as Dawson acknowledged afterwards. He used the ring and attacked in explosive bursts. Dawson is an excellent technical boxer, much better than he looked in this fight, but Pascal kept him guessing.

Dawson stalked and he landed some telling punches, especially the right hooks to the body from out of his southpaw stance, but it seemed he was a bit wary of what Pascal was going to do next. After four successive bouts against veteran ex-champions, Dawson couldn’t quite make the adjustment against a fast, vibrant fighter with the gift of improvisation. HBO’s Emanuel Steward thought that Pascal was exhausted in several rounds, but the muscled Montreal boxer kept rallying to steal rounds. It was quite a performance.

I thought that Pascal has Dawson hurt with a right hand in the eighth but Bad Chad came back in the ninth — but the local favourite delighted the Montreal crowd by triggering off combinations to the body in the 10th.

Dawson had his biggest round in the 11th only to get sliced over the right eye when heads collided. It was a tough break for Dawson just when he seemed to have Pascal on the run, but we can only speculate on what would have happened had the cut not occurred.

Pascal rose to the occasion as an underdog, Dawson couldn’t really get into his smooth-boxing groove — and that’s how upsets are made.

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