By Robert Coster
The newest light-heavyweight world champion is 26 year-old Canadian Jean Pascal who won the coveted WBC title from Adrian Diaconu with a thrilling 12 round decision. The Haitian-born Pascal is a hero in Quebec where he lives and fights but not yet known in the United States. American boxing fans will hopefully soon have the opportunity to discover this young man who combines talent, heart and an engaging personality. Boxing experts in Canada predicted a bright future for Jean Pascal ever since his amateur days when he was a star of the Canadian national team. Jean Pascal (23-1, 15 KOs) is also an example of a success story of a young immigrant who has reached the pinnacle through hard work and effort. Fightnews sat with Pascal as he was getting ready to leave for his training camp in New York in view of his first title defense against Silvio Branco on September 25th in Montreal.
Jean, on August 12th you were honored by the town and authorities of Laval were you live. What was it like for you?
I was particularly happy for my mother, Josephine. She is a nurse, came to Canada to give us a better life and she worked so hard. She instilled in us the value of effort. She was by my side and I saw the tears falling from her eyes. She couldn’t imagine that one of her children would receive that kind of honor. And, me, I couldn’t imagine that boxing would take me that far.
You defeated Adrian Diaconu who was unbeaten to win the WBC title. How did this triumph impact your hometown and especially the immigrant population?
Well, you think that by your success you can become a role model, especially in my case for young black kids. The message I want to send is that if you believe in yourself, put in the hard work and discipline, you will get the rewards. This said, I’m still the same person and I have my feet on the ground. Everyday, I still have to make my bed and I still get stuck in the morning traffic.
Your first title shot was at 168lbs vs Carl Froch. You went to England and even though you lost the decision, you won a lot of hearts. How do you feel about that fight?
Of course, I was disappointed by the decision, but I think I proved in that fight that I belonged with the elite boxers. I wasn’t discouraged. The fight actually made me more self-confident.
Would you like a rematch with Carl?
I respect Carl as a boxer and person. I helped him train for the Taylor fight. You can say that we are friends. But business is business–we are bound to meet again down the line. Carl has mentioned 2011. So, we’ll be enemies again for 36 minutes.
You were born in Haiti. You are Haitian, Quebecois and Canadian. How do you deal with these different loyalties?
I feel comfortable with that. I speak three languages, so it’s a plus. I was born in Haiti and I do not forget my roots. But I was raised as a Haitian-French-Canadian and, as a boxer, I am a product of Quebec. I represent the diversity of this country and that’s great.
How did you get your start in boxing? Your mother was apparently very much against it.
Hell yeah. My mother was against the violence of the game, but my brother Nicholson, who was a golden gloves champion, brought me to the gym at age 13. We showed mother the positives of boxing: hard work, discipline, self-control, the pureness of the sport.
American boxing fans have yet to know you, Jean. Is it in your plans to fight in the USA soon?
I like to fight in front of my homecrowd, of course, but the big fights and money is in America. So, I would like to be like Pacman: live in my country and train and fight in the USA. I’d love a showdown with Chad Dawson over there. My fans would still be able to see me through cable TV.
Your greatest ambitions, your greatest aims in boxing…What are they?
I know I have to do it step by step. I have my fight with Branco in September and a possible rematch with Diaconu in December. But, OK–I won’t be bashful. My goal is to unify the light heavyweight belts, become the best pound for pound boxer in the world and, in the meantime, if the Martians invade America, become the best in the Galaxy! Last thing, I’d love to end my career as heavyweight champion. My motto is: in life, to go far, you have to think far .
Last question, what do you say to a kid who says to you ‘I want to be like you, I want to be a world champion’?
I’ll tell him: don’t try to copy me, be yourself…be yourself. With belief in yourself, hard work and determination, the sky is the limit. If i did it…you can do it…so, do it !