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HBO Boxing ‘Bute vs. Pascal’ Rewind

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This past Saturday night HBO brought you boxing from the Bell Centre, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. There were two fights broadcast with hometown fighters Lucian Bute and Jean Pascal in the main event. The co-main event featured Mike Perez’s return to the ring since his bout with Magomed Abdusalamov who is fortunately on his way to a slow recovery. He took on Carlos Takam in a fight that raised more questions about Perez’s future as a title contender. The main event between Pascal and Bute also left us with more questions than answers.

There are similarities between these two fighters besides just coming from the same area and fighting at the same weights. They both are effective defenders, they both have held significant titles in their careers, for Pascal the WBC light heavyweight one and for Bute the IBF super middleweight. They both also suffered the first loss of their careers to Carl Froch. How they lost is one of the big differences.

It was back in December of 2008 that Pascal lost a UD twelve round fight for the then vacant WBC super middleweight title. Since that fight the only blemishes on his record are from Benard Hopkins. They fought to a MD back in December of 2010 and Hopkins took a UD in the rematch in June of 2011. Since then Pascal had only fought twice and was coming off of a fifth round TKO over George Blades in September of 2013. For Bute, the loss to Froch was more recent and significantly more devastating.

That fight went down in June of 2012. Froch destroyed Bute in the fifth for the TKO win. It was the type of loss that will test a fighter especially if it is their first one. It completely takes away that air of invincibility that so many fighters have. It is definitive and in this case is replayed quite often. This type of pressure can weigh on a fighter. A knockout loss like the one Bute suffered to Froch can also alter his style enough to keep him from the top. At the championship level it is the little split second openings that win or lose fights and any hesitation or being slightly out of position can be the difference between KO’ing someone or being KO’d. It can also make a fighter more tentative and that is never good. This was not Bute’s first fight since that KO. He defeated Denis Grachev back in November of 2012 in this same arena for Grachev’s NABF light heavyweight title via a twelve round UD. This was the fight that was supposed to let us know whether or not Bute was back and if either of these fighters were still significant title contenders. Afterwards, there were still a lot of questions about both fighters.

It was an easy fight for Pascal who fought a very smart efficient fight for the first nine rounds. He followed a simple game plan of picking away at Bute who was very judicious with his strikes. Bute threw very few punches in the early rounds and had several where he only landed single digits. You are not going to win many rounds or fights landing eight or nine punches a round. Pascal would flurry a couple of times in the round and always at least one late one to easily take each round. There were a couple that could have gone to Bute, but not many. By the time they got to the tenth round Pascal was completely comfortable in the ring with Bute almost started to have a little too much fun. It worked for him in a more spirited tenth round, though Howard Lederman did score the round for Bute, and it almost caught up with him in the twelfth.

Bute came out in the tenth round more aggressive and upped that in the eleventh which was the best back and forth round of the fight. As the round was winding down it looked like Bute had Pascal in trouble in the corner. Pascal was just setting him up and instead punched his way out of it and looked to be in complete control at that point. The final round was a different beast and made you wonder where that had been all fight. Maybe it was the headbutt in the tenth that had awoken him. Like Max Kellerman put it, “may have salvaged Bute’s career.” It could not however win him this fight as the one round could not overcome all of his earlier inactivity.

In the opening moments of the round once again Pascal was in the corner and Bute was trying to end the fight. Again it looked like Pascal was setting him up even though he did get clipped a couple of times. Sure enough like the previous round he flurried and looked to take over the round. Except this Bute stood and fired back and just kept firing away. He definitely hit Pascal with some solid, clean shots but never had him in trouble. Maybe if he could have caught him clean with a three punch combo he might have been able to end the fight. Instead when he did catch him clean it was usually with just one shot. It also made you wonder what would have happened if Bute had fought the whole fight with the kind of purpose and aggression he showed in the last three rounds. As it was he still picked up several of the early rounds from the judges. And in a fight where 44 of the 150 punches he landed came in the twelfth round it left you with a lot of what ifs. For much of the fight it was all Pascal and when Bute finally showed some aggression in the later rounds he made it a fight and left us wondering if we did not just miss out on what could have been a truly special fight. As it was Pascal picks up the win and Bute at least gave us some reasons to watch his next fight.

In the co-main event it was a strange fight on many levels and ultimately was the classic tale of two fights. Perez won the first five rounds of the fight by being just slightly more active than Takam, who seemed content to just cruise along until the fifth round where he showed some signs of activity and came out in the sixth with much more fire. From that point on he was aggressive and took the fight to Perez and easily won the last five rounds of the fight and would have taken a twelve round fight. The problem was he was only in a ten rounder and based on the round by round scoring system you end up with a MD.

Many people were upset by this decision but this was not a result of poor judging but instead it is the fault of the system. Watching the fight, and using the basic which fighter would I rather be criteria, it is an easy win for Takam. This is also known as the schoolyard system of scoring. The problem is boxing does not use that system and they use the round by round scoring one. In that system Perez won the first five rounds and Takam the last five. You could maybe find an earlier round like the third to give to Takam but nothing as significant as the last five. The problem is that while he won the last five rounds clearly there was no real 10-8 rounds there for him. They were better than Perez’ rounds but did not fit the classic 10-8 criteria and it is difficult to give him the fight without one. No matter how much we feel in our guts that Takam won this fight the scoring system is set up to produce troubling scores like this one.

This fight also left us with questions about Perez and his future. He was thought to be a future contender to the Klitscho’s and now there will be a lot of pressure on him for his next fight. After a fight like the one he had with Abdusalamov it will often change a fighter. That fight was a war in which Perez took a lot of damage himself. It is hard to say how that fight affected him in this one. He also could have been bothered by the third round headbutt. That does not explain why he did not look much different in the first two rounds before the headbutt.

One thing for sure, Perez was affected by the change Takam made during the fight. Once Takam upped the pressure in the last half of the fight Perez could not answer him. The problem for Takam is that he waited one round too long to start. If he had got going in the fifth and taken that one it would have been his fight. As it was he ended up with a dissatisfying MD. There are some evenly fought, back and forth fights and the draw does not seem so bad. It is often said about those kind of fights that neither fighter deserved to lose it. This was not one of those and most people watching felt like Takam had won this fight. Instead the scoring system produced the, “I just threw up in my mouth a little’” MD outcome.

cover image credit – Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press

An avid lifetime fight fan who loves to write about it. So kick back, get comfortable and let's have some fun! "Wants me to tell him something pretty." Al Sweargen "Going wrong is not the end of fucking things, Johnny. Fuck no! I have comeback from plenty of shit that looked like it was going wrong." Dan Dority "Deserve's got nothin' to do with it." Bill Munny

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