I cannot wait to be at Bell Centre on Saturday when Laval's Jean Pascal takes on Chad Dawson in a light heavyweight match-up of two boxers at their peak.
I'm especially excited because it's my first really big fight in a couple years, and it's an important moment for the sport in Canada.
The fight is being held in Montreal because it's a great fight town, and Dawson has trouble drawing big crowds near his Connecticut home or in Las Vegas (William Detloff has a good article on The Ring website about the challenges of African-American fighters in today's marketplace, a theme I'll touch on next week.)
This is the biggest boxing match in the country aside from Archie Moore-Yvon Durelle, Roberto Duran-Sugar Ray Leonard, and any of Muhammad Ali's trips to Canada.
"It's a historic moment for sure. And if Jean wins, it will be the greatest win by a Canadian on Canadian soil," his trainer Russ Anber said at Wednesday's presser.
The often-hyperbolic Anber was probably on the money with that one.
On that note, hey Sportsnet, it'd be nice if you could, you know, maybe mention this fight on your boxing-free "sports" network. It's one thing to showcase MMA champions, but God knows you give hours upon hours of attention to just about any bloke who steps inside a cage, regardless of their talent level.
I'm under no illusions that boxing is more than a niche sport but there will about 15,000 fans at Bell Centre, and it will be televised around the world - it's that big of a fight.
To explain it in a way you'd better understand: If Pascal beats Dawson, his resume is the equivalent in his sport of what champion Georges St. Pierre has done in MMA. So why hail one and ignore the other?
Big job ahead for Pascal
While he'll have the crowd on his side, Pascal's task is great.
If this bout were being held in a neutral site, you'd have to favour Dawson.
He's beaten Glen Johnson and Antonio Tarver a total of four times. Yes, they were in the twilight of their careers, but they were once among the best in the game.
Dawson also came off the deck to beat Tomasz Adamek via decision, a fight in which he dominated for long stretches. That result only looks better and better since Adamek hasn't lost since that night despite moving up to take on cruiserweights and now, heavyweights.
Dawson (29-0, 17 knockouts) is the classically superior fighter and probably a shade quicker, with a much more consistent jab.
The American probably doesn't have as much power as Pascal, but he's gotten a bit of a bum rap in that department. Glen Johnson has only been stopped once -- by Bernard Hopkins way back in 1997 -- and Tarver has never been stopped.
While Pascal holds the WBC trinket, pay no attention to that nonsense - Dawson has been a titlist for a longer period of time and is considered the man to beat at 175. He's part of a new brigade of fighters who once they receive some name recognition are wisely opting out of the sanctioning body extortion and absurdity game.
Pascal (25-1, 16 KOs) has all the tools to fight the way Dawson does, but he tends to rely on his athleticism more than classic technique at times. It's a mix of power and speed, not totally unlike what Shane Mosley has built his career on.
Pascal turned the corner mentally in his tough loss to Carl Froch in late 2008. You could see him understand that he can hang with, and beat, the best in the game. He knew what sacrifice would be involved in the future. Prior to that, he'd often looked unmotivated in the ring.
Can he go all the way to the top?
This is a bit of a heart over head pick, but not to an uncomfortable degree. I like the fact that Pascal's four most recent fights have generally involved a level of effort and resistance from his opponents that Dawson's haven't. I think it will have prepared him better, despite the fact each man hasn't fought since 2009.
I think he'll take a decision and maybe even hurt Dawson late in the fight. Pascal can be sloppy at times, but I think his energy level will take the day, and each punch close to the target is going to be met with a roar hard for the judges to ignore.
Effective work to the body, in particular, will be critical for Pascal.
Each man is likely facing his toughest opponent on Saturday. You can't beat that.
Close, but not controversial
There was a terrific bout and an intriguing style match-up last weekend, and both had fans on the Internet debating the scorecards.
For the record:
I thought Tavoris Cloud clearly won the "overall" fight with Glen Johnson, if that makes sense. But fights are scored on a rounds basis and I had it 6-6 at the end of the fight. In about five of the rounds Cloud won he landed really impactful punches while Johnson won about three rounds on the strength of arm punches and Cloud's inactivity.
Rounds 2 and 6 will have to get consideration for frame of the year at year's end.
Glen Johnson, at 41, is an absolute marvel to hang in there and make it close against a young tiger like 26-year-old like Cloud. It's a shame Johnson has never gained mainstream sports attention. He's rarely dull outside the ring (he swings between humour and bitterly complaining about decisions he's lost, all in his Jamaican lilt), and a warrior inside.
I had Andreas Kotelnik winning 7-5 over hometown favourite Devin Alexander, but I wasn't terribly confident in my scorecard. There were a ton of close rounds, especially in the early going. It was no robbery in my eyes, just a very fortunate decision for Alexander.
But he'll have to figure out some other stratagem other than the strange game of grunt-whiff-repeat if he takes on the likes of Timothy Bradley and Amir Khan.
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