Jean Pascal’s career appeared over in June 2017, when he lost a majority decision to Eleider Alvarez at the Bell Centre.
And certainly there was no reason for the Laval boxer to continue after losing a unanimous decision to World Boxing Association light-heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol in November 2018.
And yet Pascal’s here, at age 37, enjoying some of the finest moments of his career despite knowing the inevitable end must be near.
“Jean was counted for dead almost a year ago. Now he’s alive and he’s the most-popular boxer in Quebec right now, at 37, I believe,” his trainer Stéphan Larouche said Wednesday morning before Pascal arrived for a media briefing at the Claude Robillard Sports Complex.
Pascal’s resurrection began last August, when he upset the previously undefeated Marcus Browne for the interim WBA 175-pound title. In the process, Pascal became a champion for the first time since May 2011, when he lost a rematch against Bernard Hopkins for the World Boxing Council crown.
Pascal retained his secondary WBA title — Bivol still holds his belt — on Dec. 28, scoring a 12-round split-decision against Badou Jack in Atlanta. All three judges scored the entertaining bout 114-112, two in favour of the Canadian, who improved to 35-6-1 with 20 knockouts, although Jack threw, and landed, more punches.
“It wasn’t a perfect fight, but I think I did enough to win,” Pascal said. “It was a really close fight, but I really felt I won the fight.
“I was the underdog. I was fighting a (Floyd) Mayweather guy, on a Mayweather card on the Mayweather network. In the U.S.A. Of course I was kind of nervous but I really felt I won the fight,” he continued. “I did enough. I’m the champion. You have to beat the champion to become the champion. The judges saw it right.”
Pascal controlled the first half of the fight and was leading, 50-44, on all three judges’ scorecards following the fifth round.
Late in the fourth, Pascal sent Jack to the canvas with a hard right hand to the temple.
“We knew we won the first five rounds, and we dropped him,” Larouche explained. “In our book, we needed to win only one of the last six rounds to win the fight.
“But the second part of the fight was long for us.”
In the final round, Jack landed a series of right hands, hurting Pascal and eventually dropping him, when the latter went sprawling through the ropes. But both Pascal and Larouche deny it was a knock-down.
“If you watch the tape, I swung and went for the home run. I missed. It wasn’t a real knock-down,” Pascal claimed.
Nonetheless, both Pascal and Larouche were nervous waiting for the final judge’s scorecard to be read, knowing it would break the deadlock.
“We have no control on the judges,” Larouche said. “We knew we were in a very close fight. No one would have argued had we lost a split-decision.”
Pascal jabbed effectively that night, likely catching Jack by surprise with his strategy. Larouche also credited him for listening to instructions — more than in the past — between rounds.
Pascal and Jack sparred in 2014 and have been friends for years. That meant, for one of the rare times in his career, Pascal carried no animosity into the ring. And he easily could have become unhinged earlier that night, when he arrived at the arena late after being stuck in traffic.
“I don’t have to hate someone to have a good game plan. I proved it,” Pascal said. “I relied on my experience. Even when things go wrong, I try to stay in my bubble.”
Larouche credits a change in Pascal’s lifestyle for his late-career revitalization. Long renowned for his active nightlife and hosting illustrious, wild parties, Larouche ordered Pascal to tone things down, be active in the gym and get the required rest.
“He’s going to have lots of time for (that) when his career’s over,” Larouche said. “But there’s not much left. While the train’s rolling, get the right lifestyle.”
Pascal will take a well-deserved vacation before returning to the gym for light training, perhaps by the end of January. Having fought three times in barely more than a year, Larouche doesn’t want to see another bout before late spring or early summer.
There’s an agreement for a rematch against Browne, while nobody would complain if Pascal and Jack were to step into the ring again, Larouche said.
“I’m taking it one fight at a time,” Pascal said. “I know I still have some gas in the tank. I’m going to try and empty the tank so I have no regrets when I leave.”