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[Interview] Jean Pascal: Surviving Hopkins, Facing Bute and Crossing Over

The last time Jean Pascal appeared on HBO was two years ago. He was making history, but not in the way he had originally envisioned going into his rematch with Bernard Hopkins. Like numerous young fighters before him, he found himself on the wrong side of a unanimous decision to then 47 year old master. Afterward, Pascal faded from view due to injuries and contract issues until launching his comeback on December 2012 and beating two second-tier opponents since.

The fighter Jean Pascal faces Saturday night (January 18) is Lucian Bute, and it’s a “superfight” that marks a return to elite competition for both men. While the fight has drawn much attention in Montreal with over 20,000 paid fans, questions remain regarding if these two men still have the ability, and more importantly, the mindset, to deliver world-class performances.

In this exclusive interview with Knockout Nation, Jean Pascal answers the criticism about being a “four-round fighter, why he’ll defeat Bute, and how the Hopkins fights made him a better fighter.

KO Nation: This is a significant fight for Canada and the light-heavyweight division overall. How did you adjust your training for it?

Pascal: I basically approached this fight as it’s the biggest of my life and career. This fight is Canada’s Pacquiao-Mayweather. I know Bute will be well-prepared but so am I. I went all the way to Big Bear [California] to get away from any distractions to remain focused. One thing that people don’t understand is that you win the fight at training camp, not press conferences. When I train good, no one should beat me.

 

KO Nation: It’s interesting you bring that up about focus because the knock on you is that you are, as Hopkins coined, a four-round fighter that lacks stamina and focus. Do you feel this camp has completely eradicated those bad habits?

Pascal: Well, people make me laugh. The only fight that I faded was against Bernard Hopkins in the first fight. The reason was because I didn’t have the proper training. I trained hard, but sometimes hard is not enough. You need the good work.

If you look at my second fight with Bernard, I finished strong and stunned him in the 12th round. Even though the judges gave him the 12th, I don’t know how or why, but he was stung if you look at the fight. With Dawson, exploding the last minute was a tactic. I told myself I’ll let Dawson punch himself out the first two minutes of the round and then I’m gonna come on strong every round until I knock him out. If he’s still around in the 12th, I’m gonna go all out for the KO. That was a technical approach for me.

Saying I fade or only fight for a minute every round is not true. People think just because it’s a big rush for a minute I’m not doing anything else. I’m boxing the entire round. I am an accomplished fighter that knows what he’s doing.

 

KO Nation: You’ve had a year-plus layoff before. However, you had the luxury of coming back against a lower-level tune-up opponent. Bute is jumping right back into the elite level. Knowing what you went through, how rusty and gun-shy do you expect him to be early on?

Pascal: Honestly, it’s hard to say. It’s all about confidence – if we see a lack of it like in the Grachev fight, he’s going to be in a lot of trouble. Boxing is 75% mental and 25% physical. I don’t think it’s going to be a war because I don’t think Bute wants that. I think it will be a chess game. But if he wants to brawl, I’ll be ready for a war.

 

KO Nation: Speaking of Bute’s confidence, do you consider his KO loss to Froch a blueprint?

Pascal: That’s not a blueprint for me because I don’t have the same height, reach or power as Carl Froch. That dude hits like a motherfucker. I’ve been in there 12 rounds with him and he’s the biggest puncher I’ve ever faced, amateur or pro. I can’t copy him. I can box and know what I need to do to win the fight.

Bute is a good boxer and great champion, but I don’t think he’s on my level. He doesn’t have my strengths or my tools. Only way he could win is if I let him and that’s not going to happen. I won this fight in training camp. I’m absolutely prepared to make a great show January 18.

 

KO Nation: It only took a year for Adonis Stevenson to become the man at light-heavyweight. He’s mentioned that he wants the winner of your fight next…

Pascal: I’ve known Adonis since the amateurs and know he’s always been focused on being a world champion. His chance came because I pulled out of my fight with Dawson to give the fans a more pleasing fight [against Bute]. But in doing so I let my title chance go. I know he had a good chance to beat Dawson, but I didn’t expect a first round KO.

He’s a Haitian-born guy like me so I’m really happy for him and wish him all the best in the future.

 

KO Nation: I noticed you were ringside at the Dawson fight with 50 Cent. Any plans for you guys to do business in the future, boxing or otherwise?

Pascal:  Who knows? 50’s a friend of mine but we really don’t talk too much about boxing business. He’s a cool dude to hang around. He very gentle, simple and down earth – that’s what I like about him. We may do business in the future.

 

KO Nation: With all the lucrative fights happening in Montreal, do you still see it as a benefit to fight in the U.S. anytime soon?

Pascal: Honestly, my main goal is to cross over. I want to be big in the U.S. I’m a big star in Canada, but we all know if you want to be recognized worldwide, you have to do it in the States. If any fighter can help me do that, of course I’ll sit down with them.

If you really think about it, I’m the only fighter to come out better after fighting Hopkins. Jermain Taylor won those two fights, but afterward he was never the same. Antonio Tarver wasn’t the same. Even Joe Calzaghe, who won, fought jut once more and retired. Winky Wright wasn’t the same as well. I’m the only one who became a better boxer, so I’m gonna take that leverage to dominate opponents inside and outside the ring.

Jean Pascal face Lucian Bute January 18 at 10:15 p.m. ET. For more on Pascal, visit at his official site www.jeanpascalboxing.com and on Twitter at @jeanpascalchamp.

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Ismael AbduSalaam is a contributing writer and editor for Knockout Nation. He is the creator of www.BeatsBoxingMayhem.com, a site devoted to boxing and Hip-Hop culture, and the New York Knicks beat site www.NYKLoyalist.com. Ismael's previous writing credits include AllHipHop.com, TheWellVersed.com, BoxingScene.com and PlanetIll.com. He is also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA). Follow him on Twitter @Ismael_BBM_NYK.

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