Saturday, June 20, 2009

Jean Pascal Introduces Himself With Style

Michael Nelson gives his thoughts on last night's terrific light-heavyweight battle between Jean Pascal and Adrian Diaconu as well as looking ahead at what might be in store next for the victorious Pascal.

Photo © Justin McKie

The 175 pound division has a new player at the table.

Pascal went all in and came away a big winner, snatching the WBC light heavyweight title after surviving some rough moments to gut out a unanimous decision over Adrian Diaconu in a scintillating bout. It was one of the best fights of the year, just six months after Pascal engaged in one of the best fights of 2008 with Carl Froch. The 26 year old Canadian is quickly gaining the reputation of providing guaranteed action and drama.

The action comes from his fighter's mentality. Diaconu found cutting off the ring difficult against his moving target, which opened a door for the quicker Pascal to stink the fight out by potshotting, clinching, and running. Pascal didn't walk through it. Instead, he consistently ripped into Diaconu's midsection and responded with combinations every time he ate a flush punch.

The drama comes from his vulnerabilities. After dropping Diaconu in the 5th, Diaconu rallied in the final seconds of the round and staggered Pascal with an overhand right. But as Pascal showed in at least three previous bouts, while he can be hurt, stopping him is an entirely different story. He hung on and had a strong 6th round, denying his aggressive opponent the momentum needed to retain his title.

Following a rough 11th, Pascal could have gone the safe route and simply looked to survive the final stanza. The 13,000+ at the Bell Centre didn't come to see 'safe' though, and were treated to a number of frenzied exchanges through the last minute of the fight. At the end, Pascal's gutsy effort was rewarded with scorecards of 116-111, 116-112, and 115-112.

Although it was a clear win, it was heated and competitive throughout and no one would object to a rematch. Pascal was ducking Diaconu's looping right hands for much of the night; Adrian can give himself a solid shot at regaining his belt in a return bout if he added an uppercut to his repertoire and a consistent left hook to the body.

If not a rematch, there are a number of light heavyweights who would make excellent fights with the new champ. The winner (or loser) of the Chad Dawson-Glen Johnson rematch immediately comes to mind, as does the victor of the July 10th bout between Shaun George and Chris Henry. The explosive Yusaf Mack would be a thrilling first defense. And of course, unification with whoever grabs Dawson's vacated IBF title, likely to be determined in a bout between Clinton Woods and Tavoris Cloud, is fireworks.

The options are many and the potential is high. Most importantly, as the old guard of Roy Jones and Bernard Hopkins continue to inch towards retirement, the new guard is becoming more vibrant. The glow of this exciting new entrant should permeate through the division for years to come.

e-mail Michael Nelson