The World Light Heavyweight Champion has set his sights on cementing his legacy as he prepares to battle former two-division world champion Badou Jack on Saturday night, live on SHOWTIME.
Jean Pascal decided to celebrate in Las Vegas.
Nothing too elaborate. At 37, the days of hard partying were well behind him. But the occasion seemed to warrant at least a few festive nights in the neon desert.
Pascal, after all, had stunned onlookers by upsetting top light heavyweight contender Marcus Browne in August to win a portion of the WBA light heavyweight crown. The Haitian-Quebecois slugger scored three knockdowns before the fight was stopped early due to a bloody cut on Browne.
The judges all had it in favor of Pascal. Not bad for someone thought to be in the twilight of a career that began in 2005. The Browne win was as sweet as they came and deserved to be savored.
Yet a day or so into his festivities in Las Vegas, Pascal ran into local fixture Floyd Mayweather Jr., who was making the casino rounds. Immediately, Pascal put on his managerial cap.
“I saw Floyd and said it would be nice if I could have a matchup with Badou Jack,” Pascal said during a phone interview from Puerto Rico, where he has based his last few training camps. “I’m a crowd pleaser. Badou Jack is a good fighter, he throws a lot of punches and it’s going to be a good show.”
Pascal vs. Jack. It sounded good on paper. Pascal beat Browne, who beat Jack the year before. Here was a chance for Pascal to cross out another light heavyweight contender off of his bounty list.
But that day in Las Vegas, Mayweather didn’t appear to be much interested.
“Floyd was saying, ‘yeah, yeah, that would be great,’ but I thought he was just saying that to brush me off because he was busy,” Pascal recalled.
But two days later, Pascal received a phone call for an offer to fight Jack.
“I was like, ‘Oh, OK, Floyd took me seriously,” Pascal said. “So, I said, ‘Yeah, of course.’”
And so it is that Pascal will look to build on his renascent success, when he takes on Jack this Saturday at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia on the undercard of Gervnta Davis-Yuriorkis Gamboa card, live on SHOWTIME Championship Boxing (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
The fact that Pascal is still fighting – and winning – may come as a surprise, considering he promised to retire in 2017 after his bout against Egyptian contender Ahmed Elbiali.
But two days after he had dispatched Elbiali in six rounds, Pascal reflected some more about his goals, tuning out what some friends and family had been telling him for months, years.
“People’s opinions were playing with my head instead of listening to my gut,” Pascal said. “I realized that you should never let other people’s opinion become your reality.
“ I’ve been waiting eight years to become champion again. I’m not going to give up my belt after four months. ” WBA World Light Heavyweight Champion - Jean Pascal
“After the fight, two days later, I said to myself I still had some gas in my tank and still had all my tools…that’s why I decided to keep fighting.”
He wasn’t lying. After the Elbiali fight, Pascal came out of retirement to knock out mixed-martial-artist Steve Bosse in eight. He then dropped a wide decision to 175-pound titleholder Dmitry Bivol. The loss, however, hardly discouraged Pascal, who noted that he had a fever two days before the fight.
“It was a loss on paper for me, but it was a victory in my mind because with that fight I really saw that I (belonged) with the elite fighters,” Pascal said.
Indeed, the very force that propels a fighter to imperil himself in the ring time and time again is the same one that prevents him from retiring at a seemingly appropriate time. Whenever that is for Pascal, this much is certain: It will happen on his own accord.
“Me, I want to cement my legacy,” Pascal said. “That’s why I keep fighting. I think I can become one of the greatest of all time in my division. I still have gas in the tank, so I’m trying to empty the tank.”
Pascal’s high ambitions are perhaps a bit purer than the average prizefighter. Money, for one, has never been a chief motivation for him inside the ring.
“(Fighting) is for my personal satisfaction,” Pascal said. “I don’t need money. I come from a good family. My dad was rich. My dad was a politician. I’m not fighting for money. I’m fighting because I love the sport and I’m fighting to please the crowd. I’m in love with the sport.
“Of course, money is important, especially in boxing every time you step into the ring, your life is on the line. At the same time, I don’t need to do this for money. I love my sport.”
None of this should sound surprising. Long one of the sport’s top super middleweight and light heavyweight contenders, Pascal made his name on power, an iron chin, and loads of chutzpah. It’s why Pascal is unbothered by being an underdog yet again on Saturday night. As thankful as he is to Mayweather for hearing him out, Pascal knows that he wasn’t selected out of goodwill.
“(Mayweather) didn’t make this fight happen for me, he made it happen for his fighter, because he thinks he’s better than me,” Pascal said. “Even though I’m the champion, I’m the underdog because I’m fighting a Mayweather fighter on a Mayweather card on the Mayweather channel in the US, so I’m the underdog one more time. It’s been the story of my life.
“I’ve been waiting eight years to become champion again. I’m not going to give up my belt after four months.”
For a closer look at Davis vs Gamboa, check out our fight night page.