In Atlanta, GA, on Dec. 28, 2019, WBA regular light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal defeated former two division champion Badou Jack via a split decision victory to retain his title.
Pascal (with a professional record of 35 wins, 6 losses, 1 draw, 1 tie, and 20 KOs) is originally from Haiti but is now based in Canada. He started the fight strong, sweeping the early rounds to build a lead and scored an early knockdown. Pascal worked behind a strong jab and combinations and was also very aggressive dictating the pace against the taller Badou (22-3-3, 13 KOs). Quite honestly, this fight could have been fought in a phone booth (for those of us who remember a time before cellphones).
Badou came on strong in the fight’s second half and was even erroneously credited with a knockdown in Round 11; it was really a slip/fall by Pascal. It even looked as though Badou, as he rallied, was close to knocking out or stopping Pascal in the 11th, but Pascal showed the heart of a tiger and battled back to finish the round strong, even though he may have lost that round.
In the end, even though Badou made a spirited effort and finished strong, it just wasn’t enough in the eyes of the judges to overcome Pascal’s early lead on the scorecards and to earn a victory to take Pascal’s WBA title. All three judges scored the fight 114-112. Two judges scored the fight for Pascal, while the other had it for Badou. It appears that because Badou finished the fight strong, many in the pro-Badou crowd felt it was enough to award him a victory. They booed the two judges decision in favor of Pascal. While it was a close and exciting fight that could arguably go to either fighter, Haïti Liberté also scored the fight for Pascal.
So what’s next for Pascal?
He said he would speak to his advisors regarding his next fight. It wasn’t too long ago that it seemed Pascal should retire from boxing or would become a gatekeeper for young contenders. He was stopped by former world champion Sergey Kovalev in 2015 and 2016. After his last Kovalev fight, he continued fighting and went 3-2 with a loss to current WBA super light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol in his next five fights.
Last August, he was a heavy underdog against rising contender Marcus Browne at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, NY. Against Browne, Pascal was losing on the all the scorecards, but he rallied and scored multiple knockdowns against Browne, shocking all in attendance. It appeared that Pascal had earned a TKO victory against Browne when it was stopped after eight rounds. But the fight went to the scorecards because of an unintentional head butt to Browne, and Pascal was awarded a unanimous technical decision and the WBA interim light heavyweight title, as Pascal was ahead on the judges’ scorecards.
Sources reported Browne would enforce his immediate rematch clause, but the fight did not materialize. Pascal was elevated from “interim” champion to WBA “regular” champion, which began his second reign as a light heavyweight champion prior to the Badou fight.
Pascal is still a marquee name in Canada and has always sold out the Bell Centre in Montreal, earning million dollar paydays in previous fights earlier in his career.
With Pascal’s resurgence in the light heavyweight division, he now has many options. He could face someone like “Canelo” Alvarez, who recently won and then relinquished his WBO light heavyweight title in a big money fight. He could drop down to Super middleweight and fight Gennady “GGG” Golovkin in another high profile fight, or GGG could move up in weight and make a challenge for Pascal’s title.
Pascal definitely has earned the “super fights.” Working with the influential boxing advisor Al Haymon, hopefully he will secure them before he retires and ends up in the Boxing Hall of Fame.