I’ve been down on boxing for the last year. Some of it comes from the distraction of being a newlywed, I suppose. That’s not all of it though.
Too many of the matchups are bad, resulting in fights that are even worse, and don’t even get me started on the judges. This year boxing has been like a show that I used to love that hung around for too long. Think season 5 of Miami Vice. You adored it once, but now you just want it to be over. For that reason, my columns have slowed and my desire to write on the sport has withered.
I was still paying some attention, but I was watching few fights live. Hell, much of the time I was settling for reading about them. It’s not so much that I’d given up on the sport, but more that I needed a sabbatical.
Then Jean Pascal vs. Marcus Browne happened.
It was a fight I had little interest in. Pascal looked like a shot fighter. He’d lost four of his last eight bouts – mostly in depressing fashion. To be honest, I wasn’t much of a fan to begin with. His awkward style gave no pleasure to the eye. Despite being a remarkably fit fighter, his chiseled body didn’t translate to athleticism. Too many of his fights were lunge, wild punch, hold. Even his two finest moments in the ring – his win over a then undefeated Chad Dawson in 2010 and his UD over fellow Canadian Lucian Bute in 2014 – were tough to sit through.
After being exposed twice by Sergey Kovalev in 2015 and 2017 and once more by Dmitry Bivol just last year..
..there wasn’t a single reason to expect anything more from Jean Pascal. I say this as someone who didn’t expect all that much from him in the first place.
So, when Pascal entered the ring against the hungry 23-0 Marcus Browne last month, I was depressed by the match up before the fight even began. “Pre-depressed,” I guess you could say.
But there’s a reason why they don’t fight them on paper, right? Because once a fight begins, you never know. Not even when you think you do. Not even when you are sure you do.
I was sure Jean Pascal was going to get beat on that hot August night. In fact, I was expecting him to get embarrassed. Instead, Pascal mustered a force of will I had long thought he had left behind- if he ever had it in the first place. While Browne was able to outbox Pascal for most of the bout, Pascal dug deep, and with the fabled “puncher’s chance,” put Browne on his biscuit three times before the fight was stopped in the 8th round due to a clash of heads that resulted in a gash too great for Browne to continue. The fight went to the scorecards and despite the three knockdowns, Pascal needed the unfinished 8th round to be scored in his favor to claim the victory. And so, it was.
Jean Pascal, who was so recently all but run out the ring – if not boxing as a whole – by Dmitry Bivol, who looked as faded as a late fall rose, was once again a word champion.
Sure, it’s on an interim basis, but raise your hand if you ever saw Jean Pascal being a relevant fighter again after being eight years removed from his last world tighter. Raise them high. I want to know who all the liars are in my life.
And that’s what’s special about boxing. That’s why I can’t give it up. Why I continue to love it so in spite of itself. Because on any given night, anything can happen. A fighter who for all the world looked over the hill and tumbling down the other side can rise up and grasp glory once more.
It matters not that I’m no fan of his. What I am a fan of are stories.
On August 3rd of 2019, Jean Pascal spun one hell of a yarn. Not only did he salvage his moribund career, he made me remember why I fell in love with this game in the first place. It is the ultimate human drama in the world of sports. Two men in a struggle that is always no more than just short of life and death.
I had forgotten. Jean Pascal made me remember.
What an unlikely source of revival.