?I knew if I could be smart in the ring I could beat Chad Dawson,? said Jean Pascal, who was, and did.
The Haitian-born Pascal successfully defended his WBC light-heavyweight title with a lopsided technical decision over Dawson, who until Saturday night could lay claim to the ?interim? version of the championship.
The bout at Montreal?s Bell Centre was curtailed after an 11th-round collision of heads brought blood gushing forth from a cut above Dawson?s right eye. Referee Michael Griffin immediately led Dawson over to be examined by the ringside physician, who determined that the American could not continue, sending the issue to the scorecards.
All three ringside judges had Pascal handily in front. (Canadian judge Jack Woodburn by 108-101; American Gerald Ritter and Englishman John Keane 106-103. TSS scored it 107-102 for Pascal.)
Although Dawson complained afterward that Pascal ?was head-butting me all night long,? there wasn?t much evidence that this was the case, and in fact, the clash of heads that halted the fight appeared to have been initiated by Dawson, who brought his own head straight down onto Pascal?s.
The title bout was preceded by the usual Bell Centre pyrotechnics. (In a classy move, HBO paid tribute to one of its archrivals when Michael Buffer summoned the ceremonial ten-count for the late Showtime executive Jay Larkin, who succumbed to brain cancer this past Monday.)
Dawson, who had gone the distance in each of his last four fights, had promised a knockout in this one, but failed to back up his pre-fight boasts, and in fact was out-hustled from the opening bell on. Pascal fought mostly in spurts, but Dawson, who seemed strangely listless and unmotivated in this one, spend most of the night ducking and avoiding Pascal?s onslaught while never making the Canadian-based champion pay for his audacious rushes.
Dawson was patient to a fault, stalking Pascal as he worked behind his jab. Even as the fight settled into something of a predictable rhythm in which he had to know Pascal was going to come rushing inside his defenses, Dawson seemed surprised each time it happened. Pascal was able to tag Dawson on the jaw with several right hands that connected, and a few of those that didn?t still got Dawson squarely in the neck.
Dawson?s failure to retaliate surely cost him on these occasions, as Pascal was able to steal a few rounds with late flurries even though Dawson might have held a slight edge over the first two minutes of those stanzas. On a couple of occasions, Dawson seemed to connect with his heavy lumber, but he consistently failed to follow up on that advantage, and sometimes seemed to be trying to stare Pascal down.
Even with Pascal piling up a big lead, there seemed to be no sense of urgency in the Dawson corner. After the tenth, trainer Eddie Mustafa Muhammad did tell Dawson ?I need these last two rounds,? but as it turned out, even had Dawson won both of them (and he clearly had the upper hand in the 11th), in the absence of a knockdown that would not have been enough to overcome Pascal?s advantage.
Early in the 11th Dawson had landed two big left hands that caused Pascal?s knees to sag, but the champion managed to wriggle his way out of danger and landed a few flurries of his own before the accidental butt brought matters to a premature conclusion.
Asked if he had believed himself to have been ahead, Dawson replied ?I?m not saying that. But there were two rounds to go. I had him hurt before they stopped it.?
Pascal claimed he was once again husbanding his own energy, allowing Dawson to tire himself out early in the round.
?He was really tired,? said Pascal. ?I could feel it. I?m a boxer, and I know when a boxer is tired.?
It was a disappointing performance and a disappointing result for Dawson (29-1), who incurred his first professional defeat and watched his claim of divisional supremacy go up in smoke in the process. Pascal (27-1), whose only previous loss was to Carl Froch in a WBC super-middleweight title fight, is 27-1, and has never lost as a light-heavyweight.
Personal issues may have contributed to the sup-par display at the Bell Centre. Dawson had reportedly recently quarreled with his father, and neither of his parents were in Montreal for their son?s critical bout..
Dawson wasn?t the only big loser Saturday night. Among the others, Eddie Mustafa, who in a Dawson corner that even in the good times often resembled a game of musical chairs, can hardly expect to survive a debacle like this, promoter Gary Shaw, who in anticipation of a Dawson win had spent most of the day negotiating with the representatives of Montreal-based IBF super-middle champion Lucien Bute about an even bigger payday at the Bell, and The Ring, which had made a big show of bringing its light-heavyweight championship belt to Montreal in anticipation of wrapping it around Dawson?s waist.
In the post-fight celebration, Pascal flung down his own half-hearted challenge to Bute, but don?t bet on it. These Quebecois know which side their bread is buttered on and are unlikely to presage the extinction of either moneymaker by matching him with the other. Bute, in any case, already has a mandatory defense on the books for Oct. 15, against Jesse Brinkley at the Bell.
Perhaps the most disturbing part of it all was that Dawson didn?t even seem greatly troubled by the loss. ?There was a rematch clause,? he pointed out. ?I?ll get him next time.?
Yeah, but who?s going to watch?