Bute will win the fight off consistency and fundamentals while Pascal will settle for shining in spots and delude himself into believing that he did enough to win. But who knows, maybe he'll deceive the judges as well. Go to 23:07 in the Jan. 14th episode of "The Ruckus" for a longer explanation of why I'm picking Bute. Bute by decision.
I've got no idea what to expect of either of these guys in this fight. Bute's been off 14 months and didn't look good against Denis Grachev, a much slower and more basic fighter than Pascal. Also, there are still concerns about how Bute can handle pressure, given the way Carl Froch beat the snot out of him in May 2012. But what about Pascal? He's done nothing but beat Aleksy Kuziemski (while injuring his own shoulder) and George Blades since his May 2011 loss to Bernard Hopkins. Pascal is explosive every fight out, but only briefly so. Despite his ripped appearance, his conditioning is questionable and his activity drops as the fight goes on. If they're both in good shape and really ready to go, this fight could be action-packed -- and short. Pascal could blast out Bute early, or one of Bute's trademark nasty body shots could find a home and put this away. I don't know what's happening here, but it should (or at least could) be fun. I'm going with Pascal -- I worry more about Bute's mental state than Pascal's physical state, although perhaps I shouldn't. I'm looking forward to this one. Pascal TKO-7.
While at first blush this looked to me like a tough call, after thinking about it I like Bute in this one. Both men have lost to Froch, and while Bute's loss was worse and more recent, Pascal is coming off of a recent loss himself to Hopkins, and in general his record isn't as impressive. Bute has better scalps under his belt, including Sakio Bika. There's no doubt he has the better resume. There has been some talk recently among fans to the effect that Bute was a hype job, exposed by Froch (and to a lesser extent Grachev), but his record is credible.
The better reason to doubt Bute is the question of whether or not he is damaged goods or over the hill (at 33). I don't think he is--not hugely so anyway. He's rounding the bend, but I didn't have the same harsh takeaway others did from his last fight. Yes, I know he struggled a bit against Grachev, but he was coming back from a tough loss, and Grachev is a decent fighter. It was a respectable come back given how tough the Froch fight was for him.
In sum, I think Bute will prove more resilient in Quebec, and the vintage body punching version of himself is more likely to resurface than Pascal's best version of himself. Another factor is that I think the venue favors Bute. He's about as much of a hometown fighter you can get, and he's going to defend his turf here. Yes, this is basically home turf for both men, but I have a feeling Bute is more of a hometown fighter than Pascal and a significant part of why he looked so bad against Froch is because the fight took place across the pond in a different time zone and in his opponent's back yard. Beatdown at the Bell Center? Probably not. Probably more like Bute in a close but clear UD.
I've been looking forward to this fight ever since it was first mooted many years ago. I feel their styles will blend perfectly to create a great fight with plenty of action. It remains to be seen whether Bute is the same fighter after his mauling by Carl Froch 18 months ago, there's a chance he may have become gun-shy, there certainly seemed to be a hint of that in his struggle to beat Denis Grachev in his last fight.
Pascal is the more established light-heavyweight but has show weaknesses throughout his career, most notably stamina issues and the lack of a plan B. It doesn't take a genius to work out Pascal's approach to this fight (and pretty much every other fight he's had), he'll start quickly, will be the aggressor and will look to land flurries of punches.
Bute's best chance is to keep the fight at long range and to out-box and out manoeuvre Pascal. Bernard Hopkins showed the perfect tactics needed to beat Pascal, alas, Bute is no Hopkins. It's worth noting that Bute is a very good body puncher, and if I remember correctly, Pascal was troubled to the body late on in his fight with Froch. Pascal has a solid chin, so regular body attacks should be part of Bute's game plan, not only is that his best chance of hurting Pascal, it'll also come in handy if the fight goes long - energy sapping body shots combined with Pascal's lack of stamina could prove decisive in the later rounds.
There looks to be three obvious outcomes to this fight - 1) Pascal blasts out Bute in a similar fashion to Froch. 2) Pascal starts fast and wins enough rounds to enable him to hang on to a narrow points victory after tiring late. 3) Bute keeps it close enough early on so that he can take advantage of a tiring Pascal in the later rounds.
Option 2 looks the most likely to me, there'll be plenty of action along the way and maybe a twist or two but Pascal should be able to do enough to win on points around 115-113 mark. Pascal by decision.