Jean Pascal returned to action after a two-and-a-half year layoff, scoring a minor upset over Meng Fanlong in a typically odd Pascal fight in Plant City, Fla.
All three judges had it for Pascal on scores of 114-113, 115-112, and 116-111. Bad Left Hook’s unofficial card had the fight 115-112 for Meng.
The 39-year-old Pascal hadn’t fought since his controversial and narrow win over Badou Jack in late 2019, with attempts to have a rematch scrapped when Pascal failed a litany of drug tests in 2021.
He looked like roughly the same Jean Pascal he’s been for some years now in his comeback, fighting in bursts, conserving energy well enough to go 12 rounds, still tough, still ready and willing to wing wild shots whenever possible, and able to muck up a fight with lunging bursts of action and make rounds weird to score for ringside judges.
Pascal (36-6-1, 20 KO) may now look for something bigger, but he’s really years past his better days as a serious contender. The last time he held a world title was 2011, when he lost a rematch to Bernard Hopkins. He was dominated by Sergey Kovalev in 2015, dominated worse by Kovalev in 2016, and virtually shut out over 12 rounds by Dmitry Bivol in 2018, his last world title fight. He also lost to Eleider Alvarez in 2017, but he did beat Marcus Browne and Badou Jack in 2019.
Pascal’s mixture of young and old fighter attributes were present again, as he was able to explode athletically at times but also had to lay back and try to make sure he had gas in the tank. The defensive reflexes looked shot through much of the fight, but he still takes a punch well — though he did get rocked hard by Meng early in the bout — and he scored a questionable knockdown in round nine, a round he was clearly losing before that.
If that round had been 10-9 Meng instead of 10-8 Pascal, scores would have been a split draw — one card of 114-114, one at 115-113 Pascal, and one at 115-113 Meng.
Personally, I thought Meng (17-1, 10 KO) deserved the nod, but I also won’t tell you it was a robbery. That’s not my opinion. I didn’t think it was that level of controversial, just normal controversial, in that you could have seen the official result the other way.
“My timing was a little bit off (early), but I’ve done 12 rounds and I’m back. Honestly, he was tougher than I was expecting and he’s a good fighter,” Pascal said after the fight. “I saw I could hurt him, so I wanted to push a little bit more and try to knock him out.”
We’ll have to see what Pascal, who turns 40 in October, will do next, but he’s always been a stubborn, determined guy in the ring, which made trainer Orlando Cuellar continually instructing him to stop throwing home run shots and try a double jab kind of funny eventually. Pascal fights the way he fights, and nobody’s changing that at this point.
For Meng, 34, it’s obviously a setback, but there’s also a chance that — if the ProBox TV people liked the numbers this did for them as a launch event — we could see it again. The top tier of 175 is pretty tied up, and Pascal may not have any bigger or better an option. He’d also probably be confident he can do even better not coming in off such a long layoff, where he did show some rust in the early rounds, and admitted as much.
Meng would kind of have to welcome that if offered, I’d think, because he’s a guy who took a big hit during the widespread pandemic days, having earned a mandatory shot at Artur Beterbiev that never wound up happening. No one would have picked him to win that fight, of course, but he would have had the world title shot, and now he’s a guy with a loss who still hasn’t gotten one, and isn’t exactly getting younger or better at his age. A rematch with Pascal would give him a shot to even that score and get back into the fringes of the mix.
CHAMPIONSHIP ROUNDS INCOMING— ProBox TV (@ProBox_TV) May 21, 2022
It’s an all action finish between Fanlong Meng and @jeanpascalchamp as we head into the final stages of this epic light heavyweight clash on ProBox TV #ProBoxTV #china #canada #mengpascal #sports #boxing #boxeo pic.twitter.com/HJqn7dRQvu
“Last Chance Tournament” results and highlights
The “Last Chance Tournament” is an eight-man field at 140 lbs with fighters who have hit some walls in the sport but are still looking to make some moves. It is, in my opinion, a very good, fun idea, and ProBox plan to do them in other weight divisions, as well.
- Joseph Fernandez UD-8 Zhimin Wang: Maybe a decision that could have gone either way, but a pair of 78-74 cards (6-2 in rounds) for Fernandez seems wide to me. I had this at 76-76 and if I had to do the old “pick one, gotta pick one,” I think I’d have gone Wang. But it wound up a tough, hard-fought, good fight, with both of them throwing what they had down the stretch especially. Fernandez (15-4-3, 5 KO) picks up a career-best win here and gets to move on to the semifinal round of the tournament, if the tournament winds up playing out. (Look, I’ve seen enough stuff in boxing, there are no guarantees at this level.) Wang (11-4, 3 KO) will feel like he got the short end on the road, and he may have a point.
- Kendo Castaneda KO-1 Sonny Fredrickson: Fredrickson (21-6, 14 KO) had lost four straight coming in. Castaneda (18-5, 9 KO) had lost five straight after being guided to a pretty soft 17-0, largely on Roy Jones Jr Fight Pass cards. Something had to give here, and it was Fredrickson’s chin when Castaneda drilled him with a true goomer shot in just about two minutes of action. Old timey thinking, I assume, is to blame for them not putting a clip of Castenda’s KO online immediately. It was the only thing to this point on the show that might convince someone to sign up for this service if they hadn’t already, but “social media” and even “understanding the media and consumer landscape after 1996” is still pretty hard for the boxing industry.
- Michael Dutchover SD-8 Clarence Booth: Didn’t have this scored close, as my card was 79-73 Dutchover, but I think the 77-75 and 78-74 cards in his favor were fair. The judge who had it 77-75 Booth was very generous to him, I believe. But it’s also not like Dutchover (16-2, 10 KO) dominated, he just kept shading rounds for me, with Booth (21-5, 13 KO) starting well in the opening round but then making some questionable tactical decisions, including constantly switching between southpaw — where he had little success — and orthodox.
- Antonio Moran UD-8 Jeffrey Torres: Scores here were 77-75, 77-75, and 79-73. Antonio Tarver felt 77-75 was too close; I actually had it 76-76, but with a couple rounds shaded to Torres that probably could have gone the other way, and I thought if anyone deserved to win — if I had to pick one or the other — I would have also gone with Moran (27-5-1, 19 KO), who is famous for being on the wrong end of one of Devin Haney’s few true highlights. Torres (10-2, 6 KO) looked really over-matched in the early going, honestly, but he got back into it and tried to steal rounds late. Obviously the tactic worked OK on me.
The semifinal fights will be Dutchover vs Moran and Castaneda vs Fernandez, whenever they get scheduled, if they do. (Again, long time, lotta things seen, no guarantees this whole thing still exists in three months, let alone six or anything.)
Prelims results and highlights
- Jusiyah Shirley UD-6 Miguel Perez Aispuro: Like the first fight we’ll discuss next, they kept saying “50/50” about this matchup while the A-side kid won every single round and Aispuro (12-13-2, 8 KO) lost a point for a low blow, meaning the scores were 60-53 across the board. Shirley (5-0, 4 KO) is a 21-year-old junior welterweight, Florida-based, like Blancas is very raw but has some skills. Slaps a bit when he punches, stuff to work on and all that, but yeah there is potential there.
- Daniel Blancas UD-4 Heinrich Caceres: This was a pretty standard mid-level prospect wins all four rounds against a guy who barely knows what he’s doing, but the way they called the fight you’d think they’d made the greatest 50/50 matchup in history, unlike all those OTHER promoters with THEIR prospects. Caceres, who was making his pro debut at 28, didn’t throw a punch with any legitimate intent for the entire fight, and mostly spent his time backing away in flat-footed fashion and covering up. Blancas (2-0, 1 KO), a 21-year-old super middleweight from Milwaukee, had trouble hitting him clean, because without throwing any punches, Caceres had a lot of time to back away in flat-footed fashion and cover up. Blancas did connect pretty clean on a right in the fourth round, it clearly hurt Caceres, and then Caceres did his best to go back to avoiding contact. It was, at best, “getting rounds.” All that said, that’s a reaction to the tryhard way they called the fight; Blancas looks like he has some skills, raw and a lot to work on, but is also a 6’3” super middle and there’s something there to work with. He’s got time, and he’s just getting started.