Greg Leon, who advises former light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal, tells ESPN that the IBF has ordered his charge to face Joshua Buatsi in an eliminator. Buatsi sits atop the rankings at the moment with Pascal three places behind, but with Anthony Yarde pursuing a WBO mandatory bout with Artur Beterbiev and Zurdo Ramirez ordered to take on WBA champ Dmitry Bivol, Pascal’s the highest available opponent.
On paper, it’s a solid matchup. Buatsi’s (16-0, 13 KO) narrow victory over Craig Richards last May showed that he could do with one more test before gunning for gold, and while I still believe Pascal (36-6-1, 20 KO) was very fortunate to get the nod against Meng Fanlong in his return to action, he’s still capable of giving solid fighters headaches.
I doubt it actually happens. Eddie Hearn is borderline obsessed with pitting Buatsi against Bivol, even with trainer Virgil Hunter insisting that Buatsi’s not ready yet. Taking the IBF route would also force Hearn to work with either Top Rank or arch-nemesis Frank Warren depending on the Beterbiev-Yarde outcome.
So yeah, expect the IBF to move down the rankings and order Pascal to fight Joe Smith Jr.