In a startling upset, Jean Pascal outworked talented Chad Dawson at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on his way to a technical decision victory when Dawson was deemed unable to continue due to a cut suffered in the 11th round. Final scores of the abbreviated fight were 108-101, 106-103, and 106-103.
Within a round it became clear that Dawson, now 29-1-0-1 (17), was in for a long night as Pascal alternated between moving on the perimeter and hurling UFOs with abandon while charging. Pascal, Laval, Quebec, via Port-au-Prince, appeared to sweep the first three rounds by using his hit and run tactics to potshot Dawson here and there. His occasional flurries were heightened by the fact that Dawson did little early on but look distressed.
Dawson, 174, began to establish his jab more in the fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds, but was staggered by a straight right in the seventh. Pascal, whose record improves to 26-1 (16), followed up with a barrage that forced Dawson to clinch. Over the last third of the round, however, Dawson began to put his punches together in an attempt to regain points, but it was too little too late.
In the eighth, Pascal, 174 1/4, scored with another right that shook Dawson, and this time there was little retaliation from Dawson, who again looked to hold in an effort to stymie Pascal. Dawson, New Haven, Connecticut, returned to his corner at the end of the round on shaky legs. Within seconds of the ninth round, Pascal was banging Dawson around with both hands, forcing Dawson into the ropes with his charge. Dawson, 28, recovered and chased Pascal down for the remainder of the round, landing a stiff combination while Pascal languished against the ropes. Late in the 10th round, Pascal dumped Dawson onto the seat of his pants with a hip-pointer. When Dawson rose he was met by an onrushing Pascal, who ripped a hard combination to the body that had Dawson backing up.
The 11th started with Dawson, exhorted by trainer Eddie Mustafa Muhammad between rounds, on the attack, lashing Pascal in the corner with a volley of shots that had him reeling. A left uppercut froze Pascal momentarily, and it looked like he might be a late rounds KO victim, but Dawson did not follow up effectively. When the two fighters banged heads during an exchange, Dawson emerged with a deep cut over his right and was ruled unable to continue by the ringside physician. To his credit, Dawson knew he was behind on the cards and came out to stop Pascal and render the judges unnecessary. Unfortunately, the cut dropped a big DEAD END sign in right front of him. Dawson, apparently conceding defeat, did not rise from his stool as the scorecards were read.
With the win, the cocky Pascal, 27, goes on to a possible fight with Lucian Bute in an all-Canadian super showdown. Surprisingly, Pascal fought in his usual manner and did not have to make any significant adjustments to outpoint Dawson over the first 10 rounds. At times, he simply appeared to want it more than Dawson did, and although appearances can often be deceiving in boxing, last night they were not.
Apart from the sneaky left uppercut that stiffened Pascal and a big flurry in the 11th, Dawson never really got his offense on track. Occasionally, he would pin Pascal against the ropes and throw quick combinations punctuated by right hooks to the body, but he could never sustain his attack. Within a flash, Pascal would scoot away or return fire, and Dawson would be back to looking confused in center ring, throwing a petty jab that often bordered on a backhand and following Pascal around without clear intent. When Dawson opens up, he throws eyecatching combinations, but in the past, against opponents without the legs to keep up with him, he rarely felt the need to go all out. Against Pascal, he seemed unable to adjust from the cruise control setting he has been on for his last three fights and it cost him.
For an athlete with absolutely no fanbase whatsoever, it was strange hearing Dawson complain bitterly in the postfight interview with Larry Merchant. He carped about headbutts, despite the fact that Pascal did not appear to be using his noggin with malice, and also whimpered, inexplicably, about holding and hitting. True, Pascal worked Dawson over when Dawson tried to embrace him, but fighting in the clinches is part of boxing, and Dawson was as confused about that as he was about many things last night. To begin with, referee Michael Griffin broke the fighters instantaneously throughout the fight. In addition, it was Dawson who initiated most of the clinches. There Pascal would blast him with shots to the head, and Dawson would emerge from the mauling looking as if he had just suffered from Shaken Baby Syndrome.
Finally, Merchant interrupted his “No excuses” speech by pointing out, succinctly, “But you are making excuses.” It was the first time an old man got the better of Dawson in a boxing ring.