MONTREAL – The normally flashy Jean Pascal is glad to leave centre stage to his stablemate Adonis Stevenson for his next appearance in a boxing ring.
Former light heavyweight champion Pascal (27-2-1) just wants to get the job done when he faces 39-year-old George (Honey Boy) Blades (23-4-0) at the Bell Centre on Sept. 28 in what should be a tune-up bout for his long-awaited showdown with rival Lucian Bute in January.
The bout will be the co-feature to Stevenson’s first defence of his WBC light heavyweight title against former IBF champion Tavoris Cloud.
“Honestly, I like my situation now,” Pascal said Thursday. “I’m not in the spotlight.
“I don’t need to sell tickets. I don’t need to put on a show. Stevenson is in the limelight now. I just have to do my stuff and box well.”
There may be a layer of rust left on the canvas when Pascal, who has fought only once in each of the last two years, faces Blades, who has had two bouts since 2008.
The quick-handed Pascal, who looked off-form while grinding out a 10-round decision over Aleksy Kuziemsky in December, didn’t want to remain inactive too long when Bute pulled out of their scheduled May meeting with a hand injury.
The showdown between Montreal’s two former world champions has been rescheduled for Jan. 18.
Now Pascal will face an aging opponent whose record was built mostly against opponents with losing records, including legend Reggie Strickland who retired in 2005 with a career 66-276-17 mark. Blades lost by 11th-round TKO in his only attempt at a world title to Zsolt Erdei in 2007.
“This fight is going to be good for me,” said Pascal. “It’s been a while since I fought so I’m taking this one as a springboard to my next one, if the next one happens.
“That’s why I’m taking this seriously. This guy is a veteran. He’s been there, done that. He’s not coming here just to get a cheque. He’s coming here to kill me, so I need to be ready.”
The risk for Pascal is his history of hand and shoulder problems. If either is aggravated, it could mean another delay in the lucrative Bute bout.
Promoter Yvon Michel called it a “stay-busy” bout for Pascal that will be even more important if the Bute fight falls through. There are some who feel it will never happen because Bute is still scarred from a crushing defeat to Carl Froch in May, 2012 that cost him his IBF super-middleweight title.
If it doesn’t, Pascal could be in line for a shot at new IBF champion Sergey Kovalev, a Russian who has fought most of his career in the U.S. The power-punching Kovalev is coming off a fourth-round win in Wales on Aug. 17 over Nathan Cleverly.
“If I told (U.S. specialty channel) HBO that Pascal is available to fight Kovalev they would jump at that right away,” said Michel. “Jean may not be world champion now, but he’s a star.
“He has ratings. He’s a fighter that will not be left on the sidelines.”
Pascal, 30, held a light heavyweight title from 2009 to 2012, when he lost a close decision to veteran Bernard Hopkins.
But the new star in Michel’s stable is Stevenson, ever since the hammer-fisted southpaw from Longueuil, Que., dropped champion Chad Dawson only 76 seconds into their title bout in June.
If he gets past Cloud, Stevenson is already booked to face mandatory challenger Tony Bellew, likely in late November in Quebec City.
Stevenson’s is the middle bout of a three-fight HBO show from three countries that will also have heavyweights Tyson Fury and David Haye in England and middleweights Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., and Brian Vera in Carson, Calif.
The Stevenson card also has an all-Colombian light heavyweight matchup with Montreal-based Eleider Alvarez (12-0) against veteran Edison Miranda (35-8), a former top contender looking to re-establish his reputation.
Welterweight Antonin Decarie (27-2) of Montreal, coming off a loss in a title bout in Argentina with Luis Carlos Abregu, has a tune-up against Cedrik Spera (10-2) of Belgium to help prepare for a WBC-run world tournament due to start at the end of the year.
Middleweight David Lemieux (29-2) of Montreal will be tested by six-foot-four Marcus Upshaw (15-10-2).
Welterweight Kevin Bizier (20-0) of St-Emile, Que., and light heavyweight Artur Beterbiev (1-0), who beat Kovalev twice as an amateur, are also on the card.