Jean Pascal was worried five weeks ago.
The former WBC light heavyweight champion couldn’t get his punches off as quickly or accurately as he had done in the past. Sparring sessions weren’t going his way, which led the 39-year-old Pascal to wonder whether boxing wasn’t what he was meant to do anymore.
Luckily for the Quebec-based Pascal, he eventually found his rhythm while training in the South Beach section of Miami for his fight Friday night against unbeaten Chinese southpaw Meng Fanlong.
“At the beginning of camp my timing was off, I was slow, my coordination was off,” Pascal told BoxingScene.com. “I was kind of worried, you know? Because after [nearly] three years out of the ring, I said, ‘Maybe this is it. Maybe this is the end,’ you know? Because every good thing has an end. So, I was telling myself, ‘Yo, Jean, maybe this is it, man. Maybe it’s time to move on to something else than boxing.’ But recently, my timing, my coordination, my strength came back.
“It took me more time than usual, probably because I’m getting older. But at least it’s back. You know? I’m very confident. My timing is back, my speed is back, my strength is back, so I’m looking forward to delivering a great fight to the fans, because I’m a crowd-pleaser and, you know, I’m expecting to please the crowd once again.”
Pascal (35-6-1, 20 KOs, 1 NC) will end a 28-month layoff when he faces Fanlong in a 12-round bout that www.ProBoxTV.com will stream as the main event of a five-fight card from ProBox Events Center in Plant City, Florida ($1.99 per month). He was scheduled to battle Badou Jack last June 6 on the Floyd Mayweather-Logan Paul undercard at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, but Pascal tested positive for four performance-enhancing drugs and was removed from their 12-round rematch.
In Fanlong (17-0, 10 KOs), Pascal will encounter a 2012 Olympian who has long wanted to prove himself against a higher level of opposition than the 34-year-old contender has boxed during his seven-year pro career.
Fanlong’s mandated shot at Artur Beterbiev’s IBF light heavyweight title, which was scheduled for March 2020 in Quebec City, Canada, was canceled at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Germany’s Adam Deines, whom Fanlong outpointed in a 12-round IBF elimination match, replaced Fanlong when Beterbiev’s co-promoters, Top Rank Inc. and Group Yvon Michel, rescheduled Beterbiev’s mandatory defense for March 2021 in Moscow because Fanlong wasn’t allowed to travel to Beterbiev’s native Russia.
“I had good sparring partners, different sparring partners,” Pascal said. “That was kind of hard, to find sparring partners that was gonna emulate Fanlong Meng’s style. But at least I had good sparring partners. I think I had three or four guys. So, you know, today I just sparred and they told me my speed’s back, my timing is back, my coordination is back, so I was very happy to hear that.”
Now that he has restored his confidence, Pascal feels he will prove that he remains one of the best light heavyweights in boxing. His lone loss in his past five fights was a 12-round, unanimous-decision defeat to WBA 175-pound champion Dmitry Bivol (20-0, 11 KOs) in November 2018.
“Listen, I never left,” Pascal said. “For me, I’m still a two-time world champion. I never got beat in the ring for my belt, so I’m still world champion. And, you know, to tell you the truth, there’s Bivol, Artur Beterbiev, and after them it’s me. … I really think that I should rank number three. And then, after this fight I’m gonna show people why I should be ranked number three and then face the best guy afterwards. But right now, I have to focus on Fanlong Meng. This is the fight that I have in front of me, so all I was thinking about was Fanlong Meng. Nothing else mattered, so I’m still focused on Fanlong Meng. And then, afterwards, we’ll see what’s next for me.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.