Jean Pascal dominated an unusually tentative Lucian Bute to win the battle of former world champions by unanimous decision in a non-title bout before 20,479 at the Bell Centre on Saturday night.
The decidedly pro-Bute crowd could do little to help their fighter, who appeared more concerned with not getting hit than with launching attacks.
One judge had it 117-110, another 117-111 and the third 116-112. The Canadian Press gave Pascal every round except the 12th, when he stood in a corner and absorbed punches knowing he had the bout won.
Pascal took Bute’s minor NABF title and something called the WBC diamond belt, but more importantly, he bested his fellow Montreal fighter in their long-awaited showdown and made himself a player again in the light heavyweight division.
The fight, billed as the biggest between two Canadians, was a one-sided affair, with Pascal on attack from the outset. He failed to knock his Romanian-born opponent down, however, although he opened a nasty cut on Bute’s nose in the 10th.
Bute won the IBF super-middleweight (168-pound) title in 2007 but was trying to re-establish his place among the world’s elite after a crushing five-round loss to Carl Froch in England in 2012. The defeat put his ability to take power punches in doubt.
Pascal is the former WBC light heavyweight (175-pound) champion, but was on the rebound from a loss to veteran Bernard Hopkins in 2011.
The bout was originally scheduled for May 25, but was postponed when Bute needed surgery to remove bone chips from his left hand.
In the co-feature, heavyweights Mike Perez and Carlos Takam fought to a 10-round majority draw as the Bell Centre crowd booed the inactivity in the ring.
The bout was on the undercard of the Lucian-Bute-Jean Pascal main event later Saturday.
Perez (20-0-1) and Takam (28-1-1) spent most of the bout with their heads locked together, trading short range blows to the head and body. The southpaw Perez suffered a cut from a headbutt in the third round that hampered his performance.
The Frenchman Takam’s best moment was late in the sixth when he rocked Perez with a right.
Ringside judges scored it 96-94, 95-95 and 95-95.
Perez, a Cuban living in Ireland, had Mago written on his trucks in honour of Russian Magomed Abdusalamov, whose career he ended with a 10-round victory on Nov. 2 in New York. Abdusalamov spent a month after the bout in an enduced coma and remains in a rehab centre unable to walk to talk.
Eleider Alvarez (14-0) of Montreal was supposed to be in the co-feature against veteran Thomas Oosthuisen, but the South African pulled out with an injury.
His replacement, Ottawa’s Andrew Gardiner (10-1), put on a gutsy show, winning some of the middle rounds, until he was stung at the end of the eighth and the gifted Colombian took back control. Alvarez got the decision 99-91, 96-93 and 97-93.
At the end, the crowd cheered Gardiner and booed Alvarez, who had refused to touch gloves with his opponent after the bout after something was said to him from Gardiner’s corner..
Welterweight Mikael Zewski (23-0) of Trois-Rivieres, Que., had a tough opponent in Krzysztof Szot (18-10-1) in that the Polish fighter had never been stopped or even knocked down. This time, Szot went down in the fifth and twice more in the seventh before the ref stopped the bout.
Light middleweight Yves Ulysse (1-0) of Montreal showed his speed and attacking style as he won his pro debut by stopping Vango Tsirimokos (6-4) of Belgium in four rounds.
Bantamweight Sebastien Gauthier (22-4-1) of St-Jerome, Que. battled to a majority draw with Javier Franco (20-11-3) of Mexico.
Montreal-based Russian light heavyweight Artur Beterbiev (4-0) stopped French southpaw Gabriel Lecrosnier (16-26-3) in four rounds, and Colombian heavyweight Oscar Rivas (13-0) stopped lefty Shawn Cox of Trinidad (16-5) in three.
Notes — Lightweight Tony Luis (17-2) of Cornwall, Ont., was knocked down in the first round and went on to lose a 10-round unanimous decision to Ivan Redkach (16-0) of Ukraine on Friday night in Memphis. Scores were 99-90, 97-92 and 97-93. “I thought it was a much, much closer fight,” said Luis.