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Joe Smith Jr. vs. Jean Pascal in the works

Jean Pascal

By Patrick McHugh: Joe Smith Jr. and Jean Pascal could be facing each other in the fall of this year, according to RingTV. a fight between the two highly ranked contenders is in the works, says Smith Jr’s promoter Joe DeGuardia. Smith Jr. (22-1, 18 KOs), ranked #2 with the World Boxing Council at light heavyweight, is coming off of a career best 1st round knockout victory over the highly ranked former world title challenger Andrzej Fonfara last June at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago, Illinois.

For his part, the 33-year-old Pascal has seen better days in his boxing career, as he’s lost two out of his last three fights in two stoppage losses to IBF/WBA/WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev. It probably wasn’t the smartest move that Pascal (30-4-1, 17 KOs) could make in choosing to fight Kovalev in a rematch last January, because he was stopped in the 7th round of a one-sided fight.

The payday was probably worth it for Pascal to take the fight and absorb yet another loss on his resume.

Smith Jr. won’t be fighting unbeaten 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Oleksandr Gvozdyk for the right to fight WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson. It’s a good thing because that would be a tough fight for Smith Jr. to take to get to an even tougher one against the 38-year-old Stevenson. Currently, the 175lb division is so solid that even good fighters like Smith Jr. and Gvozdyk are left with few options in terms of winning world titles.

Even if they do eventually get a shot at Stevenson or Sergey Kovalev, the chances of them beating either of them are extremely remote. Smith Jr. may soon have to face the #6 rated WBC contender Gvozyk if he wants to get a crack at Stevenson for his WBC title, because he’s probably never going to get the title shot just given to him on a silver platter. That’s not how Stevenson and his management work. When they’re making voluntary defenses, they opt for the easier fights against guys like Tommy Karpency, Tavoris Cloud, and Sakio Bika rather than taking on guys that have good punching power and a chance of beating them like Smith Jr. or Gvozdyk.

If the fight against Pascal can’t get made, then other possibilities for the 26-year-old Smith Jr. is #7 WBC Seanie Monaghan and #15 WBC Yunieski Gonzalez. Those might be better fights for Smith Jr. in terms of fighting younger guys with still a lot left in the tank. Pascal appears to be on his last legs career-wise. While Pascal has technically lost two out of his last three fights, you can say that he really should have three losses in his last three fights, because his 10 round unanimous decision win over Yunieski Gonzalez last year in July 2015 was a highly controversial one with many boxing fans feeling that Gonzalez should have been given the decision.

I saw the fight and I had Gonzalez winning with outworking, out-landing and out-slugging Pascal. The scoring of the fight was dreadful to say the least. Pascal’s career hasn’t looked the same since he lost his WBC light heavyweight title to Bernard Hopkins in 2011 in losing a 12 round unanimous decision. Pascal then went into the shutdown mode for two year in fighting just once in 2012 and 2013 before becoming a little more active in fighting twice per year since 2014.

Smith Jr. was supposed to lose to Fonfara last June, but he staggered him with a big shot to the head and then dropped him twice in the 1st round before the fight was halted. It’s hard to know whether Smith Jr. is as good as he looked in that fight or if Fonfara had simply overlooked him.

Fonfara seemed to show Smith Jr. no respect in going after him at the start of the fight, and he wasn’t even trying to box him. It looked like Fonfara was attacking Smith Jr. in the same way he had against his two previous opponents Nathan Cleverly and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Smith Jr. is a bigger puncher than those guys, and Fonfara should have realized that he would need to use some finesse early on to pick his spots to land his big shots rather than to just plod forward and look to slug with him.

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