CANADA’S Jean Pascal (35-6-1, 20 KOs) defended his WBA light-heavyweight title with a split-decision victory over two-division champion Badou Jack (22-3-3, 13 KOs), much to the dismay of a pro-Jack crowd at State Farm Arena in the co-main event to Davis-Gamboa. The judges scored the fight 114-112 in favour of Pascal twice, and 114-112 in favor of Jack once.
Fought at a blazing pace from the opening bell, the bout was a tale of two halves. Pascal led 50-44 on all three scorecards after five rounds and controlled much of the fight’s first half as he started quickly and scored a fourth-round knockdown. Jack, who went down for the fourth time in his career, was caught on the temple by a massive overhand right that sent him stumbling to the canvas.
However, Sweden’s Badou Jack finished the fight strongly, out-landing Jean Pascal 141-76 in overall punches and 134-121 in power punches. He capped off what he thought would be a victorious fight with a devastating four-punch barrage that knocked down Pascal for just the second time in his career in the 12th round. Jack finished the fight with advantages of 244-155 in overall punches landed, including 120-35 in jabs and 124-120 on power punches. Jack was also the more accurate puncher (39 percent to 28 percent overall) but Pascal’s punches hurt Jack at the end of several rounds.
Both fighters put in an extraordinary performance, particularly in the 12th round, a late contender for round of the year, as Pascal and Jack both looked to close the show until the final bell. When asked about a possible rematch, Pascal and Jack both expressed an interest.
“I won this fight, it was a close fight but I won it,” said the 37-year-old Jean Pascal. “Badou Jack is a great fighter but no one can say he was robbed. I won that fight. I’m the champ. I think I was in control the whole fight. I kept the middle of the ring most of the time. Badou is a great fighter, but I won the fight.
“I can finish every round very strong. I’m a strong, pressure fighter. Badou – thanks for the fight. I know the crowd enjoyed the show. I’ll do the rematch any time”
“Of course I feel I won the fight, but it is what it is,” said Jack, who has now had six of his last eight fights end in draws, split decisions or majority decisions. “Jean Pascal’s got a hell of a chin, he’s a tough warrior and I want to thank him for the opportunity. I thought I was winning but maybe I’m wrong. I would love a rematch.”
“I think he caught me up here (on top of head),” he said when asked by Gray about the fourth-round knockdown. “I didn’t really see the punch. I wasn’t that hurt but it was a good punch.”
In the telecast opener, Lionell Thompson (22-5, 12 KOs) made his debut at 168 pounds in phenomenal fashion, upsetting former IBF titlist Jose Uzcátegui (29-4, 24 KOs) with a decisive unanimous decision. The judges scored the fight 95-94 and 96-92 twice.
Thompson, who had campaigned as a light heavyweight his entire career, overcame a cut over his right eye in the third round and a point deduction for holding in the fourth. He scored the fight’s only knockdown in the first round, landing a textbook one-two combination that floored the Venezuelan Uzcátegui for the fifth time in his career.
Thompson was the far more accurate puncher, holding advantages of 32 percent to 19 percent in overall punches and 32 percent to 13 percent in jabs. The Buffalo, N.Y. native also out-landed Uzcátegui in nine of the ten rounds including an overall advantage of 80-21 connected jabs.
“Moving down to 168 (pounds), I was a little worried for my first fight but I felt great,” said the 34-year-old Thompson. “I still had the power at this weight and I hurt him a few times. This is my weight class now and I think I have a real chance at becoming super middleweight champion and putting my city on the map as the first world champion from Buffalo.”
“I thought the decision was fair,” said the 29-year-old Uzcátegui, who has now dropped two of his last three fights. “I don’t want to make any excuses. He came to fight. The distance from my last fight definitely showed. I was very rusty. I need to get back in the gym train harder and hopefully get another fight in the next few months.”
Preceding the telecast, SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING COUNTDOWN featured two ShoBox: The New Generation alums recording impressive wins in undercard attractions streamed live on the SHOWTIME Sports social platforms. Malik Hawkins (18-0, 11 KOs), a rising super lightweight prospect out of Baltimore, defeated previously unbeaten Darwin Price (16-1, 9 KOs) via fifth-round TKO.
Both fighters showed glimpses of their potential throughout the five rounds before Price suffered a right knee injury and was unable to continue. The 30-year-old Price pulled up limping after taking an awkward step, and Hawkins closed in on him looking for the finish. After referee Brian Stutts broke the action up, Price informed Stutts he was unable to continue, handing Hawkins the win.
The opening streaming bout saw undefeated prospect Angelo Leo (19-0, 9 KOs) stop Cesar Juarez (25-8, 19 KOs) to pick up the most impressive win of his career and put himself in position to fight for a world title in the near future.
In the IBF 122-pound Title Eliminator, Leo knocked down Juarez three separate times before picking up the TKO victory at 1:12 of round number 11. The finishing blow was a vicious right hand and while Juarez beat the count, referee Jim Korb waved the fight off.