MONTREAL - A long-awaited showdown turned into a one-sided victory for Jean Pascal.
The former light heavyweight champion dominated a tentative and powerless Lucian Bute en route to a unanimous decision victory on Saturday night in the clash of former world title holders from Montreal.
The result disappointed many among the 20,479 at the Bell Centre, whose competing chants appeared to favour Bute by about a two-to-one margin. But the match billed as the biggest ever between two Canadians, which reportedly paid each fighter $2 million, belonged to 31-year-old Pascal from the outset.
"I've waited seven years for this," said Pascal (29-2-1). "When I go into the ring, I want to dominate.
"That was my game plan — dominate all the time. Go in and out. To be vicious, active, explosive, and that's what I did from start to finish."
The three judges agreed, giving scores of 117-110, 117-111 and 116-112.
The Canadian Press gave Pascal every round except the 12th, when he backed into a corner and let Bute (31-2) swing away in a last gasp attempt for a knockout.
Pascal took Bute's minor NABF title and something called the WBC diamond belt, but more importantly, he settled who was best between the two fighters who rose to the top together in the same city without ever facing one another.
It turned into a dud of a fight, with Bute often looking confused and unwilling to go on attack.
"Jean Pascal was the better fighter and deserved to win," the 33-year-old Bute said. "Why I let the fight go like that I don't know.
"I'll have to go over the fight many times with my team."
If there is a silver lining for the Romanian-born Bute, it was that he stayed on his feet and his chin held up despite repeated blows from Pascal.
His chin has been a concern since May 2012, when his five-year reign as IBF super-middleweight champion came to an end in a crushing loss in only five rounds to Carl Froch in England. Suddenly, a fighter who had always taken command in the ring looked fragile, and complaints that his record had been built against B-level opponents looked plausible.
But after losing to Pascal, he made it clear his career is not finished. He even told the crowd he wants a rematch.
"It's for you to say if I have a chin or not," he said. "I took a lot of punches and I didn't go down."
He came out of it with a badly swollen left eye, and his nose was cut open in the 10th round.
Pascal certainly surprised him. Instead of his usual all-out aggression in the early rounds, Pascal elected to hold back, counter with sharp rights when the southpaw Bute fired a shot, and then launch into quick-strike attacks near the end to make sure he won the rounds.
He did it over and over and Bute never seemed to find an answer.
"I followed my game plan to the letter," said Pascal.
Pascal was on the rebound from losing his WBC light heavyweight belt in 2011 to wily veteran Bernard Hopkins, who waited as he blew himself out early and then dominated the later rounds.
This time, Pascal added new blood to his entourage, including his boyhood idol Roy Jones Jr., and came back as a smarter fighter, although he still throws a lot of wild punches.
He felt the bout was one-sided because of his tactics and execution and not, despite appearances, because Bute is still gun-shy from the Froch fight.
Pascal expects to face another opponents before considering a rematch with Bute, but who that will be in a mystery. His contract with promoter Yvon Michel ended with the Bute bout, although he may re-sign and wants to stay in Montreal.
While Pascal and Bute were recovering from their setbacks and fighting sparingly in the last two years, another Montreal fighter Adonis Stevenson jumped in to take the light heavyweight belt. A Pascal-Stevenson bout is unlikely for at least a year, his camp said.
In the co-feature, heavyweights Mike Perez and Carlos Takam fought to a 10-round majority draw.
The crowd booed as 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 trunks 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 or 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.