By Chris Cella
Friday night at the Bell Centre in Montreal, former champion Jean Pascal (26-2-1, 16 KO) returns to action following an 19-month layoff, and will go to battle against Polish prospect Aleksy Kuziemski (23-0, 7 KO).
Since losing a unanimous decision to Bernard Hopkins and surrendering his WBC light heavyweight belt in May of 2011, Pascal has since suffered an injury preventing him from returning to the ring and resuming his efforts to work his way back to a world title fight.
“I was thinking a lot,” Pascal told 15rounds.com about his 19- month layoff. “Friday night you are going to see a 2.0 version of Jean Pascal. I think those 24 rounds with Hopkins have made me a better person as well. I have a lot of experience, and am not a prospect anymore. I am not green, and am very mature. My goal is to capture the world title, but I have to think about Friday night; I have to think about Aleksy. I love challenges, and I will be ready to rock the world Friday night.”
Prior to the two fights with Hopkins (0-1-1), Pascal successfully defended his title four times, with his last win coming against then undefeated favorite and current WBC light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson.
Pascal is currently scheduled to face Dawson for a second time and fight for the belt in March of next year, but he knows he can’t look past the upset-minded Kuzmienski Friday night.
“The fight against Chad Dawson does not exist in my head,” Pascal continued. “The only fight that exists is the fight Friday night the 14th against Aleksy Kuzmienski. “It is going to be a good challenge. He is the underdog, but when I fought Chad Dawson, the odds were 4-1 against me, and I beat him; so odds don’t mean anything. I know the odds are for me in this fight, but I beat Dawson when I was the undergod. I am well prepared for Friday night and am gonna do what I do best, knock people out.”
Despite staying active inside the ring within the past two years, Kuzmienski has been less than consistent, winning four of seven fights, while getting stopped in two of the three losses.
Against the heavy-handed Pascal the former Polish Olympian will need to stay busy and stay out of range to avoid the big shots. Pascal will undoubtedly be looking to make a statement in his return, especially in front of his hometown fans, and will be anxious to end the night early.
But while Pascal needs to impress to show he can come back strong following the layoff, Kuzmienski has nothing to lose. He has the opportunity to shock the world by pulling off an upset against the former champion in his own backyard, which would lessen the impact of the rematch against Dawson.
It is crucial for Pascal to go into the fight Friday night focused and intent on the mission at hand—get his ring presence in and exit the ring with a ‘W’.
Friday night will be an indication of what kind of fighter Jean Pascal will reemerge as following the layoff. Will he be hungry and unrelenting with his drive to get back to the champion stature which he once held; or will his comeback be short lived?
Pascal vs. Kuzmienski will be aired live exclusively on WealthTV at 7 p.m. Eastern this Friday, December 14.