Roy Jones Jr. watched Jean Pascal from afar for years and had always been impressed by his skills.
It was plainly obvious that Pascal was quick, strong and explosive and capable of beating the world's elite.
But when the legendary former undisputed light heavyweight champion got a chance to work in Pascal's camp, he was stunned by what he saw.
Pascal was far more gifted than he'd ever imagined.
"He is such a good athlete and he has so much talent, but the thing I was surprised about when I finally got to take a look at him up close was how quickly he learned and how smart he is," Jones said. "He's a humble guy and he wants to get better, and he's able to pick up on things way faster than I expected."
Pascal meets Lucian Bute on Saturday in an HBO-televised light heavyweight match before an expected crowd of more than 20,000 at the Bell Centre in Montreal in a fight that has energized Quebec. Both men are from the Montreal area and have developed large fan bases.
Pascal wants to use the platform he'll get on Saturday as a stepping off point to fights against the many big names in the light heavyweight division.
Guys like Bernard Hopkins, Adonis Stevenson, Sergey Kovalev and others will represent major paydays and significant challenges for the winner of Saturday's match.
Pascal is 28-2-1, with only losses to Hopkins and Carl Froch marring his record.
Pascal is supremely confident he'll win on Saturday and put himself in play for the big names.
"Bute is a great fighter," Pascal said, before stopping.
"You know, change that," he said, chuckling a bit. "He's a good fighter. A good fighter. He's not great. He's a good, technical boxer, but he's not me. I don't want to be one of the best, I want to be the best on the planet, and this is part of getting there step by step, beating Bute."
Jones said he believes that Pascal, 31, is gifted enough to accomplish his goals, even with a loaded light heavyweight division that may soon add the great Andre Ward to the mix.
But Jones also thinks Pascal shouldn't rush. He has time and needs to build his name. A fight against Stevenson, who also lives in Quebec, could be massive at some point. Now, though, isn't the time.
"When these guys fight, it's a big deal in Quebec," Jones said. "If Pascal wins this and then he goes out and gets Stevenson next, it would be a big deal again in Quebec. But if he puts together some impressive fights and markets himself, it could be a big deal everywhere. And I think it's a lot better to be a big deal everywhere."
Pascal was part of a big deal in his 2011 rematch with Hopkins at the Bell Centre, but it wasn't the kind of big deal he wanted. After a draw in their first fight in which Pascal dropped Hopkins twice, Hopkins came back to win the rematch and, in the process, became the oldest boxer (46 at the time) ever to win a major world title.
Pascal is usually good at the mind games, but he concedes that the wily Hopkins won that war. At one point in the fight, Hopkins hit the floor after the bell sounded and started doing push-ups.
It had an impact upon Pascal, he conceded.
"I have to admit, he got me on that one," Pascal said. "It was a close fight, and we were both tired, but he was more tired than me. But then he did those push-ups and that [expletive] worked. He's a mastermind at those kinds of things."
Pascal, though, said his two fights with Hopkins prove the point he wants to make on Saturday. Not only did he battle on even terms for the better part of 24 rounds with one of the greatest boxers of this era, Pascal came out of both Hopkins bouts unscathed.
He pointed out that not a lot of fighters can say that.
"Look what Bernard does to the guys he fights," Pascal said. "They're never the same. He fought Felix Trinidad and Trinidad was never close to the same guy after that. Think about Jermain Taylor: He fought Bernard twice, and that was it for him. He wasn't the same. Antonio Tarver was never the same. Kelly Pavlik. Winky Wright wasn't the same.
"But me, I came back, and I am still fighting at a high level."
He brought Jones in because he felt Jones was good against southpaws and he wanted tips from the master.
He said things couldn't have gone better.
"Everything has come together at the perfect time," Pascal said. "I've always tried to be a crowd pleaser and a guy who does what the fans want. And I'm pretty sure they're going to like what they see."
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