MONTREAL — Jean Pascal wants to leave the ring as a winner.
The Laval, Que. resident and former World Boxing Council light heavyweight champion says it will be his final fight when he takes on little-known Ahmed Elbiali (16-0) on Friday night in the main event at the Hiahleah Park casino near Miami.
Pascal (31-5-1) is only 35 and, in an age when many top boxers carry on into their 40s, he probably could continue for a few more years. But he wants to go out with his mental and physical faculties intact.
“It’s an unforgiving sport,” Pascal said this week. “You shouldn’t end on an empty gas tank.
“That’s when there could be physical and mental damage. I’d rather stop when the tank is full.”
How full the tank will be was put in doubt on Wednesday when his early morning flight was delayed, then cancelled due to an equipment problem, forcing he and his entourage to find another plane. He arrived in Miami that night.
Pascal didn’t chose the opponent or setting for his final bout, which were assigned by manager Al Haymon. He no doubt would have preferred to have his finale in Montreal or Quebec City where most of his high profile fights were held, including two meetings with ring legend Bernard Hopkins and, more recently, a pair of crushing losses to Russian brawler Sergey Kovalev.
Instead he will face 27-year-old Elbiali, an Egypt native who grew up in Miami and is considered a rising prospect.
Elbiali’s list of opponents is modest, but he has knocked out 13 of them. Taking down a former champion like Pascal would add a big name to his resume.
“It feels like a title fight,” Elbiali told fighthype.com. “I’m a kid, bruh.
“I know it’s not a title fight, but it’s a big fight for me. Jean Pascal is a guy that I used to watch. I never would have thought that I would fight this guy.”
Pascal, an attacking entertainer in the ring and flashy dresser and enthusiastic trash-talker out of it, will go out as one of Canada’s top boxers of the modern era, perhaps a notch below heavyweight great Lennox Lewis but in there with Arturo Gatti, Otis Grant, Adonis Stevenson and other champions.
The Haiti native, whose family moved to Montreal when he was four, won gold at the 2002 Commonwealth Games and represented Canada at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
His first big international bout as a professional was an honourable defeat as he lost by decision to British super-middleweight champion Carl Froch in England in 2008.
Moving up to light heavyweight, he defeated Montreal-based Adrian Diaconu for the WBC title in June, 2009 and defended it four times, including a win over previous-unbeaten Chad Dawson, before being outwitted in his second bout with savvy veteran Hopkins in May, 2011.
Pascal took bad beatings in a pair of title attempts against “Krusher” Kovalev in 2015 and 2016. He has lost three of his last five fights, including a majority decision setback to Montreal-based Colombian Eleider Alvarez in June.
Getting back in the title picture looks unlikely, so it seems a good time to retire.
“The important thing is to have no regrets,” said Pascal’s trainer Stephan Larouche. “Jean is really motivated for this fight.
“If everything worked on merit, this fight would be in Montreal, but boxing rarely works on merit. Jean will fight as well as he can. He’ll do his best. It’s rare that an athlete can go out as a winner. If that’s how it turns out, it’s even better. I admire that. I’m one who likes it when boxers stop at the right time.”
Pascal said one of the things he is most proud of is inspiring youngsters to take up the sport, especially in the Haitian community. But what he will do after boxing is up in the air.
“All good things come to an end,” he said. “My boxing career is ending but I’m starting a new stage on my life.”