Jean Pascal will have to wait at least one more month for his chance to return to the title picture.
The former lineal and WBC light heavyweight champion has been struck with Covid and its accompanying symptoms, thus forced to postpone his planned IBF title eliminator versus Germany’s Michael Eifert. The bout was due to take place on February 9 at Place Bell in Pascal’s hometown of Laval, Canada but is now pushed to at least March.
“Late [Thursday] night, we were contacted by Jean Pascal, who got sick over New Year's weekend,” Yvon Michel, head of GYM Promotions and lead co-promoter for the event, revealed on Friday. “He informed us that, unfortunately, he has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.
“His symptoms are too severe for him to continue training for his IBF title elimination fight against the German Michael Eifert, scheduled for Place Bell on February 9.”
A specific date was not confirmed, beyond a general time frame of the fight now taking place closer to early spring.
Pascal-Eifert was previously ordered by the IBF on October 1. A deal was reached between the two camps by month’s end, just one day before the IBF was prepared to call a purse bid hearing. Originally targeted plans called for the eliminator to potentially take place mid-January in Toronto before moving to the February 9 date in Pascal’s adopted hometown, to where he relocated from Haiti.
The opportunity came about for Pascal after scoring a ten-round win over previously unbeaten mandatory challenger Meng Fanlong on May 20 in Plant City, Florida. The guaranteed title shot for Fanlong was not transferrable, leaving Pascal to wait on the IBF to order a final eliminator which was originally due to come versus England’s Joshua Buatsi.
Pascal-Buatsi made its way to an August 30 purse bid hearing, won by Hall of Fame promoter Lou DiBella with a bid of $975,000 to edge out Matchroom Boxing ($875,000), Buatsi’s career-long promoter.
Buatsi was removed from the equation after his side missed two separate deadlines to return a signed contract. The development led to Eifert (11-1, 4KOs) entering the mix, with Pascal’s team—led by longtime advisor Greg Leon and also assisted by DiBella, Leon’s longtime friend and former mentor—and Blanko Sports—headed by Benedikt Poelchau—reaching an agreement.
Upon the rescheduled date, Eifert will make his North America debut. The biggest fight of his career also marks his first pro appearance outside of his native Germany, entering the title eliminator on the heels of a five-fight win streak.
The upcoming clash represents a significant leap in competition as he moves within one win of challenging for his first major title.
Pascal, 40, previously held the WBC light heavyweight title following June 2009 points win over unbeaten countryman Adrian Diaconu. Four successful defenses followed, including an August 2010 technical decision win over Chad Dawson to establish championship lineage. His reign ended in a points loss to Hall of Fame two-division champion Bernard Hopkins in their May 2011 rematch in Montreal, five months after fighting to a draw in Quebec City.
A return to the title stage saw Pascal rally to score three knockdowns of then-unbeaten Marcus Browne en route to a technical decision win in August 2019 on the road In Brooklyn. Pascal won a secondary version of the WBA light heavyweight title after three prior failed bids at the full title held by Sergey Kovalev (twice) and Dmitry Bivol.
The win over Browne was followed up by a thrilling split decision win over Jack in their December 2019 clash in Atlanta that saw both fighters hit the canvas. The two were due to meet again last June 6 in Miami Gardens, Florida, only for Pascal to test positive for multiple banned substances through testing contracted by VADA. Pascal has since proven to be a clean fighter and still a top player at light heavyweight.
All that is needed now is a full recovery and confirmation of a new fight date.
“DBE President and co-promoter of the event Lou DiBella has contacted Benedikt Poelchau, President of Blanko sports, promoter of Eifert, as well as the IBF to inform them of the situation,” noted Michel. “It was agreed that the fight and the entire gala would be postponed to a later date to be determined in March.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox