There were no ifs or ands about Jean Pascal's victory Saturday night on HBO World Championship Boxing. But there was a butt.
It's quite likely that Pascal would have defeated heavily-favored, previously unbeaten "Bad" Chad Dawson even without the accidental head butt that opened a nasty cut over Dawson's right eye midway through the 11th round.
But that was where the fight ended Saturday night at the Bell Centre in Montreal where a solidly-partisan Pascal crowd saw the Haitian-born Canadian win a unanimous technical decision to retain the WBC light heavyweight title.
"This was a step up for me because Chad Dawson is still one of the best fighters in the world,'' said Pascal (26-1, 16 KOS), who won for the fourth time in a row since moving up from super middleweight.
"I knew it would be a tough fight because he's clever, smart with speed and power. But I knew I was faster and more clever and I have better footwork. I knew with my speed and my smarts in the ring that I could beat Chad Dawson."
As the first man to beat Dawson (29-1, 17 KOs), Pascal deserves credit for executing his fight plan and keeping Dawson from establishing any kind of offensive flow for most of the fight.
Pascal's sudden bursts of punches at the end of rounds consistently stole those rounds, and it wasn't until the 11th that Dawson opened up his attack enough to cause Pascal serious concern.
A surge of Dawson hooks and right hands appeared to have Pascal on the verge of going down just moments before the two fighters' heads collided. When referee Mike Griffin separated them, it was Dawson who came away the worse for wear with blood streaming down his face and chest.
The ringside physician took one look at Dawson's deep cut and stopped the fight, sending the outcome to the three judges who scored the fight 108-101, 106-103, 106-103, all in Pascal's favor.
"I'm the best in town and right now I'm one of best in world." -- Jean Pascal
Dawson, a southpaw from New Haven, Conn., was bidding to regain the title he vacated in 2008 and had predicted he would knock out Pascal. He was visibly upset that the fight was stopped just as he was getting his finishing assault in gear.
"I thought I was doing my job,'' Dawson said. "I had him hurt before the head butt. He was holding me and head-butting me all night, but I can't take anything from him. He fought a great technical fight."
Dawson, disliking the sting of his first defeat, said he wants a chance for revenge, the sooner the better.
"I've got a rematch clause, so we're definitely going to do it again,'' he said. "I could fight again in two or three months. I was on the way to stopping him and he knew that."
The main thing Pascal seemed to know Saturday night was that his victory over Dawson -- considered the best of the division -- has legitimized his stature as a light heavyweight title-holder.
Before the fight, Dawson's promoter Gary Shaw had been talking up a potential next fight against unbeaten Canadian light heavyweight Lucian Bute. After the upset victory, Pascal was the one with thoughts of facing Bute in what would be one of the biggest all-Canadian showdowns in boxing history.
"I'm the best in town and right now I'm one of best in world," Pascal said. "If Lucian Bute wants to fight me, he'll have to challenge me. But I'll fight anybody."