MONTREAL - When Jean Pascal returns to the boxing ring for the first time in 19 months, the former world champ will not immediately get a title bout.
The Haitian-Canadian light-heavyweight (26-2-1, 16 KOs) will square off against Poland's Aleksy Kuziemski (23-4-0, 7 KOs) on Dec. 14 at the Bell Centre in his hometown of Montreal.
Successive injuries have kept Pascal out of the ring since May 2011 — lost his title to Bernard Hopkins in that very same arena.
An injury to his shoulder has since cancelled a fight against Ismayl Sillakh and a hand injury scrubbed a scheduled August title bout against Tavoris Cloud.
The 30-year-old Pascal will now get a chance to rediscover his form by facing Kuziemski, according to promoter Yvon Michel.
"It would have been a mistake to bring Jean back into the action immediately against Cloud," Michel told a news conference.
"Because it's all good and well to try, in the gym, to mimic the conditions that might pop up in a fight... But when it's been a while, there's nervousness and hesitation, you can struggle to find your bearings and at the end of the day it takes a certain while to get back 100 per cent into your groove."
Michel said Pascal would not have been able to lose a few rounds early in the fight while he works through the cobwebs against boxer like Cloud.
His trainer, Marc Ramsay, concurred. He said the fighter's entourage would always have preferred a transition fight but Jean was adamant, before his injury last summer, about taking on a top-notch opponent like Cloud. He said he was pleased with the latest scheduling choice.
"In a fight like this one you can make some mistakes and it's not fatal," Ramsay said of Kuziemski.
"You can recognize your mistake, retreat, regroup and resume."
The high-profile bout will come later. Pascal's entourage said it presently has two offers — one for a fight against IBF champ Cloud (24-0-0, 19 KOs) on the Showtime Network next February, and another one against WBC champ Chad Dawson (31-2-0, 17 KOs) in March.
"If I had to choose I'd go with Cloud," Pascal said.
"When I last faced Dawson I had a pretty good advantage over him. Measuring myself against Cloud would therefore be interesting for me."
When he faced Dawson in 2010, Pascal won by a technical decision. The fight was stopped because of cuts over Dawson's eye, although some fight analysts said Dawson was getting tougher as the fight wore on.
Pascal now says he has a few things to prove.
"There are people who think my pause was too long, that I'm finished. My motivation is to prove that I'm still the same boxer," he said.
"I wouldn't be surprised if I see a little rust on Dec. 14. After 17 months of inactivity you can't expect miracles. But I will do everything in my power during training to sharpen my reflexes."
Michel said Jean had been struggling with his sparring partners for months, although more recently he's begun making them look bad in the ring.
Ramsay said Jean can't take Kuziemski for granted and will need to be less impulsive in the ring than he was against Hopkins in his last fight.
"If he wants to look good he'll need to be very methodical," Ramsay said.