MONTREAL - Promoters for a May 25 clash between Lucian Bute and Jean Pascal are calling it the biggest fight between two Canadians in boxing history.
They may be right if they succeed in packing more than 20,000 fans into the Bell Centre to see two former world champions with contrasting styles and personalities settle a long standing debate over which is the better fighter.
"We're still in our prime and people want to see this fight, so the right time is now," Pascal (27-2-1) said Tuesday at a news conference that drew a crowd of media and a few hundred fight fans.
"We came up together here in parallel," said Bute (31-1). "We're both known here and around the world.
"It will be a spectacular fight."
Both leave this week for separate training camps, with Bute and trainer Stephan Larouche headed for West Palm Beach, Fla., and Pascal and trainer Marc Ramsay off to Las Vegas.
It is not for any title, although there is talk of having a meaningless WBC silver belt involved, but it is a chance for Montreal's best-known fighters and the city's two top promoters go at it for bragging rights and an unannounced pile of cash.
Bute fights for InterBox, headed by Jean Bedard, while Pascal is with Groupe Yvon Michel, led by the former Canadian Olympic team coach.
Their fighters have faced one another before, but never was it two of this calibre.
The light-heavyweight bout will be broadcast by U.S. cable channel HBO in a split-venue show with a super-middleweight title fight in London between Englishman Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler of Denmark.
HBO had its representative Kery Davis at the news conference along with colour commentator Roy Jones Jr., perhaps the most gifted boxer of his generation.
Pascal announced that Jones, his idol in his adolescence, will be part of his training team to prepare for the Bute fight.
"He made it known he was a big fan of mine so I really wanted to help him," said Jones. "He called me (Monday) and said 'I've got a press conference, can you come?'
"I want to help him learn how to carry himself the full 12 rounds. That's the only problem I see."
Neither fighter was born in Canada. Pascal, 30, came to Canada with his mother from Haiti when he was four. Bute, 33, moved to Montreal from Romania to turn pro in 2003 and got his Canadian citizenship last year.
Pascal is a sharp dresser and a bit of a show-off who relishes trash talk. That he showed up at the Bell Centre with a bodyguard was classic Pascal showmanship.
Bute is low-key, rarely saying anything controversial. He made a lot of fans in Quebec by learning to speak fluent French.
In the ring, the five-foot-11 Pascal is all athleticism and power, while the more cerebral, left-handed, six-foot-two Bute stalks his opponents and then tries to finish them a lethal uppercut.
But Pascal had no verbal jabs for Bute at their joint news conference.
"I have nothing against Bute," said Pascal. "He's a nice guy.
"But at the end of the day, I need to do my job, and that's to beat him up on May 25."
Bute is ready to tune out any trash talk.
He took inspiration from UFC champion Georges St-Pierre, who kept quiet through opponent Nick Diaz's threats and insults and then thrashed him in the Octagon on March 16.
"Georges stayed calm, quiet, and you saw on fight night, he gave him a lesson," said Bute. "That's an example for me to follow."
Bute will likely have an edge in fan support, but he may be the one with more on the line.
The former IBF super middleweight champion's career had a huge setback in May when he was pounded in five rounds by Froch in England. He wasn't convincing in a bounce-back win in November with modest opponent Denis Grachev either. Another one-sided loss may put his career in doubt.
Pascal easily won a warmup bout in December after a 19-month layoff following his bitter loss to by decision to veteran Bernard Hopkins in 2011.
Bute has a rematch with Froch planned for the fall, but needs to beat Pascal to rebuild his name and his confidence.
Pascal begged out of a title fight with (Bad) Chad Dawson to fight Bute.
With bigger money than any title fight on the line, neither wanted to put their duel off in case one got hurt. Pascal has a history of shoulder trouble.
Capacity for the bout is just under 22,000 and will bring in more than $4 million if it sells out. Then there's pay per view money.
Bute will move up from super-middleweight (168 pounds) to Pascal's division at light heavyweight (175 pounds), and made full dope testing a condition for taking the bout.
Pascal gets to enter the ring last, like a champion.
They are calling the fight the "first chapter," so a rematch is likely no matter who wins.