MONTREAL - The hype machine has started up again for the Lucian Bute-Jean Pascal showdown.
The bout between two Montreal-based former world champions that was supposed to happen on May 25 has been rescheduled for Jan. 18 at what promises to be a sold-out Bell Centre. Promoter Yvon Michel said 15,000 tickets are already sold in the 21,000-seat arena.
The two fighters were hauled out Thursday for a news conference that was very much like one they held last spring, before Bute's hand injury forced the multimillion-dollar bout to be postponed.
"It's a repeat, but I hope this time is the good one," said Pascal (28-2-1), the former World Boxing Council light heavyweight champ who turned 31 on Monday.
"It will probably be a better fight than the first one would have been because he's going to he healthy and I'll be fully healthy as well. So it will be two warriors. This fight is not about money, it's about pride."
There will be a lot of money involved, as each will make at least $2 million for a bout that will give the winner local bragging rights and seriously jeopardize the loser's career. It will be televised on HBO.
Doubts linger over Bute's ability to take a punch after the thrashing he endured in May 2012 in England when he lost his International Boxing Federation super-middleweight title to Carl Froch.
The Romanian-born left-hander was unconvincing in his only bout since then, a close, 12-round decision over Denis Grachev last November.
Bute (31-1) was forced to the sidelines with a nagging left hand injury sufered in training. He had a bone chip removed, and said the hand is fully healed.
Pascal suspects the hand was only one reason for the postponement. He believes Bute was stunned by a punch in sparring and that the doubts about his head as well as the hand caused him to put the fight off.
Bute's trainer Stephan Larouche said his fighter has never felt better.
"He's been having pain in his left hand for years and it became worse," said Larouche. "A little piece of bone was detached.
"They took it out, so now there's no more conflict between the ligament and the tendon and that piece of bone, so it can only be better."
He said Bute has dealt with the psychological effects of the loss to Froch and is ready to get his career back on track.
"It is in the past," he said. "He accepted it. He went through it. He cried. He stayed alone. He realized who his real friends are. It was like a sports depression. Then you come back slowly and you ask yourself 'Why am I doing this and who's my friend now and how are we going to do it.'"
The 33-year-old Bute normally holds training camp in Florida, but he will stay home this time. Larouche wants him to suffer — to do his running in the winter cold and put up with the snow in order to toughen him and keep him mentally sharp.
Larouche is convinced that Bute can win by using his jab and staying in control while the free-swinging Pascal punches himself out. Veteran Bernard Hopkins used much the same strategy to take Pascal's title away in 2011.
Pascal plans to train in Las Vegas under former champion Roy Jones Jr., as he did before the fight was postponed.
He has some ring rust to deal with. After his loss to Hopkins, he fought only once in 2012 and had only one bout this year, stopping veteran George Blades in a tune-up on Sept. 28.
Events of the past year have left Pascal in nasty mood.
He passed up a chance to face Glen Dawson for the WBC title, only to see his fight with Bute postponed. His Groupe Yvon Michel stablemate Adonis Stevenson then knocked out Dawson for the title and has now taken over as the company's star boxer.
"Jean was left with nothing," said Michel. "That's why he's bitter.
"That's why he's not a happy guy these days. He would have preferred to hide somewhere until he gets the call the morning of the of the fight. But now we have to go all over again."
Pascal spent his turn at the microphone blasting the media for allegedly making false reports about him and suggesting local fans are now pulling for Bute to win.
"During the summer, the media was trying to make me look bad once again, saying that Bute's the good guy and I'm the bad guy and stuff like that," he said. "But at the end of the day, I know I'm going to win.
"So if a lot of people support Bute, a lot of people are going to be so sad on Jan. 18."
Michel said the undercard won't be announced until after Stevenson's title defence against Englishman Tony Bellew on Nov. 30 in Quebec City.
That bout has an excellent undercard, with Russian Sergey Kovalev defending his WBO light heavyweight title against Ismayl Sillakh of Ukraine in the co-feature. Quebec City' welterweight Kevin Bizier faces Montreal-based Romanian Ionut (JoJo) Dan and Montreal middleweight David Lemieux faces hard-hitting Colombian Jose Miguel Torres.