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Pascal twitter campaign overshawdows Beterbiev-Cloud light heavywight bout

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MONTREAL - A Twitter spat involving local boxing stars Jean Pascal and Adonis Stevenson hogged the attention Thursday even as promoters announced a bout between Montreal-based Russian Artur Beterbiev and American veteran Tavoris Cloud.

Former World Boxing Council light heavyweight champion Pascal has spent most of the past week on social media hounding current WBC champ Stevenson for a showdown.

One Tweet had a picture of Stevenson with Donald Duck lips that asked "Why are you ducking me." Another had Pascal in a Superman shirt, a dig at Stevenson's ring nickname.

So far, Stevenson has not answered back publicly to the dozens of messages directed his way.

"Pascal is having fun," promoter Yvon Michel said. "He's trying to promote himself for an eventual fight with Adonis, which is OK.

"But you see that it doesn't bother Adonis at all. He doesn't respond. He knows what he's doing and where he's going."

As entertaining as Pascal's trash-tweeting has been, it underlines the fact that both lost out on the fights they were supposed to have, leaving them idle for now.

And it stems from Pascal's recent split with Michel's company GYM, which led to him being dropped as Cloud's opponent at a Sept. 27 fight card at the Bell Centre in favour of Beterbiev.

Pascal, coming off a clear win over another Montreal light heavyweight, Lucian Bute, opted to become his own promoter, partly due to a dispute with Michel over who would pay $50,000 in training expenses.

So former world amateur champion Beterbiev (5-0) will have a turn in the spotlight against 32-year-old Cloud (24-2), who has lost two in a row: a 12-round decision to Bernard Hopkins in March, 2013 and a seven-round pounding from Stevenson last September.

Having turned pro later than usual, the 29-year-old Beterbiev is being fast-tracked into position for a title bout. Even with Cloud on the downside of his career, a win against the Tallahassee, Fla., native would be a big step forward.

"It's the grand launch for him," said Michel. "If he wins, with style, he'll be mentioned as a future world champion.

"Right now, he is a fighter with a lot of potential, with a good amateur reputation. A win against Cloud will make him a real contender."

"I don't consider it a risk because I'm only looking for the victory," Beterbiev said through a translator. "I will do what it takes."

The power-punching Stevenson had been counting on a big-money bout with Hopkins, who took Pascal's title away with a cleverly fought, 12-round decision in 2011. But it seems the 49-year-old Hopkins had other plans.

Stevenson passed up a chance to face fellow knockout artist Sergei Kovalev and turned away from the HBO specialty channel in favour of Showtime to meet Hopkins' conditions, only to see the veteran change his mind and agree to fight Kovalev on HBO.

That left 37-year-old Stevenson in limbo, and prompted criticism in the boxing media that he had ducked Kovalev and that he was wasting the excitement he generated when he knocked out Chad Dawson in one round to claim the title on June 8, 2013.

Since then, instead of facing top opponents, he has posted wins over Cloud, a mandatory defence against Englishman Tony Bellew, and a surprisingly difficult decision over Andrzej Fonfara.

Michel dismissed the critics and said Stevenson is still the linear light heavyweight champion and has plenty of options.

"You will see within a year where we're going and that we made the right move," said Michel. "He's going to be fighting in the fall (against an as-yet unnamed opponent) and he has a very busy 2015 lining up.

"Jean Pascal is one of the targets. The winner of Kovalev-Hopkins is another. He's still going to fight only twice this year, as we originally planned. And the future looks good."

Still, it leaves what was supposed to be a top fight card on Sept. 27 looking thin. The Bell Centre will be scaled back to a 4,000-seat bowl.

Beterbiev and Cloud will fight 12 rounds for the continental NABA title while the co-feature has Montreal lightweight Dierry Jean (26-1) defending his NABF title against Mexican Daniel Ruiz.

Welterweight Antonin Decarie (30-2) of Laval, Que., whose only losses were in world title bouts in his opponents' home towns, welterweight Kevin Bizier of St-Emile, Que., and promising local light welterweights Junior Ulysse (3-0) and Eric Bazinian (5-0) are also on the card, as is light middleweight Steven Butler (4-0).

Co-promoter Camille Estephan of Eye of the Tiger Management said his group as well as GYM and InterBox pooled their fighters in order to have as good a card as possible despite the lack of a big name headliner.

"It's been a roller coaster year for the boxing industry," said Estephan. "That was one of the motivations to do the card together. . . to make up for those mishaps."

Neither Pascal nor Stevenson turned up at the news conference, so there was no face-to-face meeting to bring the rivalry to boil. But Pascal was still sending tweets, including one that read: "I've heard that @AdonisSuperman is on a special program they call 'witness protection' that's why he is hiding."

It drew a smile from former WBO middleweight champion Otis Grant, a neutral observer.

"Jean is not a stupid kid," said Grant. "The image he portrays to the media is not the person he is one on one.

"But he just shot himself in the foot. He was supposed to be fighting Cloud. He just fought Bute and made a couple of million dollars, then he asked these guys for $50,000 in training expenses and they said no. So now he's out of a fight. They gave it to Beterbiev and now he might beat Cloud and then we'll see what happens. The plot thickens."

Grant likes the idea of a Pascal-Stevenson showdown, however.

"I saw them fight at nationals one year and it was very close," he said. "Jean has a good chin, so if he could get by Stevenson's power and wear him down, it would be a good fight."

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