By JE Grant
Ageless wonder Bernard Hopkins delivered his best performance in years against reigning light-heavyweight champion Jean Pascal Saturday night in Quebec City only to be denied the title by a puzzling draw.
The 45-year-old Hopkins did make the scoring difficult by twice hitting the deck. One of those official knockdowns, toward the end of round one, was dubious at best. He was clearly cuffed behind the head and the trip to the canvas should have been ruled a result of an illegal punch and nullified. Instead, it became the deciding factor in the scoring.
Hopkins was more active and inclined to take the lead in any fight since his stoppage of Oscar De La Hoya in 2004. Many were expecting another night of stalling and grappling as was the case in his horrible showing against long-time rival Roy Jones. In that bout it appeared father time had finally made his appearance as both fighters participated only in spurts and fought in slow motion --- something expected of a pair of 40-somethings. Against Pascal, Hopkins seemed rejuvenated.
Pascal offered little except the knockdowns. His work output was far below Hopkins’ – odd given his youth and prior propensity to pour out the punches – and he never took over control of the fight. His chin, always a strong suit, was never really tested but Hopkins’ body punching clearly had an impact on his willingness to mix on the inside.
It was Hopkins fight down the stretch and he was pulling away at the final bell.
The announcement of the majority draw hinged completely on the knockdowns. Without them, Hopkins would have been unanimous winner.
JEBoxing scored the bout 114-112 (8 rounds to 4) with two point rounds going to Pascal in each of the knockdown rounds.
For Pascal, it seems that only an immediate rematch can restore the luster of his title and a potential place in the running for big name matches. Of course Chad Dawson holds a rematch card and may in fact bounce back from his lackluster performance in their first match.