Friday, May 20, 2011

Hopkins faces Pascal and history in Montreal

By JE Grant

Philadelphia’s Bernard Hopkins seeks to not only overcome light-heavyweight champion Canadian Jean Pascal in Montreal Saturday night but also Pascal’s friend Father Time.

With a victory Hopkins, 46, will become the oldest man to ever win a title, surpassing George Foreman’s record set in 1994 with his knockout of defending heavyweight champion Michael Moorer.

Most boxing observers once believed that with back-to-back middleweight title losses to Jermain Taylor that the natural downturn had come in the career of a champion who successfully defended his title 20 times.

Though both losses were by close decisions, it was clear, we thought, that the ravages of time and a long career slowly, but inevitably, put him past the elite level.

Instead we were entertained by a comeback that seemed improbable at so many points.

Following Taylor, Hopkins immediately moved to light-heavyweight and promptly out-thought and out-fought a listless title-holder, Antonio Tarver. Another win over a one-time big name Winky Wright at a catch-weight put Hopkins on the road to another title defense run.

Once again, however, a second defense, this time to a real light heavyweight, Hopkins looked old as Joe Calzaghe sped past him. More importantly, Hopkins faded badly down the stretch, something that simply never happened to him.

In Hopkins’ next bout, Kelly Pavlik was supposed to finalize his career by applying big power.  Instead, the craftsman went to work in exposing Pavlik’s less than firm grasp on the finer points of the sweet science.

Hopkins assured himself of at least one more payday.  A tuneup win against underpowered Enrique Ornelas setup his long-awaited rematch with a faded Roy Jones Jr.

The rematch proved disastrous for both fighters. Jones was only a shell of his former self and Hopkins, though winning clearly, fought as if he were underwater. The fight was an embarrassment and appeared to spell the end for Hopkins as a serious contender.

The seemingly faded Hopkins still had one commodity that sells tickets – a big name.

Jean Pasqual, who, despite his clear win against Chad Dawson to gain wide recognition as the legitimate titleholder in the division needed more than a win – he needed that big name.
Other than Dawson, in his only other fight against a member of the boxing elite, Carl Froch, for a super-middleweight belt, was a disappointment as Froch thoroughly dominated him and defended his title.

Of course we know he that in Quebec City last December Pascal got far more of big name Hopkins than he wanted. 

In that fight, Hopkins eschewed the awkward, frustrating style that won fights but led observers to wonder how much fight he really had in him.

Although knocked down twice by Pascal (one knockdown was questionable), Hopkins came on strong in the middle and late rounds to gain an apparent win only to hear the scorecards yield a majority draw. The disappointing verdict did prompt an immediate rematch and gives Hopkins one more chance to set the age record.

PREDICTION: Hopkins decided on an aggressive strategy in the first fight. By pressing, Hopkins exposed the limits of Pascal’s ability. It also exposed Pascal’s one considerable strength – the punching power of a real light heavyweight.  Pascal was unable to make adjustments while Hopkins adapted and applied the lessons from the early rounds.  There is no indication that Pascal has the diversity of skills that Hopkins possesses and can call on. Although not slow, Pascal does not punch well in combination. He also faded after the middle rounds against an opponent who was not throwing thunderous punches. Not a good indicator. Hopkins will eventually get old, for real, and not be able to reach into his vast toolbox to find a solution.  Unfortunately for Pascal, Hopkins found the tool in December and he will put it to work from the opening bell.  Bernard will not suddenly find power; so don’t expect Pascal to crash to the canvas. Instead, Hopkins will methodically win round after round, leaving little doubt.

Hopkins wins by clear 12 round decision.


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10:33 PM  
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7:25 PM  

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