Fighters: Bernard “The Executioner/B-Hop” Hopkins (51-5-2 w/32 KO) of Philadelphia, PA vs. Jean Pascal (28-1 16 KO) of Laval, Quebec, Canada by way of Haiti
Where: Pepsi Coliseum in Quebec City Canada
When: Saturday December 18, 2010 at 10:00pm
TV: Showtime Championship Boxing
Title: For Pascal’s Ring Magazine and WBC Light Heavyweight Titles
By Gary Purfield
Folks, once again Bernard Hopkins will look to defy the odds and father time by beating a young talent. The forty five year old shore fire hall of famer will continue his defiance of time again Saturday night when he takes on the twenty eight year old light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal in the champ’s backyard of Quebec City, Canada.
Who can believe it has been more than nine years since Hopkins was first referred to as past his prime and about to get crushed by the young Puerto Rican superstar Felix Trinidad. Hopkins went on to thoroughly dominate Tito in route to a 12th round TKO victory. Then after several more years as the middleweight king Hopkins lost two close and controversial fights to Jermain Taylor and again it looked like it was time for him to be put out to pasture. Bernard’s response, to hire Mackie Shilstone (famed strength and conditioning guru) to move up fifteen pounds and challenge for the light heavy weight title against Antonio Tarver. Yeah, the guy that had just knocked the once invincible Roy Jones out cold in the second round and then won the rematch in a decision. All Bernard did was absolutely dominate Tarver to a unanimous decision.
Then two years ago at forty three years of age Bernard would again challenge his age and a young knockout artist. This time the current middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik who was knocking everyone in his way out cold. This had to be the fight where age finally got the executioner with Pavlik serving up the guillotine. Before the fight Bernard said he would win easy, and he showed he knew what he was talking about by dominating Pavlik every round of the fight.
Below I break down several key areas to preview and predict Saturday’s light heavy showdown in Canada.
Boxing ability: While Pascal is a good boxer, the clear edge here goes to Hopkins. He has been the master, the general, and guru of the sweet science for more than fifteen years. No one knows how to take away his opponents strengths and make you fight his fight like Hopkins. What he has lost physically with age he has gained in wisdom. He uses his experience and brains to develop the right plan and then execute.
Physical: At this point of Bernard’s life he is not the Adonis body but is still strong and knows how to use old school tricks to impose himself on the opponent. Pascal should carry the advantage here being seventeen years younger. Pascal is a strong and powerful fighter with an intense dedication to strength and conditioning. While Bernard has shown an ability to fight in spurts as he ages to conserve energy Pascal has the endurance to fight hard for into the late rounds as he did against Chad Dawson. Still, don’t underestimate Hopkins ability to use every tool including in fighting, “accidental” elbows, and whatever else it takes to rough up and frustrate the young champ.
Power: Again the younger Pascal should have the edge here although he is not necessarily a power puncher. Bernard who earned his nickname of the executioner in his younger days knocking out all comers has become more a boxer in his twilight years. Neither guy is likely to stop this fight with one punch.
Speed: Pascal will certainly be the more athletic speedier fighter in the ring Saturday. As always there is a but, Hopkins can rob you of your speed advantage with timing and skill. He will circle, use angles, move inside, and position his hands to take away your room to operate. For Pascal’s speed to matter he has to be mentally prepared for all of Bernard’s tricks which will not be easy to outsmart the Jedi Master and his version of Yoda in trainer Nazim Richardson.
Defense: Hopkins has always been a master of defense in the ring for all the reasons mentioned above. His focus on defense can be so strong it leads to methodical fights where he wins but bores the fans. Bernard frankly, could not care. He knows it is his forty five year old head in that ring Saturday that will take punishment if he is not defensive minded. To explain Hopkins defensive abilities in detail would require a separate article. Just know he is hard to hit. Pascal’s defense largely is based on his above average speed and reflexes along with good in and out movement.
Chin: Neither fighter has ever been stopped or even really wobbled. Throw in that neither fighter is a one punch knockout artist and both should have chins that will be just fine Saturday night. Of course that is assuming Bernard did not finally start acting his age.
Experience: One more obvious category goes to the Philly native. Pascal recently gained solid experience in a loss to Carl Froch, two wins over Adrian Diaconu, and his biggest win over Chad Dawson. Hopkins has been fighting at a championship level for over fifteen years. Bernard has fought most of the best fighters of his era around his weight, had a record twenty straight defenses of the middleweight title, and has engaged in numerous high profile bouts against Roy Jones, Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya, Antonio Tarver, and Kelly Pavlik amongst others.
Wear and Tear: Pascal certainly has fewer miles on him and should be better off in a long fight. Bernard’s age and number of fights certainly means he has taken more punishment over time. Bernard is as well off as a fighter can be at forty five years of age who has engaged in fifty eight fights. He lives a self described Spartan life style of always being in the gym and in shape along with eating a very clean nutritious diet. In addition due to his great defense he is not hit much in fights, has never been knocked out, and really has never taken any beating even in his losses.
Intangibles: This fight has several intangibles such as how will the young Pascal react to fighting a legend on a big stage or will Pascal’s speed be enough to handle Bernard’s skill. But one matters above all else. Is Bernard Hopkins still able to fight at the elite level at forty five years of age. Will his body allow him to implore the plan that will be crafted by his mind?
Keys to Victory
- Use youthful endurance to make Hopkins work three minutes of every round for twelve rounds. Force the forty five year old to fight a pace that he cannot maintain.
- Come in with a plan A, B, and C. Assume Hopkins is going to take away at least one or two of your best assets and be prepared to adjust your game plan. Those who come in with one tool in the box quickly find themselves on empty when facing Hopkins.
- Do not be overly aggressive. Hopkins will use any mistakes such as lunging against you and make you pay with precise counter punching.
- Force a slow pace to preserve energy. The amazing accomplishments of Hopkins late in his career cannot be denied but neither can the fact that at this age he does not want to engage in an up-tempo battle with the young champ.
- Move to his right constantly taking Pascal out of rhythm and unable to land his fast straight right hand (much like Hopkins did against Pavlik). When Chad Dawson fought Pascal he was successful when he controlled ring and did not allow Pascal to dictate the fight but Dawson was not able to be consistent. Once Hopkins gets into a groove controlling the fight he has no such issues with consistent dominance.
- Pascal likes to attack and at time does so recklessly. Lure the champ into attacking and then counter his mistakes.
Prediction: I am assuming that Bernard is still at least as functional as he was when he fought Kelly Pavlik. I am assuming this because I do not believe Hopkins is the type to fight beyond when he is physically capable like so many fighters do. He is intelligent enough to know when to say when. With that in mind Hopkins superior ring intelligence will allow him to thoroughly out box the Canadian in his hometown. Pascal will have a few moments where his speed and persistent effort will get to the future hall of famer but Bernard’s skills will frustrate Pascal and bank the majority of the early and middle rounds. Pascal will have more in the tank late and take the final rounds but by then it will be too late and Hopkins is too great a defensive master to get knocked out late by the young champ. Bernard Hopkins takes the Light Heavyweight title by split decision (with one judge giving the fight to Pascal on a largely hometown decision) becoming the oldest fighter to win a major championship.
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