The wise vet, who’s forgotten more tricks of the trade than 99% of professionals have picked up, takes on the younger gun. The younger gun is the heavier fisted hitter who is coming in to cement his rep…by denting the chin of the wise vet, who has never been stopped.
On Saturday night in Atlantic City, 43 ½-year-old Bernard Hopkins attempts to defy the inevitability of aging, and delay the imminence of retirement, by using each and every trick in his bulging bag to confound the unbeaten slugger on the verge of superstardom, Kelly Pavlik, and force-feed him a taste of losing. Lately, with appearances in ESPN The Magazine, and E:60, Pavlik has been tasting the bittersweet fruit of his labors; he’s hounded by press now, and that hype is making it possible to gross the largest purse of his career. But the relentlessness of queries and glad-handlers and well wishers and people looking to borrow a few grand to start that backyard ethanol factory, or emu farm, that can also can annoy a soft-spoken kid with a small-town personality that has by necessity opened up to accommodate the enquiries of fans and media members.
On paper, and to the oddsmakers, the result in AC looks to be fairly clear. The wise vet will fall to the younger gun. Attrition and entropy will announce themselves, cruelly, and Pavlik will announce himself, violently, as the next generation American fight figure that boxing NEEDS to cultivate in order to stop fan seepage into MMA. But the fight needs to play out. The punches need to be traded, and the chins tested, instead of being theorized about.
Could Hopkins (48-5-1, 32 KOs, just two stoppages in his last ten outings) catch Pavlik (34-0, 30 KOs) with an unseen counter, drop the Ghost and then employ his masterful ring generalship to snag enough rounds to secure an upset win? Or could Pavlik come roaring out of his corner at Boardwalk Hall with a desire to justify all that press, and all those hopes and dreams of his town, a worn-out journeyman of a burg, Youngstown, and blast Hopkins with an early KO flurry? Or maybe you see the younger man simply using his youth to great effect, and throwing 80 punches per round, to Hopkins’ 25, with the end result being a comfortable Pavlik decision? Then again, maybe this will be the crowning glory to Hopkins’ career. Maybe this test, against a young American Caucasian boxer, who has been embraced by the media which is overrepresented by Caucasians, will imbue him with the energy and power he showed when he was 26, fighting Steve Langley on the Tyson/Ruddock I undercard in Vegas. His legacy could still use a little more buffing, and handing—OK, let’s get it out on the table, The Great White Hope Of Youngstown–his first loss would make his Hall of Fame plaque pop out that much more. Whenever it is that he chooses to hang them up.
How do you see this playing out, TSS Universe? Could the wise vet channel Charles, Walcott, the original Sugar Ray and Archie Moore? Or will Hopkins get worked over Saturday, wake up Sunday morning and ponder the old SRR line, ““You always say 'I'll quit when I start to slide', and then one morning you wake up and realize you've done slid.” Or, maybe you think the younger gun will convince the wise vet, with the savage certainty that only fist missiles can deliver, that it is finally time to give in, and embrace the inevitable, and let the next generation rise up. Weigh in, fight fans.