Before the main event kicked off, Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City on Saturday evening was jammed to the rafters with Kelly Pavlik fans, rabid Youngstowners who saw in the Ghost everything they once were or hoped to be. At the end of the 12 rounds of action, the joint was packed with admirers, if not fans, of Bernard Hopkins. The professor of pugilism Hopkins gave the much hyped Pavlik a violent lesson in the art of prizefighting, and earned—lord, did he earn it, as he moved, and stuck, and slipped with the energy of a man half his age—a unanimous decision. After 12 rounds of teaching, he was barely breathing hard. The 11,000 fans in the hall, 90% Pavlik rooters, didn't dare throw a derisive chant at Hopkins, or boo the decision. The 43 1/2 year old former middleweight champion probably vaulted himself to the top of the pound for pound pile–sorry PacMan–and even the most partisan Pavlik fanatic had to admit that his brand of pugilism has to be appreciated, even if that brand just handed your guy a harsh defeat that will not be easy to shrug off.
The cards read: 119-106, 118-108, 117-109. There was zero drama as Michael Buffer got ready to offer the verdict, as everyone in the building knew there'd be a Bowe/Golota style riot if the judges took it from Bernard. TSS gave just one round, the tenth, to the loser Pavlik, who went to a hospital afterwards to get a good going over.
The Philadelphia native Hopkins, age 43 1/2–yes, I know I already wrote that, but it bears repeating, because it's beyond crazy how much energy Hopkins had– weighed 170 pounds on Friday, while Pavlik, the 26-year-old Ohioan, weighed 169. Pavlik brought a 34-0 (30 KOs) mark into the ring with him, while Hopkins’ record stood at 48-5-1 (32 KOs).
The boos from the Youngstowners jammed to the roof rained down as Hopkin, a mask o' death covering his mug, gave a throat slitting gesture. Give him an A for showmanship. Would he get an A for his in-ring effort, as well, watchers wondered as they counted down to the 170 pound, non title attraction.
ROUND BY ROUND
In the 12th round, Hopkins heard a B Hop chant, well deserved, as he ripped Pavlik with a mega combo. The Ohioan had no answer.
In the 11th, Hopkins was off his stool early, ready to toss. He grabbed and did some work inside to make the round close.
In the 10th, Pavlik didn’t press like a man who needed a KO. Then he landed his best punch, a right hand. It was his best round, as Hopkins either took some time off or his tank was running close to ‘E.’
In the ninth, a cut formed on Pavlik’s left eye. The ref took a point from Hopkins for holding and hitting. Bernard was less busy but still active.
In the eighth, the ref warned Kelly for hitting behind the head. The ref should’ve warned him for not being busy enough. He ate left and rights, and hooks especially were thudding against his head.
In the seventh, Hopkins led and countered well. The joint jumped and yelled B Hop when Hopkins ripped off combos in the center of the ring, and Pavlik failed to answer.
In the sixth, Kelly landed a mean right to the side. Hopkins held more than before, but he still hit with a heavy right, and then again. The crowd awwwed. Hopkins slammed home a right at the close of the round. Which guy is in his 40s and which guy in his 30s?
In the fifth, Youngstown tried to will Pavlik to the win. Then a “B Hop, B Hop” chant started up. The vet was so canny, so slick, and it was more of the same. Will he pull out a plan B, we wondered?
In the fourth, Bernard’s head and torso and foot movement had Pavlik confused.
In the third, Hopkins had his hands cooking. The distance closed, though, and we wondered if Hopkins could go the whole route. Would Pavlik get untracked? Was the moment too much for him?
In the second, Hopkins nailed Pavlik with a left hook that had his legs wobbly and he saw that, and he followed up as the crowd roared.
In the first, Hopkins’ sharp hooks and quick rights were effective. Pavlik warmed up at the end of the round, but the oldster got out to a solid start.
After, Hopkins said he'd like to get the Jones/Calzaghe winner, with a preference for Jones. He also spoke to Pavlik in the ring for a long spell. “I was a fan of yours before and I'm a fan now,” the ageless one told him. “You need to get a little more slickness, listen to your coach and bend your knees more. Don't let this get you down. You're a middleweight champion and middleweight is your destiny.
Hopkins gave some insight into his showing. “Styles make fights. I felt really good tonight. He is a great fighter, but I knew my style and quickness was being underrated. He was very heavy handed and I could feel his power, but he never hurt me because I made sure he never hit me flush. I didn't want to get hit flush.
Hopkins talked about his efforts to score a stop. “I wanted to stop him because they have been saying I've been playing it safe because of my age. So tonight I wanted to pick it up. I wanted to step it up, and now everyone I fight, I'm going to go for the knockout. But Pavlik is tough. He's a great champion.
And what's next? “I would fight Roy (Jones), but I'd also go to England to fight Calzaghe. I'd fight either one of those guys, but fighting Roy would be huge, and that's the one that people would want to see.
And how much longer will he grace us with his presence? “I think I am underrated as an athlete. But I am an athlete, and after tonight's fight I'm at peace with God and I'm really happy. I could box for another two to three years.”
In the fight preceding the main event, Steve Luevano (35-1-1, 15 KOs entering) took on Billy Dib (21-0, just 11 KOs coming in) in a tussle that had Luevanos’ WBO featherweight crown on the line. Luevano earned the vacated title with a 11th round KO over Nicky Cook in July 2007. Dib is a bit of a showboat. Would the Californian Luevano knock the smirk out of the Australian? Dibs is a Malignaggi type; he hit the deck in the sixth, but it was ruled a slip. Dibs was in trouble in the 8th, as he wasn’t able to move with as much verve, with Luevano having worked his body to sap his energy. Dib almost went down via a left, but kept his legs, early in the 10th. Dib stayed on his feet, but the judges don’t give points just for that; Luevano took a UD, 116-112, 115-113, 117-111.
Enrique Ornelas met Marco Antonio Rubio, the No. 2 versus No. 1 ranked middleweights according to the WBC, in an eliminator match. These two banged toe to toe, and gave no quarter. What were these guys paid? Double it! Neither guy is a defensive wiz, we’ll say that. Ornelas’ eyes puffed up midway through, but his hands didn’t top pumping. Rubio tried to force a stop with a 15 punch flurry at the end of the 11th round. Ornelas’ left eye blew up in the 12th, as Rubio had that much more left. His left hooks had steam, and his right crosses were still savage. The judges spoke after 12: 115-113 (Ornelas), 115-113 (Rubio), and 116-112 (Rubio). Ornelas did a back flip off the second ropes before the decision. He didn’t repeat the feat after the decision was announced. Rubio threw a bit more (763-716) and landed a bit less (256-264). Ornelas spoke after: “I don't know what to say. I'm really disappointed, but it happens. I'll be ready for the next one. I'm thinking of going up to super middleweight, but I have to talk to Al Hayman and Golden Boy to see what they want. He was pushing the last rounds. I didn't think it was enough to take the fight, but I'm not a judge. I thought I was making him miss his punches, but the judges didn't see it that way.” Rubio weighed in, too: “The first half of the fight, I couldn't get anything going. I couldn't find my rhythm. But in the second half, I felt I was wearing him down and I felt I won the fight in the last two rounds. I felt I was stronger.”
Daniel Jacobs earned KO1 over Tyrone Watson (2:29). The Brooklyner scored a knockdown with a right and then stopped him with a bunch of body shots. He was psyched after the stoppage: “It was a great breakthrough fight for me. It was my first pay-per-view fight, and I got to show the world what to expect from Daniel Jacobs in the future. We are taking the competition level up inch-by-inch, and soon we'll be at the top.”
SPEEDBAG I do not impress all that easily. But I must admit that I asked someone for a hug in the press room. No, not Donputo, I didn’t run across him. I hugged Angelo Dundee, the 87-year-old sage who offered TSS a lowdown on the main event. “I think it’s going to be a very, very diffcult fight,” said Angie, who is still actively training fighters, including Hector Camacho. “Tonight, we’ll find out if Kelly Pavlik is a great fighter. Can he beat Hopkins, who knows every trick in the book?” You all have read Angie’s wisdom a lot on TSS, as Ramond Markarian chats up the living legend periodically. Joe Frazier was also in the press room, and Dundee told TSS that he’d driven to the arena with Smokin’ Joe, age 64. Frazier was wheeled in a wheelchair but he’s still trim, with ample muscles, and still looks like he could hand an impertinent tough a whuppin. Dundee said he and Frazier had always gotten along, even when Ali was torturing Frazier with abuse, calling him an Uncle Tom, and jabbing him for his appearance. “I never got involed,” Dundee said. “What went on was their thing.” Dundee’s book with Burt Sugar is coming out in apperback, and the hardcover is now officially the best-selling hardcover boxing book of aaallllllll time. By the way, I tried to lure Dundee to some political talk but he wouldn’t have it. John McCain may want to know, however, that Dundee has been familiarizing himself with the computer, and email, and the like. Angie rocks.
—Straight up, I must admit, I like covering fights from my sofa. I know it’s good to get out and about, mix and mingle, and I would not have been able to give Dundee a hug in my living room, so I’m happy I made it to AC. But the expense can be considerable. I rented a Zip car, and couldn’t get the Zip car gas card to work, so I ponied up for gas. Then, in AC, I asked a cop if he had a tip on some cheap parking. “Yeah, don’t park at Boardwalk Hall, they’ll ******* rip you off. Park in a casino, like $10, all night.” So I pulled into Trump Plaza. “That’ll be $20 top park,” a lot attendant told me. “How much is it usually?’ I asked. “$5,” he said, “but it’s fight night.” That’s not price gouging, that’s supply and demand, right? And I will take pains not to dime even a dime in a Trump slot if I can help it!
—I sat next to Chuck Betson, who has a radio show called the Betson Connection. The AC resident has lived here for 20 years, and he shook his head when I told him about the parking gouge. He told me about how gouging helped take down the minor league hockey team the (ECHL) Boardwalk Bullies. They’d have a game on a Wednesday night, midwinter chill whipping through your clothes, making you wish you’d not exited your house. The parking lot owners got greedy, and would charge you $20 to park. The result? A night out is just too damned expensive, and the team folded up their tent, and moved to California. Greed, American style!
—Boxing Digest editor in chief Sean Sullivan was kind enough to give me a 50th Anniversary issue of the mag, hot off the press. Pick it up—and you’ll like Hal Henney’s 1961 story called “This Is NOT The Twilight of Boxing.” See, the sport has been on death’s door for almost as long as BD has been in existence!
—Props to Scoop Malinowski, who was the first person I heard talk Hopkins and P4P.
—Been looking for media members who predicted a Hopkins win. Friend of mine, Jenn Holmes, an editor who handles mostly Nascar for ESPN The Magazine, told me before that she thought Hopkins would do it. (I at least said let's not get ahead of ourselves with Pavlik on E:60, so I don't feel crazy stoopid.) So that's one, and she isn't a “boxing expert.” Who else besides her, and some of our super astute readers, called it?
—PS TSS, the best boxing website, gets better on Monday, with a heavyweight addition to the roster.