He finally made a full-on believer of this writer with his stunningly solid performance at the Pepsi Center in Quebec on Saturday night Bernard Hopkins has to be elevated into the mix as an all time pound for pound great, off the clinic he put on against WBC light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal, on Pascal’s home turf. The old professor of pugilism, who I knew was great but not to the extent that he is, was gunning to be the oldest man to win a legitimate title. He was sent to the canvas in the first and third rounds, but still emerged with a majority draw, and can easily make a case the he deserved to win. He turns 46 on January 15, and was the master of the ring against a talented man who’d never been in with such a specimen, and never will again, unless he gives Hopkins a rematch, as he should.
Hopkins asked the media not to downplay his foe if he won, and he damn well deserves that respect. After a rough early going, he got the old bones and joints lubed, and put Pascal in a trance. Can we question Pascal’s gameplan? Sure; but only minimally, because Hopkins, with his mind games, and with his superior ring generalship, rendered the Canadian the lesser being after the weak start. After, Hopkins said, “The world seen it..I had the guy beat up, he was the guy holding. I’m the older guy, c’mon man. That’s not right, man. I won every round…”
He said the first knockdown wasn’t legit, a “a back of the head shot.
“I dominated the fight..look at his face, look at mine,” he said. How about a rematch? “I’m too dangerous for everybody. This was a sure enough robbery. I took him to school.” He said he got screwed, because he was in Pascal’s territory. “I believe I won, I know I won,” he said.
Pascal said he thought he won, and said Hopkins fought “ugly, dirty.” He said he didn’t get a gift from the judges. “If he want a rematch, anytime,” he said to Jim Gray post-fight.
“I think I did enough to win the fight,” he said, as Gray told him he lost.
Judge Steve Morrow had it 114-112, for Hopkins, while Claude Paquette saw it 113-113, a draw, and Daniel van de Wielle had it 114-114, for a majority draw. But it was the Philly man, who has forgotten more than virtually anyone else has learned, who owned the second three quarters of the scrap. We don’t need any judges to tell us how to view this effort. You bet against, or write off Hopkins at your own peril. To you all, to Hopkins I say: never again. Even if he gloves up in 2016, against the latest young gun, I’m not going to go there. It’s not prudent.
Pascal (26-1 entering; from Haiti, and living in Quebec) weighed 174 3/4, while Hopkins (51-5-1; from Philly) was 174 1/2 pounds on Friday. Hopkins made his way to the ring first. He was booed like he just said that he came from spitting on the grave of Rocket Richard. The vet wore a balaclava, rather than a more ornate executioner mask, as he soaked in the boos, and fueled himself with the derision. To add to the moment, an old crooner belted out “My Way” as he walked behind Bernard to the ring. Michael Griffin reffed, and had a more than respectable outing.
In the first, Pascal circled the huge ring. He wanted Hopkins to lead. A counter left by Pascal and a solid right to the ear both told Hopkins that Pascal wouldn’t just jab and run to a win. A right to the side of the head, as Hopkins crowded him, sent Hopkins to the mat at the end of the round. He grinned as he sat on his stool. This was the first time he’d been down in 16 years.
In the second, Pascal again wanted Hopkins to lead early. Bernard got more comfortable, landing and clinching. But a leaping left by Pascal gave the crowd a buzz to end the round.
In the third, Pascal backed Bernard up at times, and then circled, and waited patiently, and dictated the tempo. A left hook put Hopkins down with 30 seconds left, as he got caught as he was about to counter, in close, once again. Hopkins threw for two seconds after the bell ended the round. Did he not hear the bell in a loud building?
In the fourth, Hopkins ripped hooks and rights to the body. But when he missed, he missed big. He went to the mat again off a right hand. Again, he wasn’t looking, and got clipped. But it was a foul, behind the head, clearly. This round, Pascal worked after the bell.
In the fifth, Hopkins’ hook had zing. Was Pascal respecting the elder too much? Pascal slipped a shot, and delivered a right hand that landed clean at the end of the round, to cap a decent round for each man.
In the sixth, Hopkins’ jab wasn’t a factor early, despite a plea from trainer Naazim Richardson to use it. He landed a right counter which backed up Pascal at 1:50. Pascal made Hopkins miss a good deal, but didn’t make him pay. He needed his corner to offer a Plan B. He was running too much from an “old” man.
In the seventh, Hopkins scored with the left hook. His hand speed was superb, for a twentysomething. Another round for the canny vet. The crowd reacted; they were church-quiet.
In the eighth, a right by Hopkins sent a signal that he would be in charge this round too. A left counter scored, but Hopkins grinned and mugged. Pascal finally awoke from the trance in this round. It was a close round, in a close fight, and the fans sat quiet, contemplating the unexpected.
In the ninth, there was some hot action. Hopkins slammed home a right cross at 1:20. Again, a tight round.
In the tenth, Hopkins scored with left hooks to the body, and lead rights as Pascal edged close. Pascal scored clean but the oldster refused to crumble. Sneaky quick Hopkins shook his head, maintaining he wasn’t bothered by anything. “Keep attacking,” trainer Marc Ramsay told Pascal.
In the 11th, Hopkins was ripping with the meaner shots. Pascal looked weathered. Pascal went down, but from tangled feet with 15 seconds left.
In the 12th, Hopkins came out flurrying. He threw lead rights, came forward, scored with hooks.. 45??? A right counter by Pascal was sharp. They traded, and the house went ballistic. We’d go to the cards.
Hopkins went 171-445, to 105-353 for the hometowner.
SPEEDBAG George Chuvalo, Lucian Bute and Glen Johnson sat and watched live. —Our own Bernie Fernandez scored from press row for Showtime, and saw it 115-112 for Bernard. —Antonio Tarver said he wouldn’t argue with the decision, but he had Pascal winning. Al Bernstein said, “Hopkins won in perception..I think that the decision is not an absurd one.” He had Hopkins up a point. How about you, TSS Universe? Lay it out in the BRAND, SPANKING NEW FORUM, BABY!