If there’s a sentimental favorite in tonight's rematch, it’s got to be the 46-year-old from Philly with the busy mouth and the secret of eternal youth. You know the guy. Fiftyish. Trim. Shaved head. Likes to go 12 rounds.
He’s an ex-con with nothing to prove, a guy who likes to preach and who somehow manages to keep slipping the inevitable rush of old age.
Bernard Hopkins wasn’t the favorite in their first fight last December. Jean Pascal was. Pascal was younger, tougher, quicker and stronger. At least that’s what all the newspapers in Canada told us. Heck, Pascal had beaten “Bad” Chad Dawson. Hopkins’ chances of beating Pascal were somewhere between long-shot and when-pigs-fly.
They filled the dark skies of Canada that night.
Of course, that’s been Hopkins’ way for several years now. He just pulls another rabbit out of his hat, makes the fat lady disappear right before your very eyes. He’s like an irritating tic. He won’t go away and no one knows how to get rid of him.
In his first fight with Pascal, Hopkins turned in another one of those miracle, how-can-he-still-do-that? performances. He made it look like he could still mix it up with all the top light-heavyweights in the world if they didn’t mind waiting in line.
Somehow, they called that first fight with Pascal a majority draw. Jaws dropped throughout the world. Except in Canada, where a lot of eyebrows were raised but no one complained too much. After all, Pascal is one of theirs.
Hopkins must be pretty sure of himself if he’s willing to go back up to Canada to fight Pascal again for the WBC light-heavyweight title. This time the fight will be held at the Bell Centre in Montreal (HBO), a potential back alley where Hopkins could get mugged again by the judges. It’s a big risk for a guy who isn’t exactly a knockout artist. At least not anymore.
But the thing about Hopkins is, after 58 fights and 51 wins, he still comes into the ring with the idea that he can tear your head off or out-box you or out-smart you if that‘s what it takes to win. There’s no such thing as a “nice guy” in his fight plan or his vocabulary. He hasn’t mellowed inside the ring, but instead, he’s kept it all business, and the business is to beat the other guy.
That was even more obvious last week on a conference call when someone asked him about the Manny Pacquiao and Shane Mosley fight held a few days earlier.
Hopkins said that at the end of the day, Mosley talked a good fight and then he went out and, well, he fought.
Hopkins didn’t say Mosley went out and fought the good fight. He said Mosley would have gone out more of a winner if he had shown more effort to win and didn’t worry so much about touching gloves before every round.
Hopkins called it a sign of submission by Mosley.
“It’s called body language and I’m not bragging about my upbringing,“ said Hopkins. “I was a guy on the streets when I had that mentality. Some would call it a bully. I don’t brag about being that, and I speak against it now. But when I was younger, they would see me coming up the street and everybody would go into their houses.”
You lock your door when there’s a wolf outside.
“Part of that body language of submission is to praise the guy,” he said. “You don’t want that bully around the corner to take your watch or your chain or your wallet. So you want to be friends with him. You want to be nice with him. So, translate that into boxing. Translate that to the (Pacquiao-Mosley) match.
“Listen, if Pascal starts trying to shake my hand every round, I know I got him mentally and now I’ve got to make it happen physically, because at the end of the day, we’re fighting. The referee says ‘shake hands and come out fighting.‘ He doesn’t say, ‘shake hands every round.“
Hopkins said when a guy wants to be friends and fight at the same time, everyone sees it.
“(Mosley) submitted early in the fight after he was knocked down. Something happened and he submitted after that.“
Submitted? I’m surprised Hopkins even knows how to pronounce it.