Hopkins said after he felt 36, not 46. He said he's saved his best fights for last, that every fight til the end will be a thriller. (Hogan)
All must hail the cagiest pugilist of this, and maybe any era, after 46-year-old Bernard Hopkins schooled 28-year-old Jean Pascal in the main event at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Saturday night. Hopkins was looking to be the oldest man to win a legitimate title, to surpass George Foreman, who was 45 when he won a crown by beating Michael Moorer in 1994, and after a bit of a slow start, he got cooking, rendered Pascal into a sad stew of uncertainty, and passed Foreman in the record books. A timely, sharp jab, and lead rights that rarely missed proved problematic for Pascal, who helped the Philly fighter out by not pressing the action, and forcing the elder man to test his stamina to the max. After 12 rounds of professorial magic on the part of Hopkins, the judges weighed in, and bless them, they didn't screw it up. They scored it 115-113, 116-112, 115-114 for the wiliest of pugilists.
Hopkins won the stat battle, going 131-409, while Pascal, who some will say was criminally weak in the volume department, was 70-377. He said afterwards he wants to go out "a winner, not punch drunk, not broke." He said yes, he did get hit with clean shots, but that he can take a nasty shot if need be. He called Pascal a "strong bull" who will come back if he doesn't get too disappointed. He said Pascal needs to take some mustard off his shots, and not go overboard in loading up. He said he'd like to fight Lucian Bute in Canada after he fights Chad Dawson. Pascal after called Hopkins a "great legend. We need a part three and the fans want to see a part three." He said Hopkins "has a lot of tricks. It was a close fight, he won the fight." he admitted he's still "green" and that his two bouts with Hopkins will bring him to the next level.
Hopkins is 192 days older than Foreman was on his special night, on the night of May 21, 2011.
Hopkins (51-5-2 entering; age 46; from Philadelphia; ex longtime middleweight champion, ex light heavyweight champion) needed extra time to make weight, and on a third attempt, he was 174 pounds, 14 ounces, on Friday, while the WBC and TSS light heavyweight champion Pascal (28-0-1 entering; age 28; from Haiti, lives in Montreal) weighed the same. Both were 186 pounds unofficially on Saturday night.
Ian John-Lewis was the ref. He made Pascal return to center ring to touch gloves with Hopkins before he'd let the bell ring to start round one. 17,560 people were in attendance at the Bell.
The two men fought in December, and battled to a draw, though Pascal knocked Hopkins down in both the first and third rounds. Hopkins outlanded the younger man, 153-86, helping bolster his case as he told the world he was robbed. Pascal got under Hopkins' skin, not something many men can boast, when during a pre-fight press conference he accused Hopkins of being a "cheater," of using PEDs ("Are you willing to take the test?"), and demanded he take a pre-fight test to insure his cleanliness.
In the first, Hopkins didn't get knocked down. Pascal ran excessively to start. Hopkins caught him with a left as he moved in to attack with a minute left, but Pascal landed a couple more meaningful blows. His trainer asked him to "make him work" after the round.
In the second, both men got fiery early. Chad Dawson, looking to meet the winner, was in the booth. He said he'd fight either man happily. Hopkins tried to make Pascal miss badly, and then counter him.
In the third, Pascal landed some clean shots, as he looked to run less, and throw more. Hopkins then looked to make his mark with 1:40 to go. He lead with his head shortly after he scored with a combo, and a sharp right. Hopkins was properly warmed up now.
In the fourth, a right hurt Hopkins at the end of the round. "They must think they got an ordinary emeffer in there," said trainer Naazim Richardson to Hopkins after.
In the fifth, Pascal started slow but landed a few clean shots after a minute. The ref warned Hopkins for using his head. He then held Pascal with his left in a headlock and whacked him with his right. Hopkins shuffled, stuck out his tongue and clowned at the end of the round. The older man acted as the aggressor in this round. Pascal's trainer Marc Ramsey asked his guy to keep closer to Hopkins after the round. The score could've been 4-1 Pascal or 3-2, Pascal, after five.
In the sixth, Hopkins ran out of his corner and bombed with a right. He told the judges that he wanted it more. The ref warned both men to break clean after two minutes. Hopkins didn't comply. He thumbed Pascal with a jab. He followed Pascal to his corner, then Pascal followed Hopkins to his. This gamesmanship, the Graterford style stuff, had to favor the vet.
In the seventh, Hopkins did a few pushups at the start of the round while Pascal was still on his stool. A right landed clean on Pascal at 1:55. Again, a right lead hit home in the last minute. I had Hopkins up 4-3 after the seventh.
In the eighth, Manny Steward said Hopkins looked better than he has in any fight since he fought Tito Trinidad. Hopkins landed nasty right, after a setup jab, at 1:32. His jab was quick and timely, and his right hand was sharp and accurate. Left hooks by Pascal excited the crowd, but he likely lost the round. I had Hopkins up 5-3, while Harold Lederman saw it 4-4.
In the ninth, Hopkins came out jabbing. A short right had Pascal's gloves touching the canvas, but it wasn't ruled a knockdown, as it looked like maybe he slipped. But on a replay, it looked like a real-deal knockdown. Hopkins may have stolen the round with a lead right late. He did in my eyes; I had it 6-3 Hopkins.
In the 10th, a lead right had Pascal's glove hitting the canvas, but again, no knockdown was called. The fight went over its alotted DVR time during the tenth.
In the 11th, Pascal got the crowd jazzed, as he was more busy than we'd seen.
In the 12th, Pascal landed a couple power shots, and Hopkins answered. But Pascal scored with a right hand, and buzzed Bernard. Hopkins moved, buying time. He bought enough to go to the cards. Lederman saw it 115-113 for Hopkins.
SPEEDBAG Manny Steward did double duty in Montreal. He worked Chad Dawson's corner in "Bad's" win over Adrian Diaconu, and then the main event with Jim Lampley and Max Kellerman.
--FYI HBO will run Wlad-Haye live, at 4:45 ET on July 2, and then re-run the bout after dark.