World Light Heavyweight Championship
Jean Pascal v. Bernard Hopkins
TV: Showtime, 10pm EST
This Saturday night on Showtime, Bernard Hopkins looks to claim the lineal light heavyweight championship for a second time as he closes in on his 46th birthday, facing Haitian-born, Canadian-based Jean Pascal in Quebec City.
It's the first time that Hopkins will be fighting outside of the United States since 1994, when he drew Segundo Mercado in Ecuador, and just the third time in his career that Bernard won't fight on American soil. His first international fight was in Paris in 1992.
It's also the first really significant fight for the legend since his October 2008 dismantling of Kelly Pavlik. After that Hopkins was off for 14 months before fighting Enrique Ornelas in Philly, a tune-up for a long-awaited rematch with fellow oldster Roy Jones Jr., which didn't fall apart, sadly, even after Jones was conked out in one round against Danny Green on the same day. Hopkins and Jones met earlier this year in a pitiful fight that we'd all love to forget, though those who sat through the atrocity live will have a hard time ever shaking the images of these two once-proud fighters laboring through a sham.
From the side of the 28-year-old Pascal, this is a chance to make a major name for himself. Beating Hopkins would most likely retire Hopkins. Bernard is no dummy, and I don't see him being a guy who hangs on too long. Frankly, I think Bernard would have retired years ago, but he just kept fighting at a high level and winning. After back-to-back disputed losses to Jermain Taylor, Hopkins went on a run where he thrashed Antonio Tarver, convincingly beat Winky Wright, lost a highly debated fight to Joe Calzaghe, and then ripped Pavlik before his last two wins. If he didn't think he could beat Jean Pascal still, Hopkins wouldn't be fighting him. He's got a lot of pride, so I think someone's going to have to retire him before he'll hang 'em up. The right guy just hasn't come along yet.
In fact, the last time Bernard Hopkins convincingly lost a fight, it was the first bout with Jones. In 1993. But everything, as they say, comes to an end. Better fighters than Bernard have lost badly when they just got too old. Jean Pascal has the opportunity to really put himself on the map with this one. There are fighters at 175 and 168 who would love to get a crack at him, especially if he becomes the guy who sent Bernard Hopkins packing.
Grading the Fighters
Pascal is a weird fighter to try and get a handle on in a grading system like this. He does so many things wrong, and what he does right he even sort of does wrong. He's an incredibly flawed fighter who tries to get by on his athleticism, which is quite good, and his heart, which is also quite good. He showed some serious stamina issues against Chad Dawson in August, as his gameplan to beat a superior boxer was being really wild and wasting tons of energy leaping in and out. It worked in that it got him the win, but the fight was closer than it will probably be remembered for, and I really think that if that bad cut hadn't come into play, Dawson was going to rally and stop an exhausted Pascal. It's just an opinion, obviously, because you never know, but I didn't see Pascal surviving that with his gas tank shot and Dawson coming on pretty strong.
Hopkins' stamina also deserves questioning now, I think. He looked awful against Roy Jones Jr. in April. Roy barely did anything and Hopkins barely did anything more. I do not question Bernard's dedication or his training at all, but his age. He's 46 years old in a month and doesn't have the wind he used to. It's natural.
That said, Bernard has advantages, and big ones. He's a much smarter fighter. Pascal's leap in-leap out strategy against Dawson is unlikely to work so well on Hopkins, who won't be afraid to rough up the younger man. Both take punches well, but Hopkins hasn't been hurt in years. Hopkins makes up for his lack of hand speed and power at 175 with his IQ.
It's for the legit light heavyweight championship and features a Hall of Famer in what really might be the final fight of his storied career.
Good Fight Potential:
Look, realistically, what was the last good Bernard Hopkins fight? I realize it was awe-inspiring and sort of entertaining to watch him thrash Kelly Pavlik and Antonio Tarver, but when you really get down to it, the man is very rarely entertaining to watch anymore, and hasn't been for years. While Pascal is usually in entertaining fights, Hopkins is the sort of guy that can suck the fun out of anyone, and likes to do that, because that's the sort of fight that favors his style.
Overall Pre-Fight Score:
The legitimacy of the championship and the fact that it's a living legend keep the fight at "should-watch," I'd say. But it's definitely not can't-miss, because the fight itself could be totally forgettable.
As lineal champions go, Jean Pascal isn't that great of a fighter. I suspect if he had rematched Dawson, plenty of people would have picked "Bad" Chad to avenge his loss in the first fight. But Bernard has troubles to worry about, too. He's old. Let's say it again. The guy's old. He's a really old fighter. For 45, he still fights at an incredible level, but he's 45. He's not the Hopkins of age 30 or 35 or even 40.
If Pascal is going to win this fight, I think he has to get a little lucky, and fight a whole lot smarter. I like Jean Pascal, like watching him fight, think he's got a useful arrogance about him, and believe he's a legitimately good fighter. I will freely admit that I'm rooting for Jean Pascal to win this fight. That's not because I don't like Bernard Hopkins, and it's not because I can't see the inspirational value in the old man doing it yet again. It's just that a Hopkins win advances nothing. What's he going to do, start defending the championship two or three times a year? Of course not. There's really nobody at 175 he'd probably be all that keen on fighting anyway, since so few of the fighters are worth much money, and Hopkins is certainly no big draw himself. What's the upside fight for Bernard if he wins? Goading a Joe Calzaghe comeback? Sacrificing himself to David Haye?
I want Pascal to win because it would be "Better for Boxing," as they say. I don't try to concern myself too much with the overall health of the sport, or root for outcomes simply because I think it would do more good. After all it's not like Pascal is going to become some era-defining star, either. But Hopkins is, with all due respect to his marvelous career, close to a novelty at this point. Pascal would have lots of potentially interesting fights to consider with the win. Hopkins would probably sit out a year.
But as far as prediction goes, I can't bet against Bernard again. I've done it too many times assuming he'll get too old, assuming the other guy will do all the right things, assuming so many things that just don't happen. I think Hopkins has looked flat cooked in his last two fights, but I'm not convinced that those performances weren't partially due to the fact that neither Ornelas nor Jones were a legitimate threat. Pascal, like Pavlik, is a threat. And another win like that for Bernard just enhances the legacy even more, and Bernard actually cares about his legacy, it would appear.
I'm goin' with the old guy, something like a convincing 116-112. Hopkins UD-12