Dan Rafael of ESPN.com reported today that a December 18 fight between light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal and Hall of Fame-bound Bernard Hopkins has been agreed to on both sides, with just the contracts needing to be signed and American TV to be secured.
Hopkins, who will turn 46 a month after the fight, will head to Quebec City for a fight with Pascal, marking just the third time in his illustrious, 22-year career that "The Executioner" will fight off of American soil. In 1992, he went to Paris to fight Anibal Miranda, and in 1994 he fought Segundo Mercado in Ecuador, the first of their two fights. This will give Pascal, 27, home field advantage. The Haitian-born champion is a resident of Laval, Quebec, and is one of the handful of transplanted fighters who have been enthusiastically adopted by the rabid Quebec fans.
As for American TV, that's where it's going to get a little tricky. HBO is out, as they're not airing boxing on December 18, something they're sticking to. They have some kind of concert special lined up for that night. That leaves two options. Those options are pay-per-view and Showtime. You have to wonder if they go the PPV route, whether or not HBO will even produce, or if they might just serve as a distributor, as they did for Hopkins' woeful April fight with Roy Jones Jr., or the 2008 fight between Juan Manuel Marquez and Joel Casamayor.
The other option is Showtime, and Richard Schaefer says they're having talks with the network about it, but this is not uncommon. Bob Arum has said similar things about major fights before, fights we all knew would wind up with HBO, where the budget is bigger. But with HBO just out of the picture to air the fight, Showtime has a more legitimate chance than usual. Still, they'd have to pony up more for this fight, probably, than they spent on anything else in 2010. Do they see that as worth the cost?
The problems with pay-per-view for this fight are obvious, but that option still seems most likely on the surface. But even though this is for the legitimate light heavyweight championship, and that it's a marquee fight for hardcore boxing fans, this has zero casual fan interest. Jean Pascal is not a big name in the States. He could get there with his style and charisma, but he's not there yet.
And Hopkins is not a PPV draw. That rematch with Jones, who even shot is a bigger name than Pascal, did really bad numbers. Richard Schaefer quoted his own number, but it was reportedly less than that, and possibly under 100K. His 2008 fight with Kelly Pavlik was reported at about 180K, which was a horrible disappointment. Hopkins, as great as he is, never became a star past boxing aficionados or serious fans.
Plus, a pay-per-view fight a week before Christmas just doesn't seem that bright. Bad economy, people are dramatically stressed about money in the holiday season... asking for another $50 out of loyal boxing fans on that date could be a really, really tough sell.
Schaefer does say that he hopes the fight will be on Showtime, but it may not be possible. They just might not have the money that Pascal and Hopkins are going to want to cover costs. However, on the positive side, a possible help could be that the fight will draw in Quebec City and make some money at the live gate. They're unlikely to put anything notable on the undercard, since they don't have to, and this would be a one-fight TV production. If they skimp on the undercard (which in this case, would be advisable), then maybe it'll work. We'll see. Root for Showtime.
From where I sit, this is a fight that can go one of two ways in the ring. Either Hopkins is simply too old to keep pace with Pascal, or Pascal is overconfident and we see Bernard Hopkins teach another seminar on December 18.