Remember, we'll have live coverage tonight at 10 p.m. EDT of this HBO double-header, also featuring Chad Dawson vs Adrian Diaconu.
Every time I have picked against Bernard Hopkins in his recent fights, the future hall-of-famer reminds me that very few can match his ring generalship and savvy. A young gun, like Jean Pascal, may be able to reach the old man with more frequency these days, but as we saw in December, Hopkins will find a way to get back into the fight. That said, I suspect this time Pascal will come prepared with two things in mind: 1) capitalize on the opportunity to finish things quickly if successful early in the bout; and 2) maintain a reasonable level of activity to prevent the veteran from imposing his will if it seems the fight will go the duration. Hopkins will again impress with his age-defying act, but I think Pascal, or at least his team, will have learned enough from the first fight to scratch out a tight decision. Pascal wins by a thin margin.
Note: Audio preview from Scott is on this week's Bad Left Hook Radio.
I think the weight issue from Friday might matter a little bit, but that's not a reason to excuse a possible subpar Hopkins performance. Age would be, though. 46 is 46, and at some point, Bernard has to look old. I say that every time, but in recent fights he has started to look old. Pascal was beating Hopkins without much trouble last time before Hopkins rallied and took over the fight. But it was a serious dig-down-deep moment for Hopkins. Does he have another one of those? Can he do anything more than he did the first time? I don't think he can. I think Pascal can definitely fight better, though. And I think he will. I'm not crazy about Pascal's skills, and would never, ever pick him to do anything against a prime Hopkins or even the Hopkins who beat Kelly Pavlik at age 43. But I'm going to once again foolishly call it: This is the fight where Bernard can't overcome his age. Pascal by decision, without controversy.
Given the way their previous fight played out over the last seven rounds, it's tempting to say that Hopkins has figured Pascal out - but one could have also said that heading into the Taylor rematch, and that fight turned out to be another close one. I think we'll see a similar situation here, with another nip and tuck affair. Regardless of what the judges said, Hopkins had the edge last time out, but in terms of who can improve on their performance, I think that's Pascal. He had success when he let his hands go, and if he can just show a little more initiative this time out, he should be able to do better. He'll also have the crowd behind him once more, and simply being aggressive should bring cheers and perhaps sway the judges in the close frames.
My pick: Pascal by Split Decision in a fight everyone's still arguing about on Monday.
After picking Winky in 2007 and Pavlik in 2008 to beat BHop, I took the same vow many of us have: never to underestimate the old man again. I thought his first fight with Pascal was close, and while I thought BHop edged him by a hair, unlike many, I didn't have a big problem with the decision. I see the rematch as a pick 'em fight. Hopkins will have learned more from the first match-up and will come with the better game plan, but time and age are, as usual, on his opponent's side. This time however I'm not betting against the timeless one. I see Pascal showing mental weakness while losing another close decision. I can see this being dirtier than the first one, with Hopkins making generous use of the clinch against a more aggressive-minded Pascal.
I can't see this being as entertaining as the first fight but I do believe it will be as close. I can see a split decision for Pascal, which will lead to more delusional ranting's by Hopkins, whose trademark negative approach will cost him the fight.
I see this fight picking up where the first one left off. Hopkins is one of the smartest fighters in the history of the sport and my bet is that he figured Pascal out in the last two-thirds of that fight, and that that will carry over on Saturday night. Pascal had to hang on last time; I think he'll make it to the end again, but this time I think Hopkins will win comfortably.