In just over two hours, Jean Pascal and Bernard Hopkins will take to the ring in Montreal at the Bell Centre. Here's a little last-minute hype and analysis.
First off, if you missed the full, 12-minute version of HBO Face Off, watch it:
Age and Ring Experience
Pascal is 28 years old, born nine months after Bernard Hopkins legally became an adult in the United States. That has its perks in theory. At 46, Hopkins is beyond an old man in the fight game, but he's yet to truly let age catch up to him, though Father Time has started creeping up behind him just a little bit more in recent fights. Beyond just their birthdays, Hopkins has fought 432 rounds as a professional since his debut in 1988, compared to Pascal's 194 since turning pro in 2005.
Level of Competition
Along the way, Hopkins has fought a lot of big names -- two very different versions of Roy Jones Jr (1993 and 2010), plus Joe Calzaghe, Oscar de la Hoya, Felix "Tito" Trinidad, Glen Johnson, Jermain Taylor (at Taylor's absolute best), Winky Wright, William Joppy, John David Jackson, and many others. Old or not, and able to avoid it or not, Hopkins has seen everything -- and seen it done better -- that Pascal can do.
Pascal's toughest two opponents have been Hopkins in December, and Carl Froch at 168 pounds back in December 2008, which was the fight where Pascal overcame some of the doubters, despite the loss. Against Chad Dawson, Pascal found himself against a fighter whose mind wandered, and that was his best win. Hopkins' mind does not wander.
Height and Reach
Hopkins (6'1") has a height advantage on Pascal, who comes in about 5'10". He also has a three-inch reach advantage on the Haitian-born, Quebec-based champion. Hopkins is able to use these things where sometimes fighters today do not -- he's good at controlling every inch of the ring, particularly when he's in a groove.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Hopkins' greatest strength is his mental game, and his wealth of experience. He really can't punch worth a damn at 175 pounds, though he's sneaky enough to catch guys off-balance fairly often. Pascal has advantages here in power, speed, and explosiveness, but those advantages weren't enough the first time. Pascal's weaknesses, unfortunately for him, are also areas where Bernard excels: The aforementioned mental game, the ability to dictate action, and conditioning, as Pascal has lingering stamina questions that don't go away because he seems to tap his gas tank out in every single fight, win or lose.
Why the Fight Matters
It's for the light heavyweight championship of the world, and you have a chance to see history. If Bernard Hopkins wins, he becomes the oldest man to ever win a major title in boxing, and it's the real deal title at 175 pounds, too, not just some trinket.