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Pavlik and Hopkins both have a lot to gain on Saturday

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When considering the wealth of "big" fights this fall and early winter, the discerning fan looking at the future of the sweet science runs into a bit of a problem.

A lot of these guys are getting pretty old.

When he fights on December 6 against Manny Pacquiao, boxing's biggest gate attraction, Oscar de la Hoya, will be two months shy of his 36th birthday. When the two of them touch gloves on November 8, Joe Calzaghe and Roy Jones, Jr., will be 36 and 39, respectively, with Jones two months shy of Lordy, Lordy, look, he's 40.

This past Saturday, we welcomed back 37-year old Vitali Klitschko, and watched 39-year old Antonio Tarver thoroughly dominated by a younger, faster, stronger fighter.

Two weeks prior to that, 37-year old Shane Mosley beat 35-year old Ricardo Mayorga.

On Saturday, the oldest of them all, 43-year old Bernard Hopkins, gets back in the ring for, perhaps, the final time.

Hopkins (48-5-1, 32 KO), the former middleweight and light heavyweight world champion, will face one of the stiffest tests of his career when he battles 26-year old knockout artist and reigning middleweight world champion Kelly Pavlik at a 170-pound catchweight.

It's one of the most intriguing fights on the docket, I think, partially because you can never, ever count someone like Bernard Hopkins out of any fight.

Hopkins earlier this year gave pound-for-pound contender Joe Calzaghe one of the toughest tests of his career. Prior to that, Hopkins out-pointed Winky Wright and destroyed then-light heavyweight champ Antonio Tarver. Sure, he's lost three of his last five, but losing to Calzaghe is no shame, and neither are the two tough, disputable defeats at the hands of a young and hungry Jermain Taylor.

While Hopkins could stink it out against Pavlik, I don't think he can do so to such a degree that the fight is downright bad. Pavlik is too exciting to allow that to happen. He will test Bernard's defense and make him work.

Many haven't liked the fight since it was made. I've been on the fence, but at this point, I'm more anxious to see it play out than anything.

D4717b43-6473-47fa-890d-e30e587b9651_medium Will Pavlik (34-0, 30 KO) become the first man to knock out Hopkins? Will Bernard, the crafty old vet, be the first man to withstand Pavlik's assault and find enough holes to beat him?

What it would mean for Kelly Pavlik to beat Bernard Hopkins

Let's make this clear: for Pavlik's huge career momentum to gain more steam against Hopkins, he needs to dismantle him. He doesn't necessarily need to knock him out, but that would be a huge feather in his cap. Still, a dominant, Hopkins-over-Tarver-style decision would be huge, too.

For Kelly Pavlik, a regular old decision win will bring out more detractors, which has become a mildly fashionable thing to be since Kelly first walloped Jermain Taylor to claim the middleweight crown. First, his rematch with Taylor wasn't as breath-taking a fight, and he didn't knock him out again. Then, a pathetic mandatory defense against Gary Lockett did nothing for him, though to his credit, he dealt with Lockett as he should have.

Now, he fights a 43-year old man. Regardless of age, though, Hopkins is a dangerous opponent. Not in the way that he's a knockout threat, but in the way that he's still definitely good enough to sucker a fighter -- any fighter -- into his fight, and it's not easy to beat Bernard at his own game.

Pavlik will have to get Hopkins to fight him, and no matter what Bernard might say, he's not going to come out looking to go toe-to-toe with Pavlik. Hopkins is a proud man -- he doesn't want to risk getting knocked out, something that's never happened to him.

What it would mean for Bernard Hopkins to beat Kelly Pavlik

Everything, really. B-Hop is a no doubt about it Hall of Famer wrapping up a great career, but he hasn't had a whole lot of favorable memorable moments. In his first big fight, he lost a decision to Roy Jones, Jr., in 1993, and the two of them were never able to get past arguing with each other when negotiating a rematch.

His destruction of Tito Trinidad and his liver shot knockout of Oscar de la Hoya are his two memorable, favorable moments. He took Trinidad's "0" and he is the only man to ever put Oscar down for the count.

But at this point, most are going to remember Bernard, cynically, for boring fights and middling trash talk.

Should he defeat Pavlik, even his harshest style critics won't be able to discount how good he is. If he beats a powerful, fresh fighter 17 years his junior, an unbeaten knockout machine, it could be his ugliest win ever, and it would not only take Pavlik's career momentarily off track, but it would cement Bernard as a bona fide legend.

I don't know if the fight will be any good. If the economy is pinching your wallet, this isn't the type of show I'd recommend ordering, to be honest. And if i wasn't such a lunatic, I sure wouldn't be paying $50 to find out if Pavlik can knock out Hopkins. But I am, so I will.

Here's hoping Kelly can show every facet of his game in this one night, and put Bernard out to pasture. It's nothing against Hopkins; it's more the future of American boxing being in good hands with Pavlik on top. And it's not just American boxing, either. It's boxing, period. Someone's going to have to fill in for all these old guys on their way out, and I can't think of a candidate more suited than Pavlik.