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Pascal vs Hopkins - Fightwriter review


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The decision was a draw, but Bernard Hopkins emerged as the moral winner after 12 entertaining rounds against light-heavyweight champion Jean Pascal in Quebec City on Saturday night. This was a remarkable performance by a fighter who turns 46 next month and it cements Hopkins’s status as a fighter who has earned the right to be called great.


Had it not been for the two flash knockdowns he suffered in the first three rounds, Hopkins would have won Saturday’s fight.


If we were still in the era of 15-round bouts, Hopkins would surely have put the issue beyond doubt. It was Hopkins who was coming on strongly in the home straight, fighting like a winner while Pascal, 17 years the younger man, was looking to avoid engagement and, one suspects, by so doing, hoping to steal the decision based on his big early lead.


Hopkins predictably complained about the scoring but I agreed with Showtime commentators Al Bernstein and Antonio Tarver that this was a very close fight.


The overall impression was that Hopkins had controlled most of the contest, but under the rules the two knockdowns scored by Pascal gave him two 10-8 rounds. Hopkins, then, had to win four rounds just to cancel out Pascal’s two knockdown rounds.


Yet, while Hopkins just failed to get his nose in front on the scorecards he can gain much satisfaction from having fought like the young man in the fight. It was the supposedly old man who was fighting with enthusiasm and energy in the last four rounds, while Pascal was trying to stay away and score points with sneaky punches.


Obviously, Pascal, the younger man and boxing in front of a huge home-province crowd, was disappointing in his failure to show enough fire pull out at least one of the last four rounds, but this shouldn’t detract from Hopkins’s performance. No one, unfortunately, is truly ageless, but Hopkins comes close to the description.


The fight reminded me of Hopkins’s two middleweight title bouts against the much younger Jermain Taylor. In each of those tightly scored contests it was the younger man who started fast and the older one who finished fresher.


Early rounds count on the scorecards just as much as the later ones, though. Pascal was up five points on two judges’ cards after three rounds. It says a lot for Hopkins that he was able to narrow the gap to the point that he was one round on one card from pulling off the minor upset.


However, I was surprised at the extent to which Pascal faded, especially after, according to his promoter, Yvon Michel, he had reached a new level in training.


Hopkins’s left hooks to the body probably took some steam out of Pascal, but I think that the Quebec boxer was using up a great deal of nervous energy, too, in the manner of, say, a Zab Judah.


I think that Hopkins is masterful at several aspects of the game, and one of them is his ability to put mental and physical pressure on his opponents. I’ve noticed it in some of Hopkins’s past fights, especially the upset win over Antonio Tarver. His opponents seem to be succumbing to stress. I felt that this was the case with Pascal. He looked anxious, uneasy, as if seeds of doubt had been planted. I guess having Hopkins coming after you, scowling, rolling his shoulders, shaved head lowered, ready to fight, can be rather intimidating.


It was as if Pascal stopped fighting after the eighth round and simply tried to run out the clock in the manner of Oscar De La Hoya back-pedalling against Felix Trinidad.


I thought, beforehand, that Pascal would have the self-belief to challenge Hopkins vigorously, but instead of fighting with passion he seemed to be concerned primarily with self-preservation in rounds nine to 11 inclusive.


Although Pascal fired back in the last round, his punches were wild and Hopkins now had forward momentum, grinning as he chased down the younger man, letting the judges know that it was he, Hopkins, who was the one having fun in the ring, the one who was the boss.


I wrote in the preview that for Pascal to win he would have to prevent Hopkins from controlling the tempo — and this the younger man lamentably failed to do.


It was easy to see afterwards that Pascal felt a great sense of disappointment. This doesn’t necessarily mean that he felt he lost the fight but, perhaps, that he knew he hadn’t given the sort of performance of which he could have felt proud. I felt sympathy for Pascal as he politely tried to answer the aggressive and abrasive probing of Showtime interrogator Jim Gray. The young man had just gone through 12 difficult rounds. It would not have hurt to have shown him a little respect, or so it seemed to me.


Hopkins’s complaints about biased judging are par for the course with a fighter who while certainly a great ring mechanic is not always graceful in post-fight interviews. The consensus scoring of the judges — that is, at least two judges giving a round to a fighter by the same margin — came out at 113-113. This seemed fair enough to me. Hopkins is entitled to feel that he won the fight, but this, to me, was not one of those so-called robberies.


Still, while one may not find Hopkins’s comportment consistently pleasing, it must be acknowledged that he would have been a fighter of excellence in any era. I think that even the most revered middleweights and light-heavyweights in the ring’s long history would have had their hands full with Hopkins, and I can’t think of higher praise than that.


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