JEAN PASCAL-BERNARD HOPKINS II: CAN B-HOP DO IT?
BY PHILIP H. ANSELMO
In case you’ve been living under a rock like me the past few weeks, this upcoming weekend should drag us all collectively out from under it because potential history is at hand. When IBO Light Heavy Champ Bernard Hopkins meets WBC Light Heavy Champ Jean Pascal this weekend (May 21st), Hopkins will be attempting to become the oldest champ ever in boxing history at 46-years of age.
I guess this means Hopkins’ IBO trinket is worth about as much as 49-year old Evander Holyfield’s WBF title… nada! Not that I have anything personally against organizations like the IBO, WBF, WBO, WBC, WBA, IBF etc… (Hee-Haw!)… But if they all collectively decided to disband for the good of the sport, I’d throw ‘em a toga party. Here’s to wishful thinking! Now back to REAL topics of discussion…
This is the second meeting between the two aforementioned fighters and they harbor genuine dislike for one another. Their first contest in December of last year ended in a semi-disputed draw, with Hopkins coming off the canvas twice, in rounds one and three. In my view, the 2nd knockdown (in round-3) was the more discombobulating punch. Pascal landed a beautiful left on the point of Hopkins’ chin. Honestly, it was the first (and worst) I’d seen the elderly master hurt. When Bernard’s knees buckled before and as he scrambled to his feet, I thought there was no way in hell he’d make it out of the round.
But the old warrior weathered the storm. He neutralized Pascal’s attack and fought back pretty friggin’ valiantly, rocking the younger champion on occasion and nabbing some definitive, but close rounds. Jean fought with heart throughout, especially in the championship rounds, but still, Hopkins stood his ground and then some.
This is a difficult fight to pick. Pascal could look back at the first fight and want to pick up where he left off in round three. Had he not went completely wild, there’s a chance he could’ve stopped ‘ol Popkins right then and there. He’s shown that he has KO power in both hands and he’s effectively aggressive when he wants due to his blazing handspeed. In this fight, punching up the middle would serve Pascal well, especially if he hurts Bernard again and is going for the kill.
But that’s a lot easier written than done. If anyone learned anything from the first contest, it has to be Hopkins. He’s a master boxer who makes fights difficult because of his seasoned style and great conditioning. His jaw is normally in league with titanium, so there’s a chance the knockdowns he suffered in the first fight were aberrations.
When Bernard fought Joe Calzaghe, Joe had the supposedly faster hands. But Hopkins nullified Calzaghe’s quick mitts to some degree with a nifty, tight defense and some fast counter punches of his own. This was a fight I saw differently the 2nd viewing. I thought Bernard landed the cleaner shots. His years in the ring have worn well on him. Bernard rolls with big punches, so their impact isn’t as destructive. Also, Hopkins handspeed is as underrated as his age is overrated. He will come into this fight in shape as always, ready for 12-rounds of war. Pascal should not think otherwise and I doubt he will. Fighting Hopkins twice is a whole different animal.
This is rhetoric, but both guys have a lot to fight for here. A victory for Bernard would be another massive feather in the cap of an already HOF career. A loss, depending on what takes place could mean damn near anything. Another draw, or close points loss would only prove that Bernard can still hang with elite fighters, therefore it would not be shocking if he fought on for another 5-years. But if he gets KO’d in style, then the word “retirement” would pop-up in Popkins’ every day life more than the word “whiskey” did for me back in the ‘90’s. And that my friends is a WHOLE LOT.
A victory for Pascal would obviously mean his biggest, vindicating win to date whether it’s tedious or concussive. If Pascal KO’s Hopkins decisively, his name would/should be automatically propelled up there with the Sergio Martinez’s and Manny Pacquiao’s of the world as PFP one of the best today and one of “the guys” to beat.
A loss for Pascal would be a setback. Not a monumental setback, but a setback nonetheless. Pascal is still young and can rebound. But (!) if the unimaginable were to happen, and Hopkins knocks Pascal out, then the setback gets a bit more complicated. There is no telling how a young fighter will react psychologically to a KO defeat. Remember Tito Trinidad anyone? When Bernard Hopkins is involved, almost anything could happen. So never say never, no matter how doubtful the scenario may be; THAT’S how 50-50 I see this contest.
Regardless, it’s highly dubious that Hopkins scores a dramatic one punch KO. If he wins by stoppage, more than likely it would come in the later rounds after a lot of breaking Pascal’s spirit. But breaking Pascal’s spirit in his hometown will be a tough thing to do. If Jean did his homework and is in top-notch condition, as I believe he will be, he should win. But based on their first fight and how Hopkins adjusted after being floored twice, one has to wonder how the younger man will approach this assignment.
This is no purposeful cop-out, but dammit this fight could truly go either way. If Pascal steps it up and keeps the heat on Hopkins, he could pull it off a number of ways as stated. But how many times has pressure been the key to beating Bernard? It’s a risky tactic that could backfire on Pascal.
And another thing, it’s what Pascal took from the first fight tactically-meets-mentally that bothers me. Hopkins was able to negate many of Pascal’s offensive efforts after the 3rd round. Pascal made several tactical errors thereafter. Lunging and wild-swinging will not get it done for Jean this time around. He will have to be faster and more polished if he wants the “W” this time. This fight comes down to the guy who did his homework EVERY NIGHT. And as much as my heart says Pascal, my senses are telling me different.
-Bernard Hopkins W-SD12 Jean Pascal- in another close one, but sadly with less action due to Hopkins’ stifling style.
But if it goes the other way dammit all to hell… I wouldn’t be surprised!
Enjoy the weekend-