I sense Bernard Hopkins is in trouble. At first this fight was a difficult puzzle, two great fighters coming in off major wins – Hopkins over Jones and Pavlik, and Pascal fresh off upsetting Chad Dawson.
But a couple of things have swayed my opinion in favor of Pascal. The first clue was listening to how many times trainer Naazim Richardson has stated that he isn’t sure and he can’t measure the “ambition” of Jean Pascal, which suggests he is unsure about just what exactly his man is up against in this energetic and powerful WBC Light Heavyweight champion. Richardson is a very candid, respectful and intelligent man but these words might send the wrong message to the Pascal camp.
I sense doubt in Richardson’s words. You might say, well who cares what the trainer says, as long as Hopkins is supremely confident, that’s all that matters. But I’m not sure about the mindset of Hopkins either. I saw something unexpected from Hopkins at the weigh-in video.
Pascal and Hopkins were engaged in the stare-down on Friday. When the two gladiators were separated, Pascal continued to aggressively menace Hopkins, pointing at his own wild eyes. Hopkins was completely stone cold stoic throughout, until suddenly his cool demeanor broke. Hopkins reached out and pointed his finger at Pascal, muttering some words. It looked like a sign of weakness, like an old man trying to stop someone from harassing him. It just didn’t look like the typical impervious, mentally impregnable Bernard Hopkins.
Okay, I know some are going to say, I’m reading too much into body language, all that matters is what happens in the ring.
But I have watched Hopkins deal with these situations for 15 years. Hopkins is an amazing creature, a phenomenal, all-time great gladiator. Yes he is. Through all the battles and wars and confrontations at press conferences and weigh-ins, Hopkins has always been the symbol of supreme confidence. Never ever has he shown any kind of behavior even remotely close to being construed as weakness or fear or self-doubt. Nothing. Which is amazing in this crazy, dangerous sport, and almost two decades of battling the best boxers on the planet. Through it all, Hopkins has been the ultimate warrior, the ultimate gladiator with a longevity that’s incomparable.
But I sensed and saw some doubt from Hopkins this time. This is the first time I detected a hint of worry from Hopkins. Like Richardson, I suspect Hopkins sees something in Pascal that he can’t measure, that he doesn’t quite understand.
Usually, most of Hopkins opponents were psyched out and or intimidated. And that’s a credit to the intelligence and savvy of Hopkins, not a knock on his opposition. Hopkins said at the New York press conference two months ago that he knows how to intimidate and psyche out opponents before the first bell even rings. But, this time, to my judgements, he has not intimidated Pascal. He has not broken Pascal mentally and will have to do it physically.
No. I can’t see this happening this time. Maybe three or four years ago, not this time at almost 46 years of age. Pascal says he’s the pit bull and that when he sees Hopkins, he sees a piece of meat. A part of me hates to write this because I respect Hopkins so much as a man and a champion but… it’s just hard to imagine Hopkins being able to thwart the rabid energy, aggression and ambition of Pascal for 12 rounds. Pascal, with over 10,000 passionate and vocal French Canadians supporting and making him even stronger, is going to track down the living legend and assault a thrashing on him. It will be the sad end of one of the most remarkable careers in boxing history.
Hopefully this is a wrong conclusion because it would be a horrible way to see a living legend exit the sport. It happens to so many great fighters, they deny they could ever take a battering but suddenly out of nowhere it happens. It happened to Roy Jones against Tarver and Johnson. It happened to De La Hoya against Pacquiao. It happened to Julio Cesar Chavez against Frankie Randall. To Saad Muhammad against Braxton. I think it’s going to happen to Hopkins against Pascal.