Pavlik vs. Hopkins Forecast

pavlik hopkinsPhoto: Chris Farina - Top Rank -- Weights from AC: Kelly Pavlik 169 vs Bernard Hopkins 170 - Steve Luevano 126 vs Billy Dib 126 - Marco Antonio Rubio 159 vs Enrique Ornelas 160

By Evan Young, - Bernard Hopkins takes on middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik at a catch weight of 170 pounds. Hopkins is almost 44 years old but is still fighting the best people in the game. Does Hopkins have enough tricks up his sleeve to get past the hard hitting Pavlik? Can Pavlik be the first to stop Hopkins?

Hopkins talks the best game in boxing. After listening to him ramble on for a while you might get the impression that there isnít a man alive that could beat him and if they try they may end up a damaged, broken man perhaps even dead.. But anyone that has watched Hopkins over the past few years understands that he doesnít fight anything like he talks. The near 44 year old Hopkins fights with a high guard, a tucked chin and has a strategy like heís in a grand master chess tournament, not a fight.

In other words, he is beyond calculating. And at this point in his career you would be fortunate to get 30 seconds of thrill in a 36 minute fight. Yup, itís excruciatingly painful to watch BHOP these days. But he is still the greatest con man on earth as heíll regale us all with how he came of age at the Greaterford state penitentiary and how he is the hardest man ever to come of the ghetto. He was once a great fighter but right now he liberally uses smoke and mirrors to make great fighters look bad while doing just enough to lose. Yet he still has his grand name and is competitive enough to land these big money fights.

Secretly heís probably laughing to himself about how heís going to make millions when most smart hard core boxing aficionados know heís not relevant anymore. But heíll get people to buy his PPV on the unlikely premise that something amazing happens. Mainly, I think people are coming to see if someone can finally, thoroughly hammer and stop Hopkins or conversely will Hopkins pull out some magical performance that justifies his tiresome rhetoric. Hopkins nowadays throws about 25 punches around, still has a brick wall for a defense, has a rock solid chin and still has enough savvy and experience to make good fighters pay for a mistake. He even dropped Calzaghe with a beautiful right in their fight last April. But over time he couldnít deal with the speed and work rate of Calzaghe and lost another decision where he could claim he was competitive.

Now Hopkins faces, perhaps, the most dangerous opponent of his career. Pavlik is tall, with a jab like a right cross and very heavy hands. And Pavlik uses those hands frequently, keeping up an enormous work rate that about 90% of the time ends the fight before the final bell. Pavlik has passed every test in his young career with flying colors. He won the middleweight title from Hopkins conqueror Jermain Taylor and convincingly beat Taylor in a rematch. Pavlik has handled tough and hard punching veterans Edison Miranda and Jose Luis Zertuche with startling brutality.

Pavlik takes a good shot, despite being dropped by Taylor when he got careless, and is physically very strong along with having superb stamina. The only thing that may be a detriment to Pavlik is thatís heís a predictable fighter. Everything is upfront with Pavlik, there are no secrets. Heís going to come forward behind his monster jab and throw heavy right hands and left hooks, uppercuts and body shots until he wins. But heís so proficient at what he does, it doesnít matter if an opponent knows what to expect. Pavlik is still likely to impose his will score another impressive KO.

In spite of Hopkinsí hyperbole, which does appear genuine, I donít think heíll win this fight. 8 of his last 9 fights have gone the distance. Since 2004, his only win inside the distance was a body shot KO of Oscar de la Hoya in a fight that had decision written all over it. Hopkins is the more experienced and savvy fighter but that should not translate into a performance that should turn back a hard punching, strong, busy and tough young tiger. Hopkins may be able to exploit the Pavlik predictability factor but only to a degree.

The only question for me in this fight is will Pavlik become the first guy to stop Hopkins or will he win a decision over Old Man River. I want to pick a Pavlik KO, it has a good price and I would like to see it, but it would go against my better judgment. And Nard is so savvy and cagey and just dangerous enough that he can slow a pace down to crawl and is an expert at holding and riding dirty on the inside. One thing about Hopkins, he is not stupid. He will not engage in a way that leaves him open. He is very difficult to tag with more than one punch at a time and simply knows how to kill off rounds in a fight.

But Pavlik is the strongest guy Hopkins has seen and if Hopkins finds himself forced to ropes, he may be subject to some brutal body blows. And while Hopkins was never hurt by Calzaghe, whom is super fast but not heavy handed, he did show a weakness when he feigned a low blow in the 10th round and began writhing around on the canvas, doing a very poor acting job. Although he got himself some precious rest and was actually able to close that round with some gusto.

But in my view showed he was tired and uncomfortable in the ring and I thought it belied his ultra tough jailhouse image that he identifies himself with. But Hopkins still has great pride and as much as Iím tired of his old shtick, he was once a great champion and will be a first ballot hall of fame fighter once he actually retires and deserves respect for his previous ring (in and out Ė heís the best manager, his own, in the game) accomplishments. He still trains like a Spartan and I havenít seen enough of a chink in his armor to think that heís ready to be put down and out.

If Hopkins realizes he canít win heíll go into survival mode only like he can and will stink things out two fold and slink to the final bell. Hopkins is calculating and cautious but he can still strike like a cobra from time to time especially on the mistake of an opponent. Expect Hopkins to land a few strikes but be simply outworked by the younger, stronger man for another unsatisfactory decision loss for Hopkins. For Hopkins, he can make any fight like a glorified sparring session but not many can turn that into a pot of gold. But if Hopkins can lose ďcloseĒ donít be surprised to see him back making another big score against a name opponent. And heíll regurgitate his prison to riches story again for all of us to enjoy.

Article posted on 16.10.2008

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