Sharkie’s Machine: Bernard Hopkins Shocks World in Lopsided Win over Kelly Pavlik

Bernard HopkinsBy Frank Gonzalez Jr. - Saturday in Atlantic City, formerly unbeaten Middleweight champion Kelly “The Ghost” Pavlik fought a 170-pound exhibition match against 43 year old former champion, Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins. It wasn’t a mandatory fight, it wasn’t a divisional fight. It was an optional fight, a money fight, a fancy name to add to your resume fight. Pavlik came in convinced that he would do—what none before him have; knock out the legendary Bernard Hopkins, who defended his Middleweight titles longer than the great Carlos Monzon did once upon a time.

From the opening bell, Hopkins imposed his will, landing hooks, rights and beating Pavlik to the punch in every exchange. Round one was clearly a Hopkins round. Round two was much the same, with Hopkins landing a flush left hook that wobbled Pavlik and saw him ever more removed from his usual effective aggression. It was all Hopkins.

Hopkins controlled the tempo consistently throughout the rounds. It was all Hopkins landing clean effective punches and Pavlik not. By the championship rounds, Hopkins was still landing the most punches and looked energetic. Pavlik looking banged up, bloodied and confused.

This was certainly not what Pavlik had in mind when he agreed to this fight.
Though Pavlik didn’t lose his Middleweight titles in this fight, as this was a 170-pound exhibition fight, a lot of questions will rise about Pavlik’s loss of strength at higher weights, and whether he is good enough to deal with slick boxer types who are properly motivated.

The 12th round was a microcosm of the fight, with Hopkins landing all the clean shots and winning the exchanges. As much as Pavlik tried to close the show with a bang, he couldn’t manage to land anything significant and Hopkins continued to beat him to the punch and show the kind of stamina that surprised the hell out of me. They slugged it out for a couple of extra seconds after the final bell and there looked to be some bad blood in the air as Hopkins taunted his opponent and his camp, then gave serious stares to the reporters along the outer layer of the ring.

After the minor chaos was subdued in the ring, the scores were read. It was a Unanimous Decision, 118-106, 117-109 and 118-108, all in favor of Bernard Hopkins, who improved his record to 49-5-1, 32 KO’s.

Kelly Pavlik got his first pro loss and is now 34-1, 30 KO’s. That’s still a great record. Being undefeated usually means you don’t fight the toughest opponents in your league. Pavlik’s been in with some top fighters and has been impressively successful. Pavlik and his camp have to realize that a lot of blue prints were being drawn up by trainers and fighters who saw some of Kelly’s weaknesses in this fight. After studying his loss to Hopkins, things are going to get a tougher for Pavlik, as he seeks to maintain his dominance at Middleweight.

It’s always tough to get your first loss but make no mistake about it; Pavlik is still a very efficient boxer with good power in both hands. Saturday night, he just met his match in an unlikely place and at an unnecessary jump in weight. Hopkins schooling of Pavlik provided a lot of quality lessons to be learned for the young man from Youngstown. May he learn his lessons well.

This loss will give the 26 year old Pavlik the kind of sobering experience that should make him a better fighter. It will be interesting to see what new style improvements Pavlik brings to his next fight. The man Pavlik should fight next is Arthur Abraham (27-0, 22 KO’s). The 28 year old Abraham is remarkably durable, strong and likely to win his upcoming fight with 37 year old Raul Marquez (41-3-1, 29 KO’s) in Germany next month.

Congratulations BIG TIME to Bernard Hopkins! That was a great performance, without a dull moment from what I saw. Hopkins always works hard in the gym, lives a clean life and proved that even at 43; he still has enough in him to win big fights against top fighters. After the fight was over, Bernard continued to surprise me, as he was incredibly gracious (even after the roughhousing after the last bell), telling Pavlik that he’s still a great champion and that he shouldn’t let this loss get to him. Pavlik listened with the humility of a good student would to a great teacher.

This was such a powerful performance by Hopkins—he might want to finally retire. I suspect we’ll see him fight again though. He still wants that elusive rematch with Roy Jones Jr. As much as I doubt Roy gets past Joe Calzaghe on November 8th in Madison Square Garden, I doubt Roy wants anything to do with Bernard Hopkins, now or ever. If he did, it would’ve happened already.

But time will tell…

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Article posted on 19.10.2008

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