Hopkins delivers harsh lesson to Pavlik, Silences Critics

Bernard HopkinsBy Evan Young - Bernard “the executioner” Hopkins delivered a painful, brutal and comprehensive lesson to Ohioan Kelly “the ghost” Pavlik at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey on Saturday night. Hopkins opened up the first round and was in a fighting mood and immediately took control of the fight with a slashing, two fisted combinations that landed with startling accuracy. And BHOP never relinquished said control, doling out liberal amounts of punishment for the remainder of the fight. Hopkins was amazing, able to amp up his punch output while at same time diffusing Pavlik’s best weapons – his jab and punch volume.

Gone was the old economical Hopkins looking for right hand counter punches that we had grown used to seeing and replaced with a laser sharp Executioner that ripped Pavlik with a blazing 2 handed attack. Hopkins landed sizzling left hooks, thudding right hands and punishing body punches – every single round. Pavlik, who has always been able to impose his will on everyone he had fought up to this point, never came close to finding an answer on what to do. And as Hopkins began to win round after round, Pavlik, and everyone else witnessing this amazing event was now realizing that we were all conned, but not in the way we thought we would be.

You see, Pavlik, myself and well over 90% of all the pundits were absolutely blindsided by what was taking place. As soon as the 2nd round was over, I knew it was over for Pavlik and he was in for a one sided whipping by the slyest of the sly. But I was resigned to see it through and ultimately eat a heaping serving of crow. Hopkins was able to dictate every aspect of this fight. He staggered and hurt Pavlik several times in the fight but Pavlik showed his own grit by hanging in there and taking the heavy dose of medicine Hopkins was serving him. Pavlik tried but that only made things worse as he soaked up numerous clean shots that made everyone wince. Hopkins never let his foot off the gas nor did he seem like the listless, tired fighter that he appeared to be in his bout with Calzaghe.

Hopkins closed the show with gusto, lacing Pavlik with a punishing array of leather that would have turned many man back well before the end. Just as the fight was ending, Hopkins was feeling it and having so much fun that he threw a few more shots for good measure at the fights close and feigned like he was going to continue to attack Pavlik after the fight ended, as the ref had Hopkins in a bear hug keeping him from continuing to abuse the bewildered Pavlik. Pavlik’s corner got pissed off but Hopkins’s message was delivered load and clear – ‘I just beat the crap out of the middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik and shocked the world.’

Once satisfied, Hopkins slid to another part of the ring and simply stared out at press row with a motionless ‘I told you so’ look that everyone seemed to get. Then the enormity of what and how Hopkins won this fight seemed to suddenly hit Bernard himself as his lips and jaw quivered with emotion in a display rarely seen by the Executioner. Now with Hopkins’ superiority proved and in check, he walked over to Pavlik to be a good sport, which is easy after such a dominating victory. And he began a lecture that almost looked like a father asserting authority over a son and the son getting that message loud and clear. Pavlik vigorously nodded to every word Hopkins said with an ‘I am humbled by what you just did to me look and I promise I will never cross you again.’ It was like a fight in the schoolyard where the guys involved in the fight make up but true dominance has been firmly established and will never questioned again. Game, set, match and Hopkins once again he proves everyone wrong.


Hopkins certainly bamboozled me with this effort. How did he do it when no one thought he could? He wasn’t that sharp against Winky Wright. He beat a weight drained and half dead Antonio Tarver, he dropped two decisions to Jermain Taylor – a guy Pavlik handled twice and KO’d once. And Hopkins, seemed to show his age against Joe Calzaghe in his last fight where he looked tired, slow and sluggish late in the fight.

But Calzaghe has proved to be an all time great and simply had too much speed and conditioning for Hopkins. Still, Hopkins only lost by a split decision and his defense was still intact late in the fight. Taylor has quick hands, why couldn’t he have handled Pavlik like Hopkins did? Because while Taylor has a million dollar body, he has a 5 cent head. Hopkins’ greatest asset is his brain. He knows what he can and cannot do and doesn’t deviate from that. Ever. He holds true to the old axiom made famous by Clint Eastwood – “man has got to know his limitations.”

Well, Hopkins knows his limitations, strengths and knows the same about his opponents, too. But I just couldn’t get the image of Hopkins standing in the ring, waiting to throw a counter right hand while not throwing any body shots or hooks. He looked that way against Calzaghe, Wright, Taylor and even Tarver to an extent. But it could be argued he won the Taylor fights, and only Calzaghe legitimately beat him and that was close. And I think the 170 pound weight limit may have helped Hopkins to be the stronger man as BHOP walks around at over 190 these days while Pavlik usually fights at 160 and doesn’t walk around much over 170.

Hopkins seemed to understand if he could smack Pavlik in the mouth early and often, he could dictate the terms of the fight. Hopkins used his hand speed perfectly by landing first, and once Pavlik tasted some nasty leather he became like an obedient dog, dropping his punch output by roughly 200%. Once Pavlik was defused and not punching, the table was set and dinner was served. In my mind, I looked at Hopkins as 25 punch a round guy against a 100 punch a round guy with great power and conditioning. But that was all thrown out the window by the amazing Hopkins and I got this one terribly wrong.


In my pick, I picked a Pavlik decision win, of this fight I gave Hopkins respect as a formerly great fighter but made it clear that I thought his time had passed and that he was merely a con man lining his pockets on his way to retirement. I talked of his repeated rhetoric about his coming of age at the Greaterford penitentiary that he reminds us all of and how it has grown tiresome. Well, some of this needs to be revisited. I still think Hopkins is the best manger, his own, in boxing.

Here is taste of what Hopkins alone accomplished: In the late 1990’s Hopkins was the middleweight champ but was a guy everyone hated, he wasn’t exciting and couldn’t draw flies to dump. Everyone just seemed to be waiting for him to go away but he kept winning against whoever was available and simply wouldn’t shut up about the lack of respect and money he had been receiving. His perseverance and intelligence began to pay off in 2001 when he was entered in a 4 man middleweight tournament that was established to coronate Felix Trinidad as the top dog in the division.

Don King was tickled with the tournament because it would kill two birds with one stone – it would get rid of Hopkins once and for all and make the lovable Tito Trinidad a crossover star that would greatly enhance the King family coffers. But wily old Hopkins threw a wrench into the event by winning it, and knocking out Trinidad in a performance that was like slowly ripping the wings off a fly for 11 and half rounds, until he crushes him at the end. So after the great win over Trinidad, Hopkins returned against the middleweight bum the month club against the likes of Carl Daniels and Morrade Hakkar, William Joppy and Robert Allen. Hopkins was winning again but no one cared. Enter Oscar de la Hoya, who was looking for a challenge against an aging middleweight champ that he felt he could beat. But De la Hoya is a true Golden Boy and everything that Oscar touches gets some gold dripped on them. This is what Hopkins was waiting for. De la hoya took purse parity with 75/25 split but that was still worth a cool $10Million for Hopkins.

In a dreary fight Hopkins won by a 9th round KO with a left hook to the liver. Then, soon after that fight Hopkins partners up with de la Hoya in his Golden Boy Promotions Company. Talk about smart. And that alignment has set up big fights that have made de la Hoya richer and Hopkins wealthier than he ever dreamed of. In light of the circumstances Hopkins is the smartest fighter/manager in history.


But while Hopkins is getting himself paid quite well, he has to be given great credit for preparing for every fight as if he is still a starving contender. He’s nearly 44 years old but he gets himself in the best possible shape he can and, win or lose, has a strong game plan for every opponent. And further credit must be given for fighting the best guys. He took on the very difficult and quick Calzaghe, a loss, and then the hard punching work horse Pavlik in his next fight. And he grabbed wins over light heavyweight champ Antonio Tarver and the highly avoided Winky Wright.

And, while I was critical of his jail house rhetoric; hey we even get sick of good songs, he backed that up in this match and brought the Ghetto out for this fight. He beat, demoralized, pounded and hammered the young buck Pavlik like he was handing out brutal street justice. And he was. That’s what he told Pavlik during that little lecture after the fight. Hopkins said, you are dealing with “a real dude from street.” As if to say ‘this is what was supposed to happen to your cornbread ass and you shouldn’t be surprised.’

I tip my cap to Hopkins; he is a real dude from the streets. If I didn’t give that enough respect in my pick, I was wrong. He orchestrates everything in his life with careful calculation and recognizes what the consequences will be for everything he does. He knows just what to tweak and when to do it. Considering his lack of formal education the man is a master of the psychology of people. He can read them and play his hands accordingly. And he has learned that from the streets of hard knocks.

Now I know he wants to fight the winner of Roy Jones vs. Joe Calzaghe but if he still has it in him, that he believes he is the baddest man on the cell block, he will take on either light heavyweight champ Chad Dawson or former light heavyweight champ Glen Johnson. Dawson is a young buck, but with blazing speed, superb skills and great talent and Johnson is somewhat like Hopkins was (but more gracious); improved late in his career, is tough as nails, is very dangerous and often avoided.

If Hopkins takes on and defeats BOTH of these men in 2009, I’ll be the first to say that Hopkins should have a separate wing in the boxing hall of Fame in Canastota, New York. But will we see the conman/boxing manager Hopkins next versus Jones or Calzaghe or the true baddest guy in the hood against Dawson or Johnson. What do you think? I say the former. But Hopkins may prove me and everyone wrong again by taking the tougher road. Hey, two years ago I never thought I’d see Hopkins fight Calzaghe or Pavlik and he did. Come on Executioner, do the right thing and bring back that “real dude from the streets” for an encore or two.

Article posted on 21.10.2008

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