Boxing

Bernard Hopkins vs Jean Pascal: Keys to Victory, Four to Explore, and Official Prediction

boxingby Vivek Wallace: Saturday night, one of the most intriguing and controversial figures in the sport will step in the ring in what could be the final fight of his career as Philly native, Bernard Hopkins (51-5-1, 32KO's) takes on Canadian, by way of Haiti, Jean Pascal (26-1, 16KO's). Over the years, Bernard Hopkins has found a way to preserve youth, although the old adage tells us "all good things must come to an end". Eager to end his reign and begin a new phase for both himself and the sport, Jean Pascal will aim to do something that many have tried, as most were denied. That feat? Stop the aging veteran for once and for all. As we prepare to see these two men square off, we take an in-depth look at "Keys to Victory", Four critical elements of the fight to explore, and an "Official Prediction":

BERNARD HOPKINS - KEYS TO VICTORY

For Bernard Hopkins, the key to victory is quite simple, and it all comes down to something he prides himself on......"execution"! Like any boxing match, execution is critical, but when Hopkins is the subject, that term takes on a completely different meaning. The Hopkins template is to frustrate an opponent, forcing them to make mistakes and fight out of character. Hopkins applies this very well.. The aging veteran has always been a very slick, and for lack of better terms, extremely cunning boxer who knows what to do, how to do it, and how to get away with "it" if it ever comes down to it! Only a precious few have mastered the craft of blending a perfectly timed elbow with a right cross, (in example), and Hopkins is certainly one boxer who understands full well how to slide under the radar when it's time to play above the rim.

It shouldn't be a preconceived notion that Hopkins will play dirty, but no question, he will do whatever it takes (short of overtly crossing the line) to complete the job he started at the press conference days ago by continuing to frustrate the younger Pascal. Pascal is the bigger man physically, which actually plays into the mindset of many in his camp that he'll be able to push Hopkins around a bit. That mentality could land him in deeper trouble than he knows, as you can expect Hopkins to land hard, move fast, and wrap quick, in one motion.......all night long! If Hopkins can frustrate Pascal early, things will unravel fast, as Pascal has never been in with a cagey veteran like this in his career, and lost to the one man with remotely similar boxing skills.

JEAN PASCAL - KEYS TO VICTORY

For Jean Pascal, this fight will all boil down to intelligence. Logic says due to the age difference, perhaps he should enter the ring and try to push the past and sustain it. Reality says that this gameplan could (and most likely would) result in him running the wrong guy into the ground (himself)! Pascal has been in some grueling fights, but it was always against men he could hit without much problem. Hopkins will be a different puzzle to solve, so to speak. Hopkins will make him miss, and make him pay if he isn't careful. Pascal will need to measure his pace so that he doesn't run out of gas late, which has seemed to be the case in a few of his fights. It will be very critical for Pascal to know coming into the night that age is "nothing but a number". Hopkins will be conditioned, and will come ready for the full 12.

Pascal will need to use his jab to avoid Hopkins' typical safety net for when he feels threatened, which is to punch-and-grab. The jab will be highly critical for Pascal. If he can land it with any regularity and keep Hopkins off balance, a landing spot for his power-shots could be closer than he thinks. Pascal will need to put his punches together and use good angles to enter and exit. If Pascal can stay disciplined and use an intelligent attack, the victory could be his easier than some seem to think.

FOUR TO EXPLORE

A.G.E. Before Beauty? - Earlier this week, it became public knowledge that Pascal has a pretty decent following of women back at home in Canada, but the trouble for him come Saturday night is that this is no beauty contest. No question, women love a man with experience, and whether Hopkins has the looks or not, he wins that battle hands down. 420 rounds boxed compared to 182 says a lot. Especially when the one in the 400's still looks just as fresh. Will this be the night the other "age" catches up with Hopkins? Or will Pascal learn what it is to face "A Greater Experience" level?

Handicap Match? - Although boxing has two competitors in the ring, there's always a third man in charge. Not too long ago we saw how badly things could go wrong in a Canadian ring when Marlon B. Wrong (pun intended) decided to leverage his power and assist Lucian Bute against Librado Andrade. This time around, the plot thickens. Pascal is on his home court, but Hopkins is the legendary name on deck. If there's any favoritism shown by Michael Albert Griffin (Canadian official) who gets the nod? It'll be interesting to see how things are called, as it will without question impact the final result.

Legend of 'Bad' Chad - Hopkins has been accused of ducking Chad Dawson, while Pascal recently stole his heart. Several figures around the sport had previously viewed Dawson as a P4P candidate, but Pascal has never looked great against slick boxers. What's the real deal, here? Was Dawson simply a hype job? Or has Pascal truly evolved since his Froch days in 2008? Saturday night we'll find out.

KO'd or OK'd? - Bernard Hopkins has never really been battered and bruised after a fight, let alone knocked out, but Pascal seems to think he has what it takes to get it done. Hypothetical question of the day: What happens if he does in fact stop the "Executioner"? Would be he hailed as a new P4P contender in another episode of media pendulum swinging? Or would fans and media brush it off and simply give a shoulder-shrugging "OK", based on Hopkins' old age? Curious to know.....Seriously doubt we find out!

OFFICIAL PREDICTION/UPSET BAROMETER (SCALE FROM 1 - 5)

This fight has that prototypical "old school meets new school", or "young pup meets the old lion" type vibe. Over the years we've seen this type of fight go both ways. We've seen the young stallion show his mettle for the world to see; and we've seen the old stallion make it look easy. Pascal has show quite a bit over the years, but as I broke down fight footage leading up to this showdown, and reviewed history of the two men, two things became blatantly obvious.

Hopkins has dismantled more men like Pascal than Pascal has even faced who are like him! The major concern for Pascal is the fact that he has zero idea what he's about to step in the ring with, and unfortunately for him, this isn't a style that's easily simulated in sparring. In apt fashion, giving Naazim Richardson 8 weeks to decipher fight footage of a come straight ahead, bomb throwing type fighter can only mean one thing.......RUN FOR COVER! As I'm sure Richardson's plan will be to break him down like a dirty M-16 on the battle field. I expect Hopkins to come out in a tactical approach, and no later than the 3rd round, commence to taking the fight over with traps upon traps, baiting the younger fighter into a rapid-fire approach that could ultimately end with one slow bang!

If Pascal can press the action and hasten the pace, he may do well; but I don't see him out-boxing Hopkins, and he'll learn very early that those flurries that worked with Dawson won't work with a vet like B-Hop. In the end, I see controversy, with Hopkins cashing out in a disputed victory. He's the only champ I know to lose his title via split decision at home. On Saturday, I think a few rounds scored closer than they should be for Pascal will make it close enough to see him actually win one like this. In the rap world they some a tendency to yell "REMIX"! In Canada, they'll be yelling "REMATCH"!!!! Pun intended, but it's probably not a laughing matter!

BERNARD HOPKINS via CONTROVERSIAL SPLIT DECISION (Upset barometer peaks at 3 of 5, as Pascal could get some home cooking based on power shots landed and flurries)

(Check out weekly "Saturday Roundtable" discussions and daily buzz topics with Vivek Wallace on FaceBook. Vivek can also be reached at vivexemail@yahoo.com, 954*292*7346, Youtube (VIVEK1251), Twitter (VIVEKWALLACE747), and Skype (VITO-BOXING)

Article posted on 17.12.2010



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