15 Years On: Kelly Pavlik Recalls His Loss To Bernard Hopkins

10/16/2023 - By James Slater - Comments

Going into the fight that took place ago 15 years ago (October 18 of 2008), reigning middleweight king Kelly Pavlik was a pretty heavy favourite to defeat former middleweight ruler Bernard Hopkins. The two men, so much different in age, in style, in personality (actually, maybe not so much personality, as the two were/are both down to earth, never-forget-where-you-come-from guys) were to engage in a non-title fight, fought at 170 pounds.

Pavlik was in his prime at age 26 and he was undefeated at 34-0(30). “The Ghost” had ripped the middleweight title from common opponent Jermain Taylor, who had twice beaten Hopkins via decision. Hopkins was 43 years of age, and he was 48-5-1(32). For some people, this would be the fight where the cerebral “Executioner” would get stopped for the first time in his long career.

Instead, in scoring The Upset of the Year, Hopkins gave the world one of his finest displays of ring craft. Far too clever, too pin-point accurate, and too strong for Pavlik, B-Hop went home with a wide, near shut-out decision on his record – the scores, 119-106, 118-108, 117-109 indicative of the one-sided nature of the fight.

Pavlik, still the middleweight champ, managed to gut it out to the end when he could so easily have quit, never managed to get anything going against Hopkins, who was on this night professor-like. 15 years later, and Pavlik says he has “no excuses” for the loss, that he simply fought one of “the greatest technically skilled boxers in history.”

Speaking with Slater’s Boxing on YouTube, Pavlik recalls the way it was “not my night” all those years ago in Atlantic City.

On Hopkins’ great footwork:

“That fight, it’s well-documented, I’m sure, Atlantic City records, I’m sure the commission has documented my situation prior to that fight, but I don’t ever get into it, because I’m not dealing with excuses and this and that. It was just not my night that night,” Pavlik says. “That was not Kelly Pavlik that night. And on top of that, Bernard Hopkins is just a technician. I still to this day tell people, you know, boxing, footwork…..everybody seems to think footwork is like Pernell Whitaker or Hector Camacho, flashy.

“But footwork is way more than that. Sometimes, guys who are far from the flashiest have the best footwork. And Bernard Hopkins is one of those guys. I think he could probably go down in history as having the best footwork of any fighter. He makes the step in at the right time, he’ll offset you, he knows when to throw his punches by making that step, and then he gets out at the right time, just by taking that one step over…..just that one subtle movement where he places his body, and it just makes him so tough to fight.”

On how he beat Taylor twice but Taylor beat Hopkins twice:

“Here’s how you know it wasn’t my night [against Hopkins] and that something wasn’t right. In boxing, just because somebody…..here’s how I’ll say it. Just because I beat Jermain Taylor, didn’t mean that I should beat Bernard Hopkins. Right, you get that? But, there’s no way in hell Bernard Hopkins should have beaten me as easily as he did. You get what I mean? So that should automatically tell you [that something was wrong]. If I lost that fight, it should have been a close fight, like a 116-112, something around that.

“It’s almost scientifically impossible for me to go and beat up a guy (Taylor) that beat him twice ….for Bernard to beat me the way he did, that shows you something was wrong somewhere. I’m not saying that I should have beaten Bernard because I beat Jermain twice, but that fight should never have been….. At the end of the day, I still say – and this is taking nothing away from Bernard, I think he has some of the best skills, the best technical fighter in boxing history – it would have been interesting if I’d been at 80 or 85 percent. It would have been a different fight.”

On bouncing back after the loss:

“All I could do was, take what I could from it and learn. I had to move on and have some other fights. There is no shame in losing to a guy like Bernard Hopkins. It is what it is, Bernard is an amazing fighter.”

On potential fights with Paul Williams, Joe Calzaghe, Arthur Abraham and Carl Froch not happening:

“I could be wrong, but I’d say that, 98 percent of the time, it’s down to the promotional companies, as far as what fights are made and when. I don’t blame Top Rank, but what’s told to me could be totally different to what’s said behind closes doors, but from what I’ve always gathered was the fight with Arthur Abraham; that was always one that was talked about. Actually, they were negotiating. Abraham wanted me to go to Germany to fight, which made absolutely no sense. Excuse my language, but it’s kind of like wiping your ass before you shit!

“I was the lineal middleweight champion. Why would I go all the way over to Arthur Abraham’s home country to fight him for one of the other belts? We saw from the first Edison Miranda fight with Abraham what happens. So Top Rank did the right thing, saying, no, that fight’s crazy. Why would we have to go to Germany? Paul Williams, that came down to promotional issues, I think there were two times we started negotiating. And that was the staph infection, with the Paul Williams fight. It was just horrible. And the second time, the fight just fell through. Carl Froch, to be honest with you, that was never really in discussion, and neither was Joe Calzaghe.

“I know that at some point they were trying to make some moves [for a fight with Calzaghe], and of course I fought Gary Lockett, whose trainer was Calzaghe’s father. But – and this was a big part of me retiring when I did – at the time, I was still campaigning at middleweight, and I had no thoughts of going to super-middleweight. The Froch and Calzaghe fights were mentioned well before the fight I had with Sergio Martinez (Pavlik losing his middleweight title via close decision in April of 2010). So, to us, those fights weren’t going to happen, because at that time I just had no interest in going up. At that point, we were the king of the middleweights, so why would I move up to fight them guys?”

YouTube video