by Paul Strauss: Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins came up short in his attempt to surpass George Foreman as the oldest man to win a world championship. His tough task was an attempt to try and capture the WBC and IBO light heavyweight titles while in champion Jean Pascal’s backyard at the Pepsi Coliseum, Quebec City, Quebec Canada. He came within a couple of points of doing so, and those points came in the form of two knockouts. One knockdown occurred in the first round, and the second knockdown occurred in the third round. Hopkins didn’t appear to be hurt in either situation.
In the first, Hopkins was aggressively pursuing Pascal against the ropes, and Pascal turned The Executioner a bit, so he was positioned on his left side. He then fired a right to the head, which glanced off of the top of Hopkins’s left shoulder and then landed on the back of the his head. Hopkins was off balance. and as a result went down. At first Referee Michael Griffin seemed confused as to whether a legitimate knockdown had been scored. He seemed to look ringside for help, maybe just to pick up the count, but then indeed started one. Hopkins was embarrassed, but not hurt..
In the third round, Pascal caught Hopkins with two lefts. The second was a pretty good hook to the chin. Again Hopkins footwork seemed to be a factor. This time he appeared to have slipped on one of the painted advertising logos. He easily beat the count, and glanced down at the canvas to see what caused him to slip, but he was stung by the blow this time, and did need a few moments to cover up and retreat to make sure no further damage was caused.
Undoubtedly, the judges had Hopkins down five points after the third round, so he had some ground to make up. He started to do so with hard body shots, mainly left hooks and left uppercuts to the kidney, liver and solar plexus areas. It was interesting to watch how he managed to do so with lead left hooks, something that usually will leave a fighter exposed to a counter. But, Pascal wasn’t even attempting to counter, so Hopkins kept doing it. Hopkins would set it up by feinting a right hand, and at the same time shifting his weight and position slightly to his right to load up for the left hook. Pascal’s guard was up a bit to deal with the feint, so Hopkins’ left would get in under or between the arms. Bernard also made sure that every time Pascal tried to hit him with one of his favorite punches, a lead right to the head, he got a counter left to the body. Pretty soon it didn’t seem like the lead right was Pascal’s favorite punch anymore.
By the middle rounds, Hopkins seemed to have really taken over the fight. A couple of times, Pascal seemed to have been hurt by the hard body shots, and he became content with becoming more and more defensive. When Hopkins would cut off the ring, Pascal would foolishly allow him to land combinations without countering. He seemed content with trying to explode every so often with a quick wild big shot, almost all of which Hopkins blocked or avoided. There were a few times when Pascal would trade with Hopkins, and his speed was an advantage, but Hopkins would quickly disrupt those exchanges by repositioning himself and changing angles.
Hopkins has always been a great inside fighter, and against Pascal he once again demonstrated that ability. Pascal was frustrated when pinned against the ropes, because Hopkins was able to use leverage, his left shoulder and head position to nullify what Pascal wanted to do. That is not to say that Pascal wasn’t able to land some pretty good uppercuts of his own as previously mentioned, but he definitely wasn’t looking like he was in control.
The fight was close though going into the last round, but the forty-five year old Hopkins didn’t seem to be wilting at all, whereas there seemed to be a wearisome look on the face of Pascal. The action remained fierce, and as things evolved Hopkins seemed to have more left; although, Pascal again had his moments.
Announcers Al Bernstein gave the fight to Hopkins by one point, and Antonio Tarver also had it as a one point margin, but for Pascal. The official scoring came in with two judges scoring the fight a draw. The third had it for Pascal, so officially the result is a majority draw, and Pascal keeps his titles.
Hopkins was understandably upset. In his post-fight interview with Jim Gray he stated in his opinion he took every round, except for the two knockdown rounds. He added that he wasn’t hurt by either, and further argued that the first round knockdown shouldn’t have been scored as such, because it was due to an illegal punch. He had a point, and Jim Gray eagerly stated that he thought Bernard won the fight.
There was some talk about a rematch, but realistically Pascal’s handlers will probably want him to move on to other things. Meanwhile, Bernard soon turns forty-six, and knows he probably just had his last shot at breaking Foreman’s record. Oh, so close.