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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fight Preview: Hopkins vs. Pascal

On Saturday, December 18, 45-year-old Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins (51-5-1, 32 KO's) will attempt to become the oldest fighter in boxing history to obtain a major world title when he battles WBC and Ring Magazine Light Heavyweight champion Jean Pascal (26-1, 16 KO's). The fight will take place in Quebec City, Canada at the Pepsi Coliseum. Within 48 hours of tickets being placed on sale, more than 15,000 were purchased for an arena that holds 16,333 seats. The fight will be broadcast LIVE on Showtime in the United States, and distributed on pay-per-view in Canada on Canal Indigo, Bell TV, Shaw TV, and Viewer's Choice in French and English.

What does a fight against Pascal mean to Hopkins at this stage in his career?

"He brings belts to the table," said Hopkins. "He's a guy that's confident because he's champion. And when you're home, you're confident and you're also nervous. He wants to impress everybody, but he's only human. I just want to promote this 46-year-old, 45-year-old man beating up a young guy."

Hopkins added, "There's a lot of 40-year-olds running around here now and older, who are going to be dropping their cane and putting their teeth in rooting for me. At the end of the day, I am the poster boy for longevity if you do the right things early."

Hopkins has won five of his last six fights, his only loss in that time span emerging from a controversial twelve round split decision against Joe Calzaghe. In that same duration, Hopkins owns victories over Antonio Tarver, Ronald "Winky" Wright, Kelly "The Ghost" Pavlik, Enrique Ornelas and the renowned Roy Jones, Jr., all of which came by twelve round unanimous decisions. Hopkins' last knockout win was against Oscar De La Hoya in 2004. Yet, despite his age, this crafty veteran is still on top of his game. Hopkins, already the oldest fighter in boxing history to hold the middleweight title, is looking to accomplish the feat now at light heavyweight, which would also place him in boxing history as the oldest fighter ever to win a noteworthy title. Previously, Hopkins holds the record as the longest reigning middleweight champion, making 20 consecutive defenses of his titles from April 29, 1995 - July 16, 2005.

"You cannot alter history, you cannot downplay history," exclaimed Hopkins. "That's what I thrive off of right now; That's my motivation."

Hopkins added, "There are fighters that are not the same anymore. That's the risk you take when you're going in there, because being young is a blessing. Being young has a lot of benefits, but being experienced and also having a young mind and a young body is a double threat that your going up against. That's what I represent. I represent that."

Pascal, 28, was born in Haiti, but now resides in Laval, Quebec, Canada. He will have a raucous, hometown crowd supporting him in his toughest challenge to date. After losing by a twelve round unanimous decision to Carl Froch in a super middleweight clash, Pascal went on to win five consecutive fights, most recently defeating the heavily favored Chad Dawson by an 11th round technical decision. Two fights after his only professional loss to Froch, Pascal captured the WBC Light Heavyweight title when he beat Adrian Diaconu by a twelve round unanimous decision. Now, a vastly improved Pascal looks to secure a win against Hopkins, a fighter who has never been thoroughly beaten in a fight, nor was he ever knocked out.

"His biggest problem is his inexperience," stated Naazim Richardson, Hopkins' head trainer. "We're going to be able to trap him in certain exchanges, and he won't be able to take advantage of it."

Richardson believes Pascal will immediately attack Hopkins from the opening bell.

"For a young man, that's the advantage a young man takes," added Richardson. "Youth is always going to jump on the old - that's for sure. He's not going to be able to sit back and play a chess game with Bernard."

Pascal has youth on his side, but Hopkins has the edge in experience, battling a long list of A-level fighters, many of which fought him much later in his career. And still, Hopkins virtually dominated all of them, including Glen Johnson, Antwun Echols, Felix Trinidad, as well as others mentioned above. Hopkins handed Johnson (TKO 11) and Trinidad (TKO 12) their first professional defeats, and was the first fighter to knockout Oscar De La Hoya, stopping him with a perfectly timed left hook to the body in the ninth round.

Look for Hopkins to deceive Pascal by luring him into close range, so he can quickly counter him. On the other hand, Pascal owns a solid right hand, and will need to dictate the pace of this fight by utilizing his left jab and hand speed. Can Pascal overwhelm Hopkins with his swift hands? Will Pascal be able to land enough punches against an extremely clever Philadelphia boxer-puncher? Hopkins is a master at setting the tone of his fights, as he has successfully proven for countless years against practically everyone. Although he is in the twilight of his career, Hopkins knows exactly when to throw and where to place his punches effectively. Hopkins has also shown the proficient ability to fight particularly well in close quarters, something that Pascal has not displayed yet.

"I am a risk-taking guy, but I take the right, educated and smart risks," said Hopkins. "I am not a risk-guy just to say that I am going to do something that I have no shot of accomplishing. A lot of people are going to have to adjust their books after this fight, after this one-sided fight!" 

It's an intriguing match-up with many questions to be answered. How much improved and polished is Pascal after beating Dawson? Will Hopkins school another young fighter rising in the rankings, like he did to a previously unbeaten Kelly Pavlik in Atlantic City, N.J.? Can Hopkins capitalize on the defensive flaws Pascal exhibited against Dawson?

No one seemed willing to take on Pascal in his backyard except Hopkins, who knows he must be at his absolute best to acquire a decision victory, if he cannot knockout Pascal. Every time Pascal's fans cheer after he lands a punch will surely have a profound effect on the judges' scorecards, as it will maximize the actual damage Pascal's punches produce. Knowing the situation of fighting in an opponent's hometown, Hopkins was more than eager to accept the challenge, which exemplifies the belief he has in himself to succeed. Hopkins' conditioning level cannot be disputed, because he has dominated fighters much younger than him for several years. Yet, Pascal is a young lion in his prime, and is keen on adding a legend's name to his growing resume. At some point, Hopkins will not be able to sustain the level of success he has demonstrated in recent years. Will he come to that point in his career on December 18th?

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