Before the Jean Pascal-Bernard Hopkins rematch, ferocious words flew on a brilliant new HBO special called "Face Off" a back and forth between the two fighters moderated by announcer Max Kellerman. If past is prelude, it seemed likely the HBO special would be significantly more exciting than the fight itself. The 46-year-old Hopkins is one of the most cautious and defensive fighters of his generation. Famous for his tactical and technical skills, Hopkins has never been one to light the world on fire. Until last night.
Behind the strength of a wicked lead right hand, Hopkins took the fight to Pascal for much of the 12 round title bout. It was like seeing a caterpillar transform before our very eyes. It was Tony Gwynn recast as a home run hitter, Wayne Gretzky eschewing the open man for a low percentage slap shot. This was, well, Bernard Hopkins seeking glory and glamour beneath the bright lights, no longer content to win a boring decision.
Hopkins was like a new fighter altogether. Even in the 12th round, seemingly ahead on the scorecards, Hopkins was charging forward. It almost cost him as Pascal landed a hard punch. Hopkins weathered the storm when Pascal didn't have the injury to come forward any more. By the end of the round, Hopkins was once again the aggressor.
Hopkins won with scores of 115-114, 115-113 and 116-112. It wasn't that close. I had the bout 117-112 and that didn't include to knockdowns of Pascal that were inexplicably labeled "slips" by referee Ian John-Lewis. Pascal joins some of the greats on Hopkins' list of victims. Roy Jones Jr, Antonio Tarver, Ronald "Winky" Wright, Oscar de la Hoya, and Felix "Tito" Trinidad have all met defeat at his hands. He's one of the greats and this is the crowning achievement of a career that will see him in Canastota, New York at the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Amazingly, Hopkins isn't done yet. Instead of pushing for a third match with Pascal, the new light heavyweight champion will square off with Chad Dawson who won on the undercard against Adrian Diaconu. Whether Hopkins has it in him to beat Dawson is an intriguing question. At 46, can he pull out one more miracle? If these two fights against Pascal have taught us nothing, they've taught us never to count out Bernard Hopkins.