Bernard Hopkins’s second-half dominance of light-heavyweight champion Jean Pascal was not enough to overcome two early knockdowns, forcing the Executioner to settle for a heartbreaking majority draw.
In the early rounds, it appeared that the 45 year old Hopkins had finally bit off more than he could chew. Pascal, with faster hands and a new found countering ability, was catching Hopkins with looping left hand counters. An arching right cuffed Hopkins behind the ear, resulting in Hopkins’s first knockdown since 1994. The feat was repeated in the third, this time off a counter right that dropped Hopkins to his knees. Each time the Philly native sprang to his feet; Hopkins was not hurt either time, but seemed to be finally showing weaker legs.
Hopkins gained footing in the fourth, courtesy of piercing left hooks to the body. These shots gave pause to Pascal’s offense, and Hopkins began to dissect the champion’s rhythm and time him. However, Pascal came right back in the fifth, finding a home for the leaping left hook as the challenger focused on the body.
The fight’s second half featured a great comeback from Hopkins. In rounds sixth and seven, he constantly had Pascal on the defensive, strafing him with that left to the body, and occasionally throwing in a hard overhand right. Pascal was at times in full retreat, and the Canadian crowd murmured “ohhs” after every solid Hopkins connection.
By round eight, Hopkins felt the tide had turned. He smiled and stuck out his chin after Pascal caught him with a left hook, and preceded to return the favor with hooks to the body. The ninth saw Hopkins visibly stun Pascal for the first time with a short straight right. Hopkins continued moving forward, and broke from his normal mauling style to outpunch Pascal in these very important rounds.
Bernard Hopkins, knowing he was in enemy territory and pressed on by trainer Naazim Richardson, did not coast in the championship rounds. In the 10th, Hopkins put on a masterful display of body punching, causing Pascal to jump with every digging hook downstairs. Pascal finally tried to hold his ground in the 11th, winning an early hook exchange before getting back on his bicycle. Hopkins remained relentless, hurting Pascal with body shots. To finish the round, Pascal ended with three quick right uppercuts inside a clinch.
With the 12th round possibly deciding the fight, both men went all out. Hopkins pounced out the gate with mauling, hard hooks. For the first time, Hopkins showed signs of faitgue, and looked to rest briefly in clinches after landing. A desperate Pascal reasserted himself by exchanging hooks and getting the better of it. Hopkins responded with short rights of his own. In the closing seconds, each man swung for the fences as time expired. Hopkins immediately smiled and raised both hands, and Jean Pascal heaved a huge sigh of relief and walked back quietly to his corner.
The two early knockdowns proved to be Hopkins’s undoing. An American judge scored the bout 114-112 for Hopkins, while a Canadian and Belgium judge scored the fight 113-113, and 114-114 for a majority draw. The crowd groaned at the verdict. Bernard Hopkins, who’s always maintained the boxing establishment has wanted to get rid of him, had new ammunition to claim he had been jobbed. Unlike decision losses to Joe Calzaghe and Jermain Taylor, Bernard Hopkins not only threw more punches (502 to 350), but also outlanded Pascal significantly (153 to 86).
“The Canadian judge gave it to the guy. I got no reaction, the world seen it. I had the guy beat up, c’mon man!” Hopkins fumed to Showtime announcer Jim Gray, who broke objectivity and told Hopkins he won the fight. ”They got me damn near winning every round. One [knockdown] was to back of the head…I got up and fought like a champion. I probably won that round that they called the knockdown in…I dominated the fight and he was holding…I’m too dangerous for anybody…They wanted me to sit around and get older. This was sure-enough robbery. The fans saw it and know what it is. This is one of the reasons most fighters from the States don’t like fighting outside the country. You don’t see Pascal jumping around joyful. I know I won.”
“I won based on my performance. It wasn’t my best fight, Bernard likes to fight dirty,” Pascal claimed. “He’s a tough guy to box. Both of them [were legitimate knockdowns]. We got fair judges in Canada. I’m not happy, I like to win clear…if he wants a rematch, anytime.”
The majority draw derails Hopkin’s bid to become the oldest man ever to win a boxing title.
At press time, the WBC plans to announce an immediate rematch, with a venue undetermined.
What an excellent fight! On my scorecard, Pascal did not win a round after the fifth. I had Hopkins by a score of 114-112, and this is with Pacal having two 10-8 rounds. It was a great comeback for Hopkins, and I can understand the extreme disappointment he’s feeling. He didn’t get the win, but this fight enchances his legacy considerably. He took a champion 18 years his junior to school, and in the eyes of most won the fight. Pacquiao and Mayweather get all the attention, but Bernard Hopkins has also consistently fought at a high level over the last decade.
Pascal’s limitations were exposed badly. I picked Hopkins because the Canadian fights at a pace that favor the old master. But even I was surpised by how Hopkins stalked and outpunched him. The mauling, ugly style that Bernard Hopkins has used on many times in his older years was nowhere to be seen. What we saw was glimpses on the old B-Hop from his early middleweight run.
The WBC did the right thing in ordering the rematch. Let’s see if Jean Pascal is willing to come to the States.