Montreal, Canada — Before over 17,000 fans at the Bell Centre, Bernard Hopkins (52-5-2, 32 KOs) delivered perhaps the most impressive performance of his career in decisioning Jean Pascal (26-2-1, 16 KOs) to win the WBC light-heavyweight title.
Unlike the first fight or previous encounters with younger, more athletic fighters (Taylor, Calzaghe), Bernard Hopkins brought the fight early to Jean Pascal. Whenever the Canadian champion rushed in with power punches, Hopkins attempted to punch with him instead of his trademark mauling. In the first two rounds, Pascal was able to steal the rounds with late flurries to the body. However, Hopkins snapped Pascal’s growing momentum by dazing him with an overhand right in the third. Pascal remained on the unsteady legs and held to make it out of the round.
Pascal responded big in the fourth by badly stunning Hopkins with a sweeping right hook. It was the worst Hopkins had been hurt since the knockdowns he suffered to Segundo Mercado back in 1994. Showing his veteran instincts, Hopkins tied up and received a bit of luck in having the blow land towards the end of the round. Hopkins bounced back in the fifth by making it a boxing contest, but still flirted with the danger of Pascal’s left hook.
As in the first fight, the middle rounds marked a distinct resurgence for Hopkins. The future Hall of Famer made it a boxing contest and easily picked off Pascal with left jabs and right crosses. His growing confidence was evident before the seventh when Hopkins mocked Pascal by doing pushups. The entertaining theatrics caused Pascal’s hometown fans to loudly chant “B-Hop! B-Hop!”
Jean Pascal was a desperate and tired fighter in the championship rounds. His wild swings, and Hopkins counters, caused him to slip twice for questionable, uncalled knockdowns. The 10th and 11th rounds saw Hopkins timing right hands and keeping Pascal’s occasional rushes ineffective. A late round rally in the latter was not enough to win the round nor deter Hopkins from welcoming exchanges.
Pascal did have one final chance to snatch away Hopkins’ victory in the 12th. The Canadian hurt and wobbled the Executioner with a sneaky right. Again going to his veteran playbook, Hopkins utilized Muhammad Ali’s old tactic of mocking his opponents into believing he was not seriously hurt. The move achieved its intended result of causing Pascal to momentarily stop his dogged pursuit. Hopkins back-pedaled over the final minute and lost the round, but had done enough to secure the victory many believed he deserved in the first encounter.
While the majority of ringside media has the bout a draw, the judges gave the Executioner the historic win by scores of 116-112, 115-113 and 115-114. With most of his peers mere shells of their former selves or retired, a reinvigorated Bernard Hopkins told HBO’s Max Kellerman that he plans on not just facing Chad Dawson next, but giving fans exciting fights until he reaches the age of 50.
“I’m gonna finish strong… Before I leave this game you’re going to see the best fights of Bernard Hopkins’ career,” he vowed. “I’m vouching and promising that every fight until I retire will be breathtaking and heart beating… I want to go out a winner; not punch-drunk, not beat up and not broke.”
The win makes Bernard Hopkins the oldest athlete in sports history to win a major championship, breaking the record established by 45-year-old George Foreman’s heavyweight title win over Michael Moorer in 1994.
On the undercard, Chad Dawson (30-1, 17 KOs) made a successful return under new trainer Emanuel Steward, defeating Adrian Diaconu (27-3, 15 KOs) by a wide unanimous decision. The mostly uneventful bout was controlled by Dawson on the outside and mid-range. Scores read 116-112, 117-111 and 118-110.