The 'Ghost' vs The 'Executioner': Keys To Victory, 4 To Explore, Prediction!
By Vivek Wallace: Tonight, fight fans around the globe will get a chance to watch a fight that could very well produce the most shocking moment in the sport this year. No titles are at stake but gauging the interest from some fight fans out there, the potential of seeing one man's invincibility removed, or the potential of another man's streak of durability destroyed, would clearly suffice.
Article posted on 17.10.2008
When you pair a fearless rising star against a salty veteran who's seen everything, logic can somehow find a way to fly out the window. No guarantees that it happens tonight, but in an effort to narrow down the odds of both men in the ring tonight, we take a look at keys to victory, 4 potential 'game changers' to explore, and a final prediction.
Kelly Pavlik (Keys To Victory): For Pavlik, this fight all comes down to him going in the ring and executing the basic Pavlik plan. Come straight forward using his excellent jab and broad range to keep Hopkins at bey. It's important for Pavlik to not only be aggressive, but cautiously aggressive, allowing himself to establish his power early, but at the same time, gauge exactly what strategy Hopkins will try to employ relative to staying fresh for the full 12. If Hopkins is very defensive and slipping a lot of shots, Pavlik will need to conserve less energy, and rather than bowling ahead, use a more strategical fight plan like cutting off angles, for example. Pavlik knows that there's no way he can go into the ring hesitant to pull the trigger with a guy like Hopkins, so it's vital for him to be very commanding with his plan no matter how he plans to execute it. Pavlik has been very open about wanting to make history tonight by knocking Hopkins out. This could be a grave danger, and a very unnecessary one because we all know that Hopkins will not outwork him over the course of the fight. Pavlik will need to be patient by taking what's there, and going for the kill only when the opportunity raises itself. All in all, this can be a very easy fight for Pavlik if he just takes his time, picks his spot, and doesn't let the spectacle of fighting the biggest name on his resume in front of a backyard crowd take over his ability to execute patiently.
Bernard Hopkins (Keys To Victory): Personally, I think Bernard Hopkins has more of a chance to win this fight than most have given him credit for. It seems impossible due to Pavlik's huge workrate and punch output, but despite the fact that Pavlik's never loss, any man can be beaten, and what I find as a blueprint to defeat Kelly Pavlik is actually rather simple for a guy with Hopkins' mentality. Whether or not he's able to execute this plan for 12 rounds is another question, but here goes. Hopkins will need to approach this fight with the same aggression he did against Tito and Tarver. But effective aggression, not exhausting aggression with few results. Pavliks biggest asset aside from his solid chin is his aggressive power, and his commanding reach. Most fighters make the mistake of trying to box him by keeping their distance in an attempt to land their own jabs and punches without considering the fact that Pavlik is at his best when a fighter gives him his room to operate. To nullify ALL of Pavliks greatest strengths, it'll take a 'phone booth' type fighter who will back up only when necessary, but otherwise stay close landing his shots from a range, nearly nose to nose. Hopkins will have to smother Pavlik, and continue to use his brilliant defense to slip shots and avoid trouble. Both Miranda and Taylor hurt Pavlik at points but neither fight too well backing up, and neither forced Pavlik to back up much. Hopkins has this ability better than nearly anyone in the sport so if he can keep the distance close and land shots in groups, then back up with his shoulder rolls and slipping ability, he can frustrate Pavlik. Not only does this type of close arms combat nullify Pavliks ability to utilize his range (which equates to power), but it also plays into Hopkins' strength because Hopkins has one of the best short-ranged right crosses in the sport. If Hopkins can jab, slip a punch age get close enough to land that right cross from close (like he did to knock down Tito) that will definitely swing the momentum and also set him up to subsequently land that same styled body shot he used to stop De La Hoya. No matter what, Hopkins can't put himself in a boxing match against Pavlik because it's a losing proposition. He'll need to keep it close, grapple from time to time (like he tends to do), frustrate Pavlik into losing his barrings and make him pay. Effective counter-punching when he does find himself at a distance is a strength Hopkins will have to play into as well. If he can do this over 12 rounds, I think Hopkins - with his extensive ring knowledge and ability to execute - can win this fight easily.
FOUR TO EXPLORE - (POTENTIAL FIGHT CHANGERS)
1.) HOW WELL WILL PAVLIK FIGHT AT THE ELEVATED WEIGHT?: Pavlik is a huge puncher, but his best punching and best performances have arguably taken place at 160lbs. Against Taylor in the rematch that took place above 160, Pavlik appeared to many as a sluggish fighter that at times lacked the pure punching power he had had at his regular fighting weight. That perceived shortage in punching power along with a few adjustments from Taylor resulted in Pavlik having to get a points win instead of a KO. Once he hydrates and enters the ring tonight, it's possible that he'll be fighting as heavy as 180lbs. For a guy with his typical output, this can work against him if the fight goes deep.
2.) HOW FAR WILL PAVLIK GO FOR THE THE KO?: It has been stated by Pavlik and his camp on many occasions that a stoppage is the main agenda. Team Pavlik wants to make history, and that's great, but pursuit of this accomplishment could come at a heavy price to pay. It'll be very important for fight fans to watch how his aggression is employed. If it's effective aggression, that works for him. If he fights recklessly and doesn't pick his spots, he could end up hurt himself.
3.) HOW MUCH GRAPPLING WILL THE REFEREE ALLOW FROM HOPKINS?: If Hopkins is allowed to do what he normally does against straight ahead fighters - stand at a distance, dip in head first to narrow the distance then land a shot and immediately clinch - this could be a problem. It leads to a lot of grappling and clinching and if the referee allows too much, it'll take the rhythm right out of Pavlik. The referee's ability to keep this fight 'grapple-free' could very well determine the outcome.
4.) CAN HOPKINS TURN BACK THE CLOCK ONE MORE TIME?: The only question that makes this fight relevant is whether or not Hopkins can thrust himself back in the role of the bully like he did against Tito, Tarver, and Wright? Thanks to Taylor and Calzaghe, Hopkins has lost 3 of his last 5 fights, but it's clear that Pavlik employs a different style from those guys. Styles make fights, and although Pavlik beat Taylor (who beat Hopkins twice), Pavlik's come straight forward style can work against him if Hopkins can stay fresh and execute over 12 rounds. How he manages to do it will be interesting, but that's what makes this a question to explore with fight changing implications.
HOPKINS/PAVLIK FIGHT PREDICTION: I think it's very easy as a sports writer to go with common knowledge by picking someone, or a team that all indications show should win. When it comes to boxing, styles make fights, so it makes more sense to spend more time breaking down those intangibles that are not so common, because in the end those are the things that often make the difference. A few things here standout. After the second fight with Jermain Taylor, Pavlik stated that "the fight was a bit difficult for him because Taylor didn't lay on the ropes like he did in the first fight" so he had to "use his brain much more to get the win". Against the two biggest names on his resume to date (Taylor and Miranda) he won both of those fight primarily right there - on the ropes. Hopkins we know won't spend much time there. Kelly also admitted after that fight that "for some reason the double jab [his own] seemed slower and every time he threw it he noticed it would start to drop". We know that he trains tremendously, so considering that his training regimen was the same, that would tell me the higher weight played a slight role in conditioning. This time he tipped the scale at the weigh in at 169 which carries more consideration. The last intangible that I think can be an 'X-Factor' is the fact that Pavlik's trainer Jack Lowe stated that "the fight with Kelly against anyone changes once he makes them have to fight going backwards". We know that Pavlik has an amazing work rate, but Hopkins has never been known to fight scared.
From the moment this fight was established up until yesterday my prediction has been a Kelly Pavlik victory. When you look at youth, the physical advantages, the facts, and the past, all indications show that this is a Kelly Pavlik fight, but being the rebel I am, I think the one thing Hopkins is more skilled at will determine the outcome tonight. I'm basically the only one out there who probably feels this way, but show me a guy that's right on every pick and tell him the odds makers have been waiting a long time for his arrival in the sport! I'm going out on a limb and call a Bernard Hopkins victory, based on the fact that the three things that Team Pavlik uses for primary strengths are all things Hopkins has found a way to nullify. I don't know how it will happen or when, but I like Hopkins in this chess match. He won't run, he won't lay on the ropes, and he won't be intimidated. Age is one thing, but clearly Hopkins wins the thinking game. I'm ready to eat crow on this one, but if I'm right, the table is set so many of you can get your plate ready, I'll be serving a lot myself!
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: HOPKINS VICTORY
(Got Questions or Feedback?: Contact ESB's Vivek Wallace at firstname.lastname@example.org and 954-292-7346, or show some love at www.myspace.com/anonymouslyinvolved)
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