Why Bernard Hopkins will beat Jean Pascal

by Geoffrey Ciani - Time and time again boxing fans, odds makers, and members of the media have counted Bernard Hopkins out. This happened most recently just over two years ago when Hopkins was pitted against then middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik. Hopkins was coming off of a close and somewhat controversial split decision loss at the hands of Joe Calzaghe, whereas Pavlik had recently scored back-to-back victories against Jermain Taylor—the man who had twice bested Hopkins previously (albeit once again, in close and controversial fashion). Hopkins, of course, went on to dominate Pavlik in a one-sided tactical exhibition for the ages.

Now Hopkins is slated to challenge WBC light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal on Saturday, December 18 at the Pepsi Coliseum in Quebec City. Once again, many observers are counting Hopkins out against the 28 year old champion and not without good reason. After all, Hopkins will turn 46 less than a month after this fight takes place and Jean Pascal is coming off a career effort after beating the previously undefeated and highly regarded ‘Bad’ Chad Dawson back in August. Many seem to feel that, even though Hopkins may well be a modern day Archie Moore who has seemingly defied Father Time, sooner or later age will catch up with him. Considering Hopkins’ subpar efforts against Enrique Ornelas and Roy Jones Junior, most seem to assume that time is now.

While it is true that Hopkins looked less than stellar against Ornelas and Jones, it should be noted that he still dominated those fights on the scorecards. Furthermore, critics of Hopkins should also consider that Ornelas and Jones both possess the type of styles that make it difficult to look impressive. Beyond that, there is an extremely high likelihood that Hopkins will be far more motivated to face Pascal than either Roy or Enrique, and that alone can make all the difference in the world. All of that aside, what seems to be forgotten in all of this is that, style-wise, Hopkins matches up extremely well against Pascal.

Pascal is the type of fighter who fights in spurts. He has also been known to have stamina issues, especially down the stretch. These two factors play heavily into Hopkins’ favor. When dealing with an opponent like Joe Calzaghe, Hopkins had problems. Calzaghe was a fighter who fought hard every second of every round. As a result, Hopkins was forced to fight at a faster pace than he is accustomed to, forcing him out of his comfort zone. Against an opponent who is less active and more inclined to fight in spurts, such as Kelly Pavlik, Hopkins had time to maneuver and operate on his own terms. In that regard, Pascal fights a lot more like Pavlik than he does Calzaghe. Since Pascal is the type of fighter who has been known to show major signs of fatigue late in fights, he will be vulnerable against Hopkins when it counts most. Even in his last victory against Dawson, ‘Bad’ Chad started coming on strong late when Pascal was running low on steam. With the exception of Joe Calzaghe, who was someone who possessed freakishly good stamina, Hopkins has never been in the ring with anyone who outworked him down the stretch in the championship rounds.

Delving deeper beneath the surface, Hopkins’ style matches up even better against Pascal. In his last fight with Dawson, Pascal was most effective when he darted in and fought in spurts. While at range on the outside, Pascal was not very active or effective. He mostly waited on the outside until he was ready to pounce, at which point he would dart in and attack, often wildly and recklessly. While on the outside, Hopkins has the ability to control Pascal with his jab. This will enable Hopkins to score from a distance and will also act as a deterrent for Pascal who might think twice before moving in to mount an offense.

When Pascal does decide to attack Hopkins he will have even more to consider. Against Dawson, Pascal was able to dart in and out almost at will. Pascal dictated the terms of the fight, and whenever he came inside Dawson panicked. Do not expect the same type of reaction when he attacks Hopkins. On the contrary, when Pascal storms in against Hopkins he will be met with well-timed precise counters. Early in the first round of his fight against Joe Calzaghe, Hopkins landed a brilliant right hand that caught Joe darting in and left him on his ass. It was a punch that was all about timing, and that’s one thing Hopkins still has in abundance. Calzaghe was ultimately able to make adjustments and counter-adjustments which prevented Hopkins from landing those types of shots consistently as the bout progressed, but Pascal is no Joe Calzaghe. While Pascal is an outstanding fighter in his own right, he is not quite as adaptable as Calzaghe. His ability to adjust is simply not on that level, ergo, Hopkins should be able to consistently time Pascal coming in which will decrease his attack frequency and subsequently make him less effective on offense.

The third area where Hopkins should have an advantage on Pascal is when the two find themselves in close quarters. Hopkins is a master at in-fighting, and if it becomes a phone booth brawl, Hopkins is quite adept at mauling and battering his opponents, sometimes even using an old veteran trick or two to get underneath the skin of an already frustrated foe. Although Pascal likes attacking on the inside, he does not ordinarily like staying there. He likes darting in, doing his work, and backing out to safe range. He does not like standing toe-to-toe or clinching indefinitely. Hopkins, on the other hand, is a seasoned veteran who excels when the fight is fought at close range.

Bernard Hopkins could and should be able to get the best of the action wherever the fight takes place. On the outside, Bernard’s jab should score points while keeping Pascal at range. On the inside, Hopkins is a more experienced and effective fighter while tied up in a clinch. While at mid-range, Pascal might have a slight advantage due to his youth and speed, but in order to get there he is going to have to enter Hopkins’ counter-punching comfort zone and he is going to have to pay a price. Pascal is a young talented fighter and a proven champion, so it is unlikely that Hopkins will dominate Pascal the same way he dominated Pavlik two years ago. However, Hopkins’ boxing IQ and abilities are still good enough that he should win this fight decisively.

The only thing working against Hopkins is his age. After all, the man is going to be 46 years old. Sooner or later, common sense dictates that he is going to look old inside the squared circle. Or will he? When Hopkins’ trainer Bernard Hopkins appeared on episode 98 of On the Ropes Boxing Radio he was asked about when we will finally see signs of decline from Bernard. Richardson replied, “When it comes to Bernard Hopkins you’ll never get a chance to see his decline. You guys will never get a chance to see Bernard Hopkins decline, because as we see it in the gym, we won’t allow him to go into the fight so you’ll never get the chance to see it. If you see Bernard Hopkins in a fight, he can still fight.” So while many are expecting Hopkins to finally show his age, such an assumption seems ill-advised—especially when one considers all the other times Hopkins has defied the odds and shocked the world. If Richardson says Hopkins still has what it takes to be fighting at an elite level, there is no reason to doubt his words. Rest assured, when Hopkins does start showing his age inside the ring, Richardson will stop him from going forward.

At the end of the day, Hopkins never seemed too keen on fighting Chad Dawson, but as soon as Pascal beat Dawson, Hopkins jumped on the opportunity. In fact, Hopkins was so eager for a chance against Pascal that he was even willing to fight him in the lion’s den on his home turf in Canada. Hopkins is a crafty veteran who knows his own limitations. When he is anxious to be pitted off against someone he feels he has a stylistic advantage over, there is usually good reason. Many of you will be surprised when Bernard Hopkins once again defies the odds and shocks the world by becoming the oldest champion in boxing history, but I will not be surprised. Any objective analysis of this match-up favors one winner, and that man is the ageless warrior himself, Bernard ‘The Executioner’ Hopkins.

OFFICIAL PREDICTION: Bernard Hopkins by 12 round unanimous decision


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Article posted on 17.12.2010

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