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  History Will Be Made

By Dennis & Patti Jo Bernstein @ Ringside
Photos: Tom Hogan - hoganphotos/Golden Boy

 

Montreal – The National Hockey League’s current promotional campaign for the Stanley Cup playoffs is leveraged of the slogan. “History Will be Made.” With the rematch of the Bernard Hopkins-Jean Pascal light heavyweight championship being staged in the city known as the ‘cradle of hockey’, there couldn’t a more appropriate setting for a potentially historical boxing event.

Six months removed from their controversial first go-round, staged in Quebec City, Pascal was far less impressive against the future Hall of Famer Hopkins than he was in capturing the championship against Chad Dawson (who is looking to get back into the mix for a world title) which put him on most boxing fans’ radar.

In the lead up to the fight, the pressure of the big event, this time to be stage at the 21,000 seat Bell Centre in Montreal, set squarely on the shoulders on the defending champion Pascal. From the initial press conference to the final weigh-in, Pascal banged one drum loud and long. Though no Quebec or WBC rules mandated it, the Haitian born native of Montreal alternated between pleading and demanding that Hopkins submit to Olympic style blood testing, a direct accusation of steroid use by the challenger.

As one who covered Hopkins fights for over a decade, to listen the constant harangue by Pascal insults both fighters. Hopkins training regimen is legendary; he hasn’t taken a drink for over twenty years and with his conversion to Islam, he doesn’t eat red meat. He was walking role model for those over 40 with respect to how to stay in shape as Father Time creeps in and most importantly, the dozens of fighters he’s vanquished have never uttered a word about Hopkins’ potential use for performance enhancing drugs. Hopkins for his part was dismissive of the accusations, brushing them off as a motivating tactic by a desperate opponent, “My opponents keep giving me reasons to stay motivated. Right now I have a guy saying that I have been cheating and at the end of the day, that is motivation.”

Perhaps the knowledge that this match will go a long way in determining both his boxing and financial future has allowed the distractions to creep in for Pascal. The need for a resounding win against Hopkins gave Pascal the opportunity for big money fights outside of his native Quebec. His far from classic, awkward style is a tough watch but it is offset by his charisma. Pascal is friendly, upbeat sort with a winning smile that could potentially win him a good number of fans globally. To defeat a legend like Hopkins and then look for a rematch with Carl Froch (who handed Pascal his only defeat at 168) would attract a lot of interest from the network. If he were to lose or be unimpressive against a 46 year old opponent would lessen the interest at the attached dollars for his services.

If Hopkins thought that this was truly a legacy defining moment, he sure had a funny way of showing it the day prior to the match. With all the chirping about his legendary routine to keep in shape, the North Philadelphia native hit the scales at 1PM Friday and shocked everyone in attendance by failing to make the 175 contracted weight. Perhaps it was a miscalculation or just sloppiness in Hopkins’ behalf but no one in the gathered throng could ever recall Hopkins missing the mark on the first step to the scales. While he easily rid himself of the four ounces necessary inside of 90 minutes, questions immediately bounced around the room as to both his motivation and fitness another potential 12 grueling rounds with an opponent more fit and 17 years younger. Ever the historian, Hopkins went old school in making The Moa prediction for the fight, “I want to remind people that I am the modern day Archie Moore. He came to Canada in his 40′s and beat Yvon Durrelle in his own backyard. I am going to show the fans on
Saturday night what déjà vu in the ring looks like in Canada.” Further adding to the fever pitch at 10pm, Bernard exacerbated the hometown supporters by his choice of garb for his ring walk. “I am wearing a [Philadelphia] Flyers jersey into the ring on Saturday night, a Bobby Clarke jersey with my name on it. I am going to be just like him, I might even take out my front teeth.”

While Hopkins didn’t keep his promise about the hockey sweater, he kept every other one made over the course of the promotion. Unlike their first matchup when Hopkins resorted to his bad habit of giving away early rounds, he took the fight to the younger Pascal beating him to the punch with lead right hands early while tuning up his jab as an effective tool later in the match. Pascal also was different this time around; after fading badly in the championship rounds in their Quebec City fight, Pascal showed late fight strength given a second chance. “I wanted to show I’m not a 4 round fighter,” he remarked afterwards.

When the final bell rang, Hopkins affirmed what he suggested when he spoke to us a few weeks before the fight, “my job is to win the crowd over in the midst of the fight.” Though the boisterous crowd of 17,500, the largest ever to see a fight in Montreal screamed for their hometown hero to emerge from the ring with the WBC and The Ring Magazine straps, when the unanimous scores of 116-112, 115-113 and 115-114 were read by Michael Buffer, there were little complaints by the Canadian crowd, due in part that they knew history was made.

Hopkins confirmed he got a call from the man whose record he broke, George Foreman and claimed that Big George said he was coming out of retirement to get back the record. The jammed packed post fight press conference found a respectful but beaten Pascal, claiming he suffered from double vision in the fifth and sixth round but failed to disclose (at least in English) why that occurred. “I’m only 28 years old; I will be back because despite the loss, I’m still a champion.” Pascal future is unclear as a third go around with Hopkins is unlikely, “tell him to leave Papa alone,’ Bernard joked. If undefeated Tavoris Cloud gets by Yusef Mack next month, a matchup for Cloud’s IBF strap would be a winner in Montreal. If that doesn’t come to fruition, a Chad Dawson rematch could be available and given Dawson’s comments in the press conference (coming up soon), an early 2012 bout would be a money maker too.

As for Hopkins, those who wanted the Executioner to ride off into the sunset after his historic triumph will have to wait for another day. “I’m not going to go out there and embarrass myself, I gave everyone what they came for tonight. I’m like an antique car, a ’65 Lincoln Continental with suicide doors, you got to take it out on the road every so often, not just start it,” was another free flowing Hopkinsism expressed while basking in victory. Dawson’s promoter, Gary Shaw claimed that a late year match up with Hopkins would be next and Bernard and Golden Boy head Richard Schaefer did nothing to dispel the notion.

In closing another classic Hopkins presser, the future Hall of Famer was far more humble than in ‘I told you so’ mode and while contemplating the status of his achievement he turned into something few have ever seen. When queried about which accomplishment was greater, his 20 title defenses at middleweight or being the oldest champion ever, he couldn’t muster a quote, even more history to close a historical night.

Notes:

In the co-feature, former WBC light heavyweight champ Chad Dawson continued on the comeback trail against fan favorite Adrian Diaconu. The Montreal based Romanian seemed up against it at the weigh-in as the six foot three Dawson towered over him as they squared off at the scales. And while Diaconu was game, he was far outclassed by Dawson, who set himself up for Hopkins with the eliminator win. While respectful for his future opponent, Dawson had more venom in his words for Pascal than his punches in the ring. After spending just six weeks with legendary Marry Steward, Dawson is attempting to change his style from that of a defensive fighter to a more aggressive one. “I’ve got a long way to go but we’ve only been together six weeks,” Dawson admitted. Given the number of uneventful fights he’s fought and his lack of charisma, it’s a smart move by the New Haven, Connecticut based boxer. He even took a swipe at Pascal, who dethroned him last year afterwards. “Tonight showed what Jean Pascal really is, he’s an amateur fighter. He caught a break against me and got lucky.”



 

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