image: montreal gazette

The Age of Iron: Bernard Hopkins W12 Jean Pascal


*****

Bernard Hopkins embarrassed Jean Pascal last night before a crowd of over 17,000 at the Bell Centre in Montréal, notching a fairly easy unanimous decision over 12 ragged rounds and crashing the history books by becoming, at 46, the oldest man to win a generally acknowledged world title. The final scores were 116-112, 115-113, and 115-114, with the final two tallies uncomfortably close.

After Chad Dawson imitated a man in a waking coma against Adrian Diaconu in the semi, Hopkins-Pascal looked like the battle for Stalingrad by comparison. Without Dawson-Diaconu as a wretched baseline, however, Hopkins and Pascal put on a sloppy bout, filled with mauling, roughhousing, showboating, and the terrorizing presence of referee Ian- John Lewis, whose officiating manual must have been written by the crew of Monty Python.

There were a few blistering exchanges during the bout and plenty of bravado, a poor ratio for a fight aficionado. For Hopkins, at least, audacity is a genuine personality trait. Pascal, on the other hand, is pure bluster. After the fourth round of a closely contested bout, Pascal, 28, began to wilt and barely managed to land more than one or two clean punches for every three minutes of action. Rarely are “world champions” as inept as Pascal appeared to be last night. Without a jab, a consistent left hook, a straight right, a sustained body attack, or a even the hint of strategy, Pascal was no match for a grizzled Hall of Fame lock. Aside from a few isolated shots—two of which shook Hopkins to his boots—Pascal scored only with rabbit punches, headbutts, and the occasional yoke hold.

At times, Pascal pounded the occipital lobe with real malice, perhaps because it was the only spot he could hit with regularity. He also tried to butt Hopkins—without much success, alas—every time they broke from a clinch. Ian-John Lewis, oblivious to it all, simply conceded the unfair advantage of dirty work to Pascal and allowed the manic Quebecois to do as he pleased.

After some overblown ring entrances, Pascal and Hopkins, who fought to a disputed draw last December, met at ring center to continue hostilities. Pascal, Laval, Quebec, Canada, via Haiti, seemed to edge the opening rounds, keeping his distance from Hopkins in the first and flurrying in spots during the second. Late in the third, however, Hopkins landed a crackerjack right that forced Pascal to hold. And hold. And hold some more. Ian-John Lewis rassled with both fighters to break the clinch and practiced his carny barker routine during the struggle. Pascal recovered, but Hopkins, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, continued to apply pressure for the remainder of the round.

Showing no ill-effects from being buzzed, Pascal did some of his best work in the fourth, trading evenly with Hopkins throughout and ripping shots to the body. Just before the bell rang to end the round, Pascal rattled Hopkins with a hard right that left the old man, for a moment, looking like he needed a bib and some oatmeal, but time ran out before Pascal could capitalize. In the fifth round, however, Hopkins began to sense that he was gaining control and comically stuck his tongue out at Pascal as the round came to a close. He did the same in the sixth, and before the bell for the seventh, began doing push-ups in his corner to spook Pascal. Then he ripped Pascal with lead rights and left hooks as Pascal seemed to yield mentally.

The next four rounds saw Hopkins switch up on Pascal, boxing from the perimeter when he felt like it, counterpunching when Pascal lunged, and forcing the fight when Pascal, confused, laid back. Hopkins appeared to score a knockdown in the ninth, but it was discounted by an addled John Lewis. From time to time Pascal would leap in with wild shots, but he rarely landed them with any authority, and, more often than not, he would fall into a grappling session with Hopkins. If Pascal was working with some sort of battle plan in mind, it was about as discernible to the naked eye as a molecule is. Straight rights bounced off his noggin regularly, noogies greeted him in the trenches, and well-timed counters straightened him up repeatedly.

Pascal worked harder in the 11th, which was not a difficult thing to do for a fighter who was averaging about 10 punches per minute. In the final round, Pascal, now 26-2-1 (16), came out with a little more urgency, and forced an exchange that ended when he caught Hopkins with a booming right that left the veteran reeling. But Pascal was as sloppy as ever in pursuit and threw dozens of errant shots before falling into a clinch. When the action resumed, Hopkins backed away, Pascal looked spent, and the two mauled until the final bell.

Bernard Hopkins, now 52-5-2-1 (32), can beat fighters like Jean Pascal until he begins cashing social security checks, the same way Jack Dempsey knocked out a pair of muggers who tried to ambush him on a New York City street during the 1970s. All fighters deserve respect, but Pascal would be turned away at the gates of a Potemkin Village even if he offered to volunteer as an unpaid intern.

Although his chin is starting to show cracks, Hopkins remains a physical marvel, and his technique—combined with a ring IQ that all but forced Pascal into a meltdown—acts as an equalizer against younger opponents. Hopkins, smelted by some otherworldly metallurgist, is one of the only true throwback fighters to come around in decades. Even in this soggy era of phony weight classes, numberless titles, and skittish paper champions, what Hopkins accomplished last night is extraordinary. No doubt he will tell us all about it…over and over again.

*****

Follow The Cruelest Sport on Twitter & Facebook and follow the only boxing website with its own Theme Song!

Tags: Adrian Diaconu BERNARD HOPKINS CHAD DAWSON Jean Pascal Light Heavyweights

  • Dennis Wise

    love the sardonic review of a mediocre fight from the Cruelest Sport. Can’t get that anywhere else, Carlos.

    Bernard Hopkins is a tremendous asshole. Treats people terribly, puts on boring fights. Yet I find this guy entertaining sometimes. I have no excuse.

    I really thought the old man was going down a couple times. What was your opinion on the times Pascal went down on a punch? I thought they were knockdowns, particularly incident 2.

    All you say about Pascal is true. But I’ll give him this. The Froch fight was entertaining. The Diaconu fights were entertaining. And even in the Hopkins fights, he managed to make it to the end of the bell having no legs for the second half of the fight. I can’t help but think he could have been a much better fighter if he had better training as he came up.

    Abraham as well. It looks like these two never learned a thing (maybe thats their fault not the trainer) and have succeeded only on physical attributes.

    • Carlos Acevedo

      hi Dennis,

      thanks. I should have probably pointed out some of Pascal’s attributes, too: speed, athleticism, heart. I think he hits pretty hard, too, but doesn’t have the technique to deliver the big KO punches. You don’t get as far as he has without having virtues, and, of course, he works hard and is a dedicated athlete, like Abraham. Maybe I’m missing something, but Pascal looks like he needs a lot of retooling. Maybe it’s the training, as you mentioned. But you’re right, Pascal can be entertaining and it was hardcore stuff when he fought with one arm against Diaconu.

      I thought one of those falls should have been counted as a knockdown, but Ian John Lewis was really something else on Saturday night. Holy Toledo!

      There is no getting around the fact that Hopkins is a great fighter. But I think I find him a little more distasteful than you do, but he can be entertaining in a sick way now that you mention it. The little noogies in close, the low blows when he thinks the ref is not looking, the whining, etc. Also the way he can sometimes do that stuff and make the other guy look all distressed, heh. I wouldn’t want to get in the ring with him under any circumstances and no one–except Roy Jones–has ever dominated Hopkins, and dominated is probably too strong a word for the Jones fight. I thought Calzaghe and Taylor (II) both eked it out against him, but, otherwise, Hopkins has been tough work for everyone, including, on occasion, the audience.

      • Dennis Wise

        Carlos, would you say there is lack of good trainers? Hopkins himself has talked about this for a few years now and made mention of it specifically during the Berto fight.

        And then there’s the Roy Jones effect where fighters seem determined to imitate his style if only to do things the wrong way and rely on whatever athleticism they have. Foch vs Pascal was the ultimate in this, I thought. Unsurprisingly the winner was the one who could back up his questionable style with a bit of actual boxing ability.

        I agree with you on Hopkins. Distasteful is probably a tame word to describe him (except for the victorious post fight interview, where he loves everyone). Maybe I just enjoy watching disastrous interviews.

        • Carlos Acevedo

          Hi Dennis,

          In his book The Arc of Boxing, Mike Silver gathers the opinions of some folks who definitely believe that trainers are horrible today. Among them are Teddy Atlas, Emanuel Steward, Freddie Roach and Tony Arnold. Silver writes, “hundreds of fight clubs and gymnasiums–boxing’s universities–began to disappear in the years following World War II. Scores of qualified teachers…retired or were forced to leave the sport because they were no longer able to earn a decent living.” Also, “Eventually the level of skills declined as mediocre fighters became mediocre trainers.” Freddie Roach says: “To qualify to be a trainer all you have to do is put a towel over your shoulder and tell a kid to throw out a jab and all of a sudden you’re a trainer.” Roach apprenticed with Eddie Futch, a ridiculously gifted trainer and boxing mind, so he knows what he’s talking about.

          So I would say, definitely, trainers are pretty bad these days. I don’t know how some of these fighters get into the ring doing some of the things they do…it’s amazing. It’s one thing if it’s late in the fight and fatigue has set in and your form begins to unravel, but these guys come out at the opening bell moving the wrong foot first and their chins up in the air. I trained at Gleason’s gym in the late 1990s just to learn how to box–to see its mechanics at work, basically–and even the basic steps I was taught are hard to find out there. I also read many books on training, including the Army manual and Jack Dempsey’s unbelievable training book, and it’s the same thing–today’s fighters are not being taught basics at all. That’s why a guy like Hopkins can hang around so long these days.

  • johnpaulfutbol

    CA,

    as I’ve said before, I appreciate Hopkins’ skills and what he’s done with his life but I’m growing tired of his schtick. There is no question being in fighting shape at his age is a remarkable achievement, there’s no way to knock that. I just think it’s pretty obvious that he found a perfect mark in Pascal. Why this fight has to be framed as a clash of the titans or whatever, I don’t know.

    There were some entertaining moments to be sure. Hopkins definitely got his bell rung a couple times. But, Hopkins should’ve had one, if not two knockdowns called in his favor. That ref was classic, spot on with the Monty Python mention. Pascal got away with a fair amount of rough stuff as well. I saw the fight 116-112…..but I think I might have given Pascal one round as a gift. I was shocked how many thought that it was a draw, or that the “Bloated Wolfman Mugshot” thought so too….or he tweeted something to that affect.

    I went back and forth on who I was rooting for. All things being equal, I’d have rooted for Hopkins. But, I was rooting for Pascal just a bit as I didn’t want to hear any of the nonsense about fountains of youth and history etc. I just seems those sorts of stories are written on auto-pilot. How fighters like Pascal make it so far on so little technical skill is beyond me. Like Dennis said above I thought his fights with Diaconu were entertaining. But, that was against another fighter with some pretty serious limitations, sort of like the Ortiz/Berto fight. I usually dislike in-ring antics, but Hopkins pushups got a chuckle out of me…and I can’t believe Pascal attempted to clown him back….dummy move, that sort of thing doesn’t take Hopkins out of his game….can’t say the same for Pascal.

    Nice job on the Potemkin Village reference, that’s always a good one! Also, big fan of the eastern front…or at least reading about it 70yrs later, so enjoyed the mention of Stalingrad. You get the feeling that Hopkins would’ve done just fine in Chuikov’s “Stalingrad Street Fighting Academy.”

    • Carlos Acevedo

      Hi JPF,

      I don’t know why every fight is a battle of the titans or why every fighter has to be “great,” but that’s how it is these days, I guess. This kind of thing puts folks in a strange predicament–I don’t think Pascal is an “A” fighter by any means, and yet you will hear, “Well, he beat Chad Dawson!” or “He was the undisputed lineal RING champion of the universe!” So, I don’t know what to say. Maybe we should all turn to the experts for answers, the ones who picked Mosley to KO Pacquiao and then claimed the fight was fixed, for example. But it does look like Hopkins was aware of Pascal being a fall guy for him, but I can’t fault him for that…As far as boxing goes, in and out of the ring, Hopkins is probably the smartest guy out there today.

      Dan Rafael did score it a draw, which is not as odd as having Berto beat Ortiz, but odd nonetheless. I’ve been at press row for a major fight, and I’m not accusing anyone of anything, but I have seen many “writers” disappear during the fight and come back 10 minutes later. I also have seen people surfing the web while the fight is going on and I have seen folks spend more time on Twitter while the fight is in progress than paying attention to the ring. If a guy keeps scoring what appears to be blowouts as draws and wins for the loser, it says something. Eh? I’m not a compubox freak, but Pascal, according to them, landed 6 or fewer punches in a round 8 out of 12 rounds and never landed 10 in a single round. I bring this up because I suspect Compubox overcounts punches!

      You’re dead on with Pascal trying to clown Hopkins….dopey, in my opinion, just proves that Pascal seemed more interested in other stuff–distracted–than in the opponent at hand. Hopkins, in the end, was just too smart for Pascal, and too poised. Like when Pascal wanted to attack Hopkins after the bell in one round. Dude–you’re in a fight! Attack him during the fight! That shit drives me nuts…i do think at least one of those Pascal pratfalls should have been counted as a knockdown, but this referee was nothing short of astonishing. It looked like he was on speed or something. “Awright! Awright! Let ‘im go, d’ya ‘ear me!”

      I had a feeling you were an Eastern Front type of fella….By the way, whatever you want to to do re: JPF Boxing Memories is fine by me. I don’t know what it’ll be, but I’m all for mysteries and surprises.

      • johnpaulfutbol

        CA,

        I’m not even sure what I have in store for “JPF’s Boxing Memories”…but mostly musings on my memories of watching fights…rooting for certain fighters just to see if I could make my stepfather’s face turn red etc. I guess if I run short of ideas I could always do “JPF’s Boxing Mammaries.” Anyway, as you know I recently had a birthday, and I’m getting on in years. So, I figured it would be a good idea to chronicle my boxing memories before they are lost to time, what a tragedy that would be!

        One memory I had that I recently realized was wrong all along was that I thought Hearns fought Cuevas at the LA Sports Arena, that was Duran. I had this memory of the crowd chanting “Pipino, Pipino” as Hearns was destroying him…but that couldn’t have happened in Detroit. I guess I was conflating the Hearns and Duran fights in my mind this whole time.

        I’ve thought about the lack of good trainers from time to time as you and Dennis were discussing. Not sure what it’s down to exactly…but I’d assume there’d have to be a correlation with the disappearance of boxing gyms. There’s quite a bit of what purport to be boxing gyms in my neighborhood, a couple are definitely legit. But, it’s funny watching some of the “trainers” work, they don’t seem to be teaching boxing so much as just trying give people a workout. Most of them hold the mitts so far out, it looks like they’re trying to showoff their catching radius at the NFL combine. Which isn’t really a crime if they’re training some old hack like me, but not very cool if they’re training a kid trying to actually learn the rudiments.

        • Carlos Acevedo

          HI JPF,

          this sounds like a James Frey memoir!

          I was actually working on a My Favorite Fighters From the 80s list for Faceboook; that Marvin Johnson exchange we had there gave me that idea. Maybe we showed both make lists and compare them. Not the best or most talented, but those fighters who, when you’re young, you have an attachment to for inexplicable–probably neurotic identification–reasons.

          There are very few fighters in the States these days, so, of course, fewer trainers. White collar boxing has exploded over the years, but pro boxing is, as we both know, nothing compared to what it was until about the early 1990s. And budget shortfalls and cuts have all but made community gyms or sponsored gyms a thing of the past, so “at-risk” kids don’t have that option like they used to. Boxing scholarships have also all but disappeared and so have boxing prison programs. Naturally, fewer people learn about boxing and fewer people are interested in it. See below for my response to Dennis for more babbling.

  • phils

    Sorry to be weighing in late Carlos, but this was a great column, yet again. Indeed, the Monty Python quote was classic. I’ve always thought Hopkins is the master of taking away your Plan A, so you better have a Plan B and actually–multiple plans, because he is so good at taking what his opponent WANTS to do, away. Pascal seemed to have no Plan B, and after the 4th round, just seemed confused to me.

    Boxing Monthly did a piece one time looking at fighters records AFTER they fought Hopkins. Look at some of the higher profile people in their prime–they were never the same afterward.

    I’m like you and the others here–I cannot say I am a fan of his, but damn do I admire what he can accomplish in the ring with all the bs aside.

    • Carlos Acevedo

      Hi phils,

      no problem weighing in late, I run a leisurely site and I’m not concerned with churning out content indiscriminately. So you can comment any time. And, of course, sometimes it takes me a while to respond as well.

      You’re right about Hopkins and his ability to negate and it’s something I should probably have kept in mind re: Pascal’s performance. Is Pascal as bad as he looked or did Hopkins make him look that bad? I would say it’s a combination of both, since Pascal has never been too impressive in the ring. And he certainly didn’t have a Plan B. Hopkins’ ability to neutralize was, to me, never better demonstrated than his first fight with Antwun Echols (aired live on Fox Sports!!!), when he turned Echols’ strengths and aggression against him. At the time, Echols was one dangerous SOB and he fought at an accelerated pace calculated to overwhelm Hopkins. But Hopkins was masterful in the eye of the hurricane and took Echols apart round by round. Echols never fought better–and he fought very well that night–but Hopkins was just masterful.

      I guess his bad taste was rewarded this time around since it’s being reported that the fight drew 1.8 million live viewers. Hopkins has hit on a new formula that many loudmouth fighters might want to follow–disparage a prominent popular culture figure. With the boxing content churners and sites like TMZ, Gawker, etc., that kind of nonsense immediately becomes viral and draws attention to the fight among general audiences. Hopkins has always been smart in and out of the ring. He proved it in more ways than one on Saturday night.

  • funkybadger

    That’s a superb picture up top, by the way.

    Are the lack of basics on general display down to a lack of practice and an over-reliance on athleticism?

    a) as pointed out, the amatuer/boys/lower ranks are a lot thinner now, so presumably fighters get a lot less practice? In my own assorted bumblings around a ring I’ve found in-fighting by far the hardest thing to pick up, you can’t train it anywhere else than in the ring against a live opponent. Seeing that generally most top-line boxers these days are clueless up close, does that mean they’ve had a lack of sparring? Certainly if they never boxed as a kid or an amatuer that would make sense, and on the other hand, the best technicians seem to have started early…

    b) You see it a lot in football (proper football) where the kid who was biggest, strongest, fastest, fittest goes furthest. Up until a point. There are international class players who’ve never learnt to trap the ball with both feet or how the offside rule works because they’ve never had to as a kid, and by the time their physical edge is nullified by either age or opposition, they don’t have anything to fall back on.

    Which all comes backto training, I guess…

    • johnpaulfutbol

      FB,

      Yeah, spot on about in-fighting. Doesn’t seem like there’s too many fighters that have a clue in there. I’ve been kind of lucky to train with several trainers who had limited pro careers and were still young enough to mix it up in the ring a bit. But, they’d do drills with me..in essence, where we were shoulder to shoulder working on using the elbows, shoulders, how and where to grab..and things you can do with footwork in there to create space and get leverage etc. Which is sort of like sparring, I guess. It’s definitely nuanced and hard to pickup….but there’s really no excuse for a pro to be clueless on the inside, in my opinion. Just my 2 cents, but that’s probably an over estimate.

      • Carlos Acevedo

        Hi JPF,

        you let Rocky Rob grab you on the inside? Heh.

        If you want to read a great training book, try Dempsey’s. Very entertaining, he invents systems and comes up with crazy charts. Dudes have no idea what they’re talking about when they say Dempsey was just a brawler…He was a master of the savage science who thought long and hard about strategy and the art of violence in general.

        • johnpaulfutbol

          CA…ha! Yeah, Rocky Rob loves to teach in-fighting, he’s got good insight in that dept. I was going to this other trainer nearby for a while before, he was trying to impart some in-fighting knowledge, but it didn’t sink in at the time. But, good point in your comment to FB….can’t learn in-fighting when you’re just hitting the pads.

          I want to check out that Dempsey book,I’ll see if I can find a copy somewhere. BTW, I see some similarities in McIlvanney’s take on fighting and some of points that Gorn is making in the “Manly Art.”

    • Carlos Acevedo

      Hi funkybadger,

      I guess fewer fighters coming up means fewer trainers, too. Also, there are fewer amateur programs in the U.S. definitely. But I think it boils down to the old guys not actively being sought out much anymore because they are not part of the gym scene as much and because they are crowded out by dilettantes who are more rah rah. When I was at Gleason’s, I noticed a lot of the trainers were pretty young.

      Forget infighting these days–few have a clue on how to do it. How can you learn how to infight when all the trainer does is whip out the punch pads? It’s crazy. I was going to do a “Best” of infighters list, but I only got 2 or 3 names in before I gave up.

      I like your football comparison. In boxing, you can add that many of the fights (at least in the US) are set-ups, so the fast, athletic types look even more superhuman and go even further. They can go a very long time before they meet “international class” fighters like in your football comparison.

      • funkybadger

        In football terms, the rude awakening happens every two years when the England team’s forced to play in international competition. Urgh, Jermaine Defoe… urgh…

        You’re right about the need/lack of training though, its one thing to learn pad drills by rote, but you (and I mean I here, clearly) only learn to really keep your elbows tucked in after someone smacks you in the kidneys…

        Suspect a lot of it comes down to professionalism as well, you here stories of, for example, Edison Miranda “knocking sparring partners out with 18oz gloves” – I mean why, what’s he learning, he already punches hard, so why practise that more? Kevin Mitchell apparently spent most of his early sparring session knocking out his partners thus almost wresking his hands… dimness abounds, apparently.

        • Carlos Acevedo

          Hi funkybadger,

          sorry for the delay in response…I’m in the intergalactic time zone, alas.

          I don’t know much about football, but I’ll say that forcing teams to play other good teams is a concept boxing can learn from.

          Fighters today really don’t develop because they are facing bums on the way up, have poor trainers, and are enabled by premium cable networks like HBO, who are looking to create, rather than exhibit. HBO should be an exhibitor of boxing events and not a creator, but when free television abandoned boxing in the early 1990s, HBO lost a starmaking system. They would routinely air bouts of fighters who had already made a name for themselves on NBC, CBS, ABC–Mancini, Arguello, Pryor, Hagler, Hearns, Leonard, etc. These fighters drew millions of viewers. Someone you’re very familiar with, for example, Steve Collins, once drew well over 4 million viewers for a fight with a clubfighter, Tony Thornton. Hell, as I mentioned earlier, huge network stars like Barry McGuigan never even made it to HBO. DItto Bobby Czyz (at least during his prime). People don’t know that Czyz’ fight with Mustafa Hamsho was aired on network TV on prime time…like it was an episode of the Cosby Show or M*A*S*H*. So, once these fighters lost steady work and solid paychecks, the scramble was on for boxers to maneuver themselves into HBO slots any way possible and as quickly as possible.

          As far as those sparring sessions re: Miranda & Mitchell goes, it shows you that sparring partners aren’t any good anymore. And you’re right that it shows a lack of professionalism. Didn’t anybody explain to these fellas that such actions are counterproductive?