Does Hopkins have one more upset in him?
Some observers said that Bernard Hopkins had begun to fade before he fought Felix Trinidad, that his legs were beginning to go, that he probably bit off more than he could chew this time. Trinidad was a 3-1 favorite.
That was nine years ago, when he was 35. And we know what happened there: Hopkins TKO 12.
Since then, he surprised many of us with victories over favored opponents Antonio Tarver in 2006 and Kelly Pavlik in 2008.
Does he have one more upset left in him at 45? We’ll find out when he takes on 27-year-old Jean Pascal for THE RING light heavyweight championship on Dec. 18 in Quebec City, Canada.
“I understand that this fight is win or go home for me,” he said at a news conference in Quebec. “There’s really no tomorrow for me ÔÇª unless I take this fight and I take it impressively and I take it aggressively.
“My career ends [if I lose]. People will be calling for my head.”
Hopkins (51-5-1, 32 knockouts) got this fight as the result of an upset, Pascal’s 11-round technical decision over then-unbeaten Chad Dawson in August.
Hopkins apparently wanted nothing to do with Dawson, who was both very athletic and technically proficient. Pascal (26-1, 16 KOs) also is athletic, fierce and a good boxer but he might have a style more suited to Hopkins.
At least that's how one interested observer sees it.
“Hopkins knows exactly what he’s doing,” Oscar De La Hoya, Hopkins’ partner at Golden Boy Promotions, told RingTV.com. “This is the perfect fight for him, the perfect style to make him look good. Pascal is very aggressive. He throws punches in bunches, in spurts, then he rests for a while.
“He also doesn’t throw straight punches; he throws wide punches. These are things that will allow Hopkins to shine, to once again prove everyone wrong.”
Hopkins probably has more doubters than ever after his fight against old rival Roy Jones Jr. in April, a horrible exhibition of boxing during which Hopkins went down three times as a result of fouls.
Two of the fouls were punches behind the head that hurt Hopkins badly. He reportedly collapsed in his dressing after the fight, one reason even those close to him hinted that it was time to quit.
Hopkins was both baffled and angry at the suggestion, saying that Jones tactics and unwillingness to engage him guaranteed a lousy fight.
De La Hoya ultimately agreed with him.
“I had some doubts,” De La Hoya said. “Then I analyzed it, thought about it. Jones would’ve made anyone look bad that night. I wouldn’t judge Hopkins by that fight. I think he’s very motivated right now.
“I think he realizes the danger he faces. And when you have Hopkins in a corner, ready to knock him out, he finds a way to get out.”
Pascal doesn’t seem to sense any danger. Or at least he won’t acknowledge it.
“I don’t see a legend in the ring,” he said. “I see a piece of meat, and I’m a hungry dog. This is my time. I belong with the elite boxers. To be the best in the world, you have to face the best. Bernard Hopkins is a legend.”
Indeed he is, win or lose.
De La Hoya, who was stopped by Hopkins in 2004, retired when he was 36. Hopkins is nine years older than that and still taking part in championship fights.
The younger man said he is amazed by Hopkins’ longevity but understands it.
“I understand completely how he’s able to keep fighting at this age against this level of opposition,” De La Hoya said. “If I would’ve done the same thing he did, I probably could still be boxing at 39 or 40. Hopkins takes care of himself. He doesn’t drink, he doesn’t smoke, he goes to bed early.
“That makes all the difference in the world, when an athlete is as disciplined as he is. Another thing is that he never got hit a lot. He doesn’t have much wear and tear.”
Hopkins’ longevity certainly isn’t lost on himself.
“You think I’m coming for the payday,” he said, “but I’m doing OK [financially]. This is going to be a blueprint for understanding that life’s not over at 40. For all the old guys out there, I’m your motivation and breath of fresh air ÔÇª your inspiration.”
Imagine if he wins.
De La Hoya has had a personal Twitter account for only a few days but already is Tweeting away. You can follow him at @OscarDeLahoya.