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On this day: Bernard Hopkins dominates Kelly Pavlik in 170-pound catchweight clash

Photo by Naoki Fukuda
18
Oct

It was never a good idea to write off “The Executioner.”

On Oct. 18, 2008, Bernard Hopkins scored a comprehensive 12-round unanimous decision over the previously unbeaten Kelly Pavlik at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. The official scores were 119-106, 118-108 and 117-109.

Hopkins entered as a 3-1 underdog against the 34-0 Pavlik, and many expected the decorated Philly general to succumb to his first knockout defeat. Despite making a successful transition from middleweight champ to light heavyweight champ, the 43-year-old Hopkins had been outpointed by fellow legend Joe Calzaghe, six months earlier, and appeared to have lost a step.

Surely a 26-year-old knockout artist like Pavlik spelled doom?



It wasn’t even close.

Energized by his role as underdog, Hopkins turned back the years with a classic display of ring generalship and sharp shooting. He stunned the reigning middleweight champ as early as the second round and controlled almost every minute of the bout. Hopkins knew way too much for the younger man and the gulf in class got wider as the bout progressed.

“All of a sudden, I’m going to get hurt and I’m just looking for a paycheck before I retire,” Hopkins lamented years later in an interview with The Ring. “They were so adamant that this country boy from Youngstown, Ohio, was the only man who could knock out Bernard Hopkins.

“After the fight, I stared down at the media at ringside and I was very serious. I wanted to let them know that I could look at them, say nothing, but tell them everything.”

The fight was contested at a catchweight of 170 pounds. Detractors, with the benefit of hindsight, have long maintained that this was a huge advantage for Hopkins, but that’s a bit unfair. Pavlik, like Hopkins before him, was a massive middleweight at 6-foot-1 and jumped at the chance to play “legend killer.”

Hopkins didn’t win this fight because he was bigger; he won it because he was better.

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