Bernard Hopkins hopes to get noticed this weekend for something other than his mouth.
The 46-year-old Hopkins is trying to become the oldest champion in boxing history when he challenges WBC Light Heavyweight champion Jean Pascal on Saturday in a rematch of their draw on Dec. 18, 2010.
Many observers felt that Hopkins won the first bout. Hopkins, of course, shared that opinion. Pascal, of course, disagreed.
What can’t be denied, however, is that even though Pascal (26-1-1, 16 KOs) knocked Hopkins down twice in the first three rounds, the veteran Philadelphia fighter controlled the rest of the bout so thoroughly that it was a close decision.
Hopkins’ Philadelphia roots were in the news again in recent weeks when he revived his long-standing criticism of former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb. In his latest outburst, Hopkins questioned whether McNabb was black enough, saying “He’s got a suntan. That’s all.” Hopkins also compared McNabb to house slaves in Antebellum America, saying he received better treatment while the rest of the African-Americans work in the fields.
Rather than try to analyze Hopkins’ analogy or discuss the roots of his animosity toward McNabb – an often-repeated story is that McNabb “big-timed” Hopkins at the Eagles’ training facility – let’s simply recognize that most, if not all of what Hopkins says and does is calculated. He knew his remarks about McNabb would generate controversy. Oh, and they just might call attention to Saturday’s fight, which wasn’t getting a lot of attention in the United States.
The Hopkins-Pascal rematch is big news in Montreal, where the fight will take place. Pascal is a boxing hero throughout the Quebec Province. In the United States, the bout will be on HBO. In Canada, the bout is a pay-per-view event.
Fighting a French-Canadian hero in his own backyard is par for the course for Hopkins. He’s battled against the odds most of his career. Battling the odds includes rebounding from a five-year stint in Graterford Prison for armed robbery to become one of the best middleweights in history and carve out a Hall of Fame career. It also includes thwarting Father Time while beating much younger fighters.
Hopkins (51-5-2, 32 KOs) clearly frustrated the 28-year-old Pascal in their first fight. After knocking Hopkins down twice – Hopkins rarely gets knocked down – perhaps Pascal became a little overconfident. He had Hopkins on the ropes, but the wily veteran frustrated Pascal, who resorted to throwing wild punches easily deflected and avoided by Hopkins.
As is true of every fight involving Hopkins, he is fighting two opponents: his opponent in the ring and Father Time. One of these days, the latter is going to catch up with him, but people have been waiting for that to happen for at least six or seven years. It hasn’t happened yet.
The knockdowns at the hands of Pascal may have been an indication that time is just about up for Hopkins. On the other hand, Hopkins’ mastery of Pascal the rest of that fight could indicate that the knockdowns were an aberration and that Hopkins has learned how to avoid Pascal’s big punches.
Regardless of how Saturday’s rematch turns out, it’s unlikely we’ll have heard the last of Bernard Hopkins. His mouth will continue to roar.
The question for Saturday is whether his fists will generate as much noise as his mouth. Based on Hopkins’ penchant for bucking the odds, it wouldn’t be wise to bet against him.