Sixteen years after swearing off fights outside of America because of a draw against Segundo Mercado in Quito, Ecuador, history repeated itself for Bernard Hopkins. Though dropped twice early in the bout – as he was against Mercado – by World Boxing Council (WBC) Light Heavyweight champion Jean Pascal, the 45-year-old Hopkins battled back in the teacher vs. student fight with an energetic veteran performance. In the end, Hopkins was one scorecard short of making history as the oldest boxer to win a major title as the fight was ruled a majority draw.
The 28-year-old Pascal (26-1-1, 16 KOs) came out with the fervor of a champion, landing hard shots to the head of Hopkins. Counterpunching more than normal, the young titleholder finished the first round with a barrage of punches ending with a right hand that landed Hopkins (51-5-2) in an unfamiliar place: the canvas.
Pascal continued to bull rush Hopkins, of Philadelphia, into the second and third rounds with running rights and leaping lefts. The Haitian-born Canadian knocked down the future Hall of Famer with a left hook in the third round and it began to look as if Hopkins might be showing signs of his age as the sold out crowd went wild at the Pepsi Coliseum in Quebec City, Canada.
Hopkins, unhurt by the punches that knocked him down, proved his veteran confidence by maintaining his composure. The former two-division world champion kept up his work rate as Pascal’s began to slow. Listening to his trainer Naazim Richardson‘s words from the corner, the cagy Hopkins “invested” in body work to pay dividends later in the fight.
“I got up and fought like a champion,” said Hopkins after the fight. “Look at his face. Look at mine.”
Pascal, often questioned about his stamina, stopped his bull rushes and threw far fewer punches as the championship clash entered the middle rounds. The crowd started to quiet as the fans in attendance began to wonder if their countryman’s point lead would be able to hold as Hopkins slowly but surely gained control of the fight by outpunching and outlanding Pascal. Feeling the tide turning, Hopkins walked around the ring with swagger and taunted Pascal after the champ’s punches left him unfazed as the fight wore on.
To begin round 12, Hopkins came out firing to let the crowd, judges and Pascal know that he planned to take the belt from a man 18 years his junior. The two warriors threw punches – some effective, some wild – to bring the packed house to its feet. When the final bell rang, a revitalized Hopkins raised his arms in victory.
Photography by: Tom Casino/SHOWTIME
Jimmy Lennon Jr. revealed the first judge Steve Morrow’s score, 114-112 for Hopkins, to a cacophony of boos. The next two cards were scored as draws, 113-113 from Claude Paquette and 114-114 from Dan Van De Wielle. The majority draw left many things uncertain except for the fact that everyone in attendance and at home watching on SHOWTIME witnessed a terrific championship fight.
Clearly annoyed by the outcome, Hopkins said, “[I’ve] got no reaction. The world [has] seen it. I had the guy beat up.” He continued, “You don’t see Pascal jumping around happy. I am not going anywhere. You saw a young man in an old man’s body. I still have the fight in me.”
Proudly donning his Light Heavyweight belt, Pascal stated after the fight, “Of course I thought I won. I stood there. I dropped him twice. We’ve got fair judges in Canada.” Though he did admit, “That wasn’t my best fight.”
When asked about going another 12 rounds with The Executioner, Pascal responded, “If he wants a rematch, any time.” Hopkins later added, “The closest I will ever come to Canada again is Niagara Falls.”
Though fight fans will have to wait to find out about a rematch, they can relive all of tonight’s drama when the telecast is reaired this Tuesday, Dec. 21 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on SHO2 and be available ON DEMAND from Dec. 21 through Jan. 3, 2011.