Bernard Hopkins and Jean Pascal Fight December 18 for Fighter of the Year

Dave CarlsonCorrespondent ISeptember 17, 2010

LAS VEGAS - JULY 30:  Boxer Bernard Hopkins appears during the official weigh-in for WBA/WBO lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez and Juan Diaz at the Mandalay Bay Events Center July 30, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Marquez will defend his titles against Diaz on July 31 in Las Vegas.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Light heavyweight legend Bernard Hopkins signed paperwork Thursday to make a rumored bout between Hopkins and WBC Light Heavyweight titleholder Jean Pascal official.  The fight will take place on December 18, 2010 and will be broadcast by Showtime, making this their first pay-per-view since 2007. This fight could also have major implications for the 2010 Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year award.

The 45-year-old Hopkins (pictured) has amazed many observers with his ability to turn back the clock due to his excellent conditioning and staying power, and still tops many lists of the top light heavyweight boxers in the world. 

However, the 28-year-old Pascal, who hails from Laval, Quebec, stunned many ring observers by defeating light heavyweight heir-apparent Chad Dawson in August.  The fight vaulted Pascal to the consciousness of many boxing observers, and earned him this chance to fight Bernard Hopkins.

This fight also has major implications for the 2010 Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year award.  In a year where several top fighters were relatively dormant and lacked consistent high-profile fights, 2010 has emerged as a toss-up for the fighter of the year award.

The winner of this fight will have defeated a legend and a fighter who lays at least partial claim to being the top light heavyweight in the world. Hopkins defeated Roy Jones Jr. earlier this year and a win against Pascal would give him two more titles and another upset to stun onlookers. 

Pascal's victory over Dawson, combined with a victory over Hopkins, would give him perhaps the strongest claim of any to the award.

Unlike many years, where there is a clear favorite, many of the best nominees have only two big fights—one an upset win over a champion in their division, and the other a solid victory against a ranked opponent.  Strong contenders for the 2010 Fighter of the Year Award include:

Juan Manuel Lopez, who fights Rafael Marquez in December. He has two quality victories over well-regarded contenders this year and the potential to add another legend to the list before the year is over.

Fernando Montiel, a sturdy Mexican who has already upset champion Hozumi Hasegawa and has defeated two other fighters.  He is rumored to be fighting again this year, and if he can defeat another top-15 opponent, he will have been by far the busiest of the top contenders.

Rafael Marquez, who evened his epic four-fight saga with a win over a somewhat depleted Israel Vazquez, and will be squaring off against Juan Manuel Lopez in December. A win in one of the best rivalries in recent memory, and a victory over an unbeaten No. 1 in his division will give Rafael a solid case for the award.

Sergio Martinez, who already defeated Kelly Pavlik this year and is expected to face off against top-10 pound for pound fighter Paul Williams before the end of the year. Avenging a past defeat and defeating a top-three fighter in his division gives Sergio Martinez a strong case for the award.

Manny Pacquiao, who hasn't mounted an extremely impressive case, but is the defending fighter of the year and one of the most visible fighters in boxing.  He has beaten Joshua Clottey and is facing Antonio Margarito on November 13.  He has an outside chance to win the award.

Andre Dirrell, who looked extremely good handing Arthur Abraham his first career loss earlier this year, and could lay a strong claim to the award with a victory over Andre Ward later this month.

Jean Pascal/Bernard Hopkins - They're squaring off in December and both of these fighters have the opportunity to have beaten a light heavyweight number one and a living legend this year. Hopkins has defeated Roy Jones Jr. this year, and an upset against Pascal would give him a win against arguably the best light heavyweight in the world. 

Meanwhile, Pascal impressed in his fight against former light heavyweight No. 1 Chad Dawson, and a win over Hopkins would solidify his case.  Whoever wins this fight will be a part of the discussion, but Pascal would be more likely to win Fighter of the Year, due to the fact that Hopkins is a far more impressive foe than Roy Jones Jr. at this point in their careers.

It should be an interesting final few months to the boxing calendar.