To the average prizefighter, the thought of battling for a Ring Magazine title less than a month shy of their 46th birthday would be nothing more than that, a thought. Bernard Hopkins (51-5-1, 32 KO) is not the average prizefighter, and on Saturday night he will turn that thought in to a reality in Quebec City, Canada.
His opponent Jean Pascal (26-1-0, 16 KO) would seem to have every reason to be confident. Besides being in his prime at age 28, Pascal is a Quebec native, and will be performing in front of a friendly home crowd. Coming off a huge win over form lineal champion Chad Dawson in his most recent fight, Pascal might be forgiven for overlooking Hopkins all together. Boxing fans know, however, that he would do so at his own peril.
To Hopkins, this is simply another in a long line of huge matchups. While countless hours are spent debating the resumes of the sport's kingpins (Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao) "The Executioner" could argue that his track record is as good as either. Purely in terms of quality of opposition, neither man can make a great case against Hopkins.
Hopkins has fought an amazing FOUR undefeated world champions, dominating Kelly Pavlik and Felix Trinidad and losing razor thin decisions to Joe Calzaghe and Jermain Taylor. He also was the opponent in the first title bouts of Roy Jones Jr. and Glenn Johnson. While the loss to Jones would both bother and motivate him for years, his stoppage of Johnson remains a feat that still has never been duplicated.
After winning the middleweight title in 1995, Hopkins went on a record-breaking win streak, defending the belt an astounding 20 times. After his reign was finally ended by two losses to Taylor, he moved up to light heavyweight and beat Ring champ Antonio Tarver at the ripe old age of 41.
One can understand why, despite Hopkins' past accomplishments, his challenge of Pascal may be met with some groans by boxing fans. Never the most flashy fighter, Hopkins has adapted his style as he has slowed down with age. What some call "crafty" however, others might call "boring" or "dirty."
One thing is certain, Bernard Hopkins does not enter the ring planning to do anything but win, and doesn't refrain from using any tactics that may help him do just that. His dominating but dreadful rematch against Jones in his most recent fight proved this point. It was also seen as one of the worst main events in recent boxing history.
Hopkins' attitude has at times upset fans even more than his style. There was the incident before the Trinidad fight where he threw the Puerto Rican flag to the ground, and of course the immortal words said to Calzaghe that he would never lose to a "white boy."
A real sign of respect can be taken from this begrudging acceptance of the fight by some fans, however. The true boxing diehards know that the more exciting champion will have his hands full. Despite the fact that Hopkins' career began during the same month in 1988 that Pascal turned six years old, most experts have refused to count him out in this fight.
As much as many hope that Hopkins would fade away, he has no intention on doing so just yet. If he wins on Saturday he will be come the oldest man to ever hold a lineal title in ANY division. This amazing accomplishment would likely lead to another big payday for Hopkins, and it isn't probable that he would retire in the face of such an opportunity.
Don't be surprised if he wins this fight, and don't be surprised if he continues fighting as he approaches his 50th birthday. Counting out Bernard Hopkins has been never been wise in the past, and there is likely no reason to start now.