I have a friend who, during conversations that involve race, says, “what I’m about to say is not racist, it’s racial.” The elephant in the corner of the Bernard Hopkins, Kelly Pavlik fight is…RACE.
If you need proof, just watch Saturday night’s pay-per-view fight in a public place, like a sports bar. It will be obvious. When the young (white) Pavlik lands a hard right hand to the head of the 43 year-old (black) Bernard Hopkins, look around and see who’s cheering…the white guys. And when Hopkins counters with a solid left hook to Pavlik’s chin, the cheers will be emanating from the black fans in attendance. This is not racist, simply racial.
Other factors that appeal to these fighter's fan base…the contrasting backgrounds of each. Hopkins has been called a “thug” who grew up on the mean streets of Phllly. Pavlik is the “blue collar” guy whose steely grit is appealing to the lunch-box crowd from his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio. And while, at 26, Pavlik is the young and rising champion, Hopkins, the veteran, seems to have past his peak and is looking at a career on a downward slide.
Many casual boxing observers believe that the undefeated Pavlik, who has 30 knockouts in his 34 career wins, is a sure thing to KO Hopkins, who has lost three of his last five fights. But, the Vegas odds makers disagree. The over/under for the 12 round fight is currently at 11 ½. The over is set at -205, while the under is a +165. This means that if you wanted to bet the under, you would need to give $205 in order to get $100 back. If you wanted to gamble on a longer fight, then a $100 bet would get you $165. (Boxing odds are so weird.) Here is why Vegas, as usual, is right and the casual observer…dead wrong.
First, like many fighters who have a tough time finding opponents, Pavlik is stepping up in weight, from 160 to 170, to get a shot at Hopkins. Most people simply don’t understand how big of a step that is in the fight game. When Kelly fought Jermain Taylor at 160 pounds in 2007, Pavlik won by TKO in 7. In the rematch in 2008, both fighters weighed 164 and Pavlik won a 12 round decision against the naturally heavier Taylor. (And that was only 4 pounds.)
Second, while Bernard Hopkins may not be known as a heavy-hitter, he can take a punch. He is also a cagey veteran who is not unwilling to fight dirty simply to survive. If it becomes clear that Pavlik is taking control, say about round 7 or 8, look for Hopkins to stay away whenever possible and to clinch and hold on the inside.
This is a highly anticipated fight and will definitely be worth the $49.95 PPV price. That is, as long as you don’t mind paying for a great six rounds followed by a yawner of a second half.