I begin by saying I don’t like this fight for Kelly Pavlik. Bernard Hopkins is the most experienced fighter in the sport and he has what we’ll call "tricks" up his sleeves. Those tricks exposed and damaged Felix Trinidad in 2001. I believe Jermain Taylor won neither battle with Bernard; poor showings after those fights prove he’s on a down-slide.
Pavlik has two fights to wage—one against the "tricks," the other against a masterful boxer in Hopkins.
Trinidad and Taylor are mentioned because Pavlik’s career is somewhat similar to Trinidad in the vain that both are long, lean power punchers. Taylor has been conquered twice by Kelly, but not without getting hurt.
Trinidad had more experience with top fighters before facing Hopkins compared to Pavlik at this stage. It can be argued that Bronco McKart and Fulgencio Zuniga were top flight boxers during their bouts with Pavlik. Edison Miranda was definitely a high ranking middleweight when Pavlik spectacularly clobbered him.
Taylor equates to an Ensign rank in my book. Pavlik overcame tense moments early in the first bout with Taylor proving he was the better fighter. Remove Miranda from the list and none of those Pavlik foes notched inside, long lasting punishment because they aren’t those "tricky" fighters.
Bernard will get on the inside and hit you on the hips and haunches to take some mobility out of your legs for the late rounds. Bernard will push an elbow in your chest, and your neck if you come in with your head down. Hopkins knows the in-fighting fight.
No, these things are not legal, scoring blows. Slip them into an inside tussle, where the ref can’t see them occur, and you are setting your foe up for a long, bruising fight. However, they’re meaningless to the judges.
Pavlik hasn’t seen these kinds of things from previous opponents. How he will deal with them is only known deep inside Kelly’s brain on fight night. Not even sparring partners can simulate the masterful job that Hopkins does with these kinds of tactics.
The flip side to this strategy is the problem for Bernard Hopkins. He spends more time doing these than he does with effective punches and combinations. Hopkins’ decreasing output of punches cost him both fights with Taylor and nearly cost him the Winky Wright fight. If the Hopkins who faced Tarver shows up, the “Ghost” Pavlik will be hoping he has vanishing powers.
I don’t think that Hopkins can resurrect that apparition, even if was only two year ago. In order to win, Bernard will have to use that slippery counter-punching style.
Pavlik’s leading game plan must be to keep Hopkins at a distance and not let him inside. Kelly hasn’t proven he can absorb the rough tactics Bernard will give him and this isn’t the time for him to explore. There is no reason to prove it, he’ll never fight another slickster like Bernard, and he needs this win for consideration as an elite boxer for this generation of his energetic fans.
Bernard will not throw enough meaningful punches under the Marquis of Queensbury rules to win. Pavlik will be unable to KO Hopkins, so he’ll need to use jabs to set up combinations and test Hopkins body with uppercuts to been seen as the winner on each of the three judges’ scorecards.
My prediction is Kelly "the Ghost" Pavlik wins by decision.