When former undisputed world middleweight champion Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins takes on Canadian Jean Pascal for the second time this weekend, expect to see changes in both boxers' approaches to the fight.
The close draw that resulted in Pascal (26-1-1, 16 KO) keeping his WBC light-heavyweight title kept Hopkins (51-5-2, 32 KO) from becoming the oldest fighter to win a major world title at the age of 46.
The two quickly signed to meet in the ring again, and it has quickly become one of the more intriguing fights of the year.
The bout will air on HBO and be broadcast live from the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
It's no secret that Hopkins is a decision-oriented fighter. Twelve of his last 13 bouts have gone the distance. Pascal will probably come into this bout expecting to go the full 12-round distance, and that may play a big part in how he comes out in the early rounds and approaches the early stages of the fight.
He has the hometown advantage in Canada and was given the benefit of the doubt in the first fight, which he probably should've lost. This gives him a lot of confidence in going to a decision if he finds himself in the middle of the fight and knows he will not knock out an opponent that has never been finished before.
It's got to be a bad feeling for Pascal knowing Hopkins hasn't really lost a fight definitively since 1993, when he fought Roy Jones Jr. It's going to be another close fight, and it will probably be a close one if it goes to a decision.
Pascal will need to keep his early lead if he gets it. Depending on how much faster Hopkins starts, this can be an risky situation if he comes out looking to take him out quick. It's slightly doubtful, but if he drops Hopkins like in the first bout, expect him to open up a lot more afterwards.
Hopkins isn't one to lose one-sided decisions, so if he feels he is winning, he probably won't take many chances later in the fight if he feels he he has the edge on the scorecards. Pascal cannot let him do this. The first six rounds of this fight will be the most important for both fighters.
Pascal has the edge over Hopkins in knowing he can drop the 46-year-old. He did it twice in the first bout in the opening rounds but didn't follow up much at all and left the future Hall of Famer get back into the fight.
In the first fight, according to CompuBox, Pascal only landed 86 out of 350 punches, including 67 power punches. Compare that to Hopkins' 153 out of 502 total punches and 129 power punches, and the difference is clear. This cannot happen again, and it's an easy yet difficult adjustment to make.
Pascal cannot let Hopkins dictate the pace in this fight, which will be a much tougher and more competitive fight than the first if he doesn't make the proper adjustments.
By Pascal gaining an early lead on the scorecards in the first bout, he kind of dug himself into a hole by thinking he was doing everything right and was probably just looking for another knockdown.
Even in the rounds he had scored the knockdowns, he didn't approach Hopkins as if they had had any effect on the older fighter.
If he doesn't get those early knockdowns, the first couple rounds will be indicative of how each fighter approaches the second half of the bout if it makes it there.
If Pascal finds himself falling behind on the scorecards, he will need to make some quick mid-fight adjustments. It's going to be a question in itself of what it will be he has to do to adjust to the craftier and more experienced Hopkins.
The early rounds are Hopkins' worst enemy. He likes to sit back and let his opponent set a pace that he will begin to adjust to four or five rounds into the fight. He cannot do this against Pascal, who is probably going to start faster than ever before.
In the first and second fights with former middleweight champion Jermain Taylor, Hopkins adjusted very well by starting earlier in the second bout than he had in the first. He lost both but gave a much better performance in the second fight.
Not knowing exactly what his opponent is going to be coming into this fight looking to do helps Hopkins more than Pascal. If he can set a pace early that confuses Pascal, he will have a very good chance at taking home a decision.