With the highly anticipated rematch of the year—Bernard Hopkins vs Jean Pascal II—taking place this Saturday on HBO, everyone is weighing in on their predictions on who will win this rematch.
It seems overwhelmingly the media and boxing experts are siding with Hopkins to win this fight, for many of them felt he did enough to win in their first fight that ended in a highly controversial draw.
It may however be that many are counting on Hopkins to break George Foreman's record of being the oldest world title champion past the age of 45. Foreman has been involved with media conferences promoting this fight and predicting a Hopkins win. But why? Why would anyone want their own record broken?
It seems that many simply want a Hopkins win just for the sake of having an American champion accomplishing a record breaking feat in the sport of boxing once again.
But lets take a closer objective balanced look into the keys of victory for both Hopkins and Pascal and break down what each fighter must do in order to wink Saturday night.
First, let's take a look at Jean Pascal and what he needs to do to win.
Pascal has several advantages going into this fight such, as the home-court advantage. This rematch is taking place again in his backyard in Canada. Canada has been notoriously known for very shady decisions by judges and extreme favoritism by referees as well.
Many felt Hopkins actually did enough to win their first fight and by it being ruled a draw in Canada says that Hopkins actually did win their first fight. So what Pascal needs to do is use the home court-advantage once again. Win over the crowd, win over the judges and the referee utilize the referee when needed in close calls and when in trouble.
Pascal has the significant power advantage over Hopkins. He has nearly a 60 percent knockout percentage and he is the only fighter to really knock down Hopkins twice based on his power alone. Pascal knows he can knock down Hopkins and hurt him, so he should go for the knockout early on and not respect the veteran or feel him out for any of the early rounds where Hopkins is most vulnerable.
Pascal is the stronger fighter of the two with the more muscular build. One of the things that Pascal did not do the first time was impose his body and weight onto Hopkins. Pascal should lean onto Hopkins when ever they are in close quarters and when Hopkins is trying to hold on and clinch Pascal being the stronger man should beat the man at his own game. By doing so, he can use less of his overall stamina and energy to wear down Hopkins.
Even by imposing his body weight and strength onto Hopkins, he can press him up against the ropes and open up for more shots against the body as well.
In the first fight Pascal was a beast for the first few rounds, scoring knock downs and gaining a huge lead on the scorecards. But very strangely a complete 180 occurred when in the second half of the fight he became a "deer in headlights" in what seemed to be a combination of confusion, panic and extreme fatigue that prevented him to do much at all in that second half of the fight.
So again Pascal must go for the early knockout in the first few rounds; go for broke. If he finds himself not able to stop Hopkins, he must then pace himself toward the middle rounds using his body weight and superior strength to wear down and outmuscle the older fighter by punching and clinching until he obtains a clean opening to really let his hands go.
If he sees Hopkins getting stronger and more active in the second half of the fight again, he must tie up Hopkins and not let him take over the fight as he did the first time.
Pascal has a stamina problem that has seemed to bother him his whole career. He goes from being dominant in the first half of the fight to becoming less effective and less active towards the end of the fight, giving his opponents a bigger and bigger window of opportunity to steal rounds and even steal the fight in the championship rounds.
At this point, with the fight just couple days away, it's too late to work on his stamina and endurance. But he can work on his defense, head movement, foot movement, boxing skills and again utilizing the clinch and punch technique in the later rounds.
Pascal, in all honestly, should hire a stamina/endurance specialist like Victor Conte to transform his weakness into his strength no matter the outcome of this fight.
Pascal also seemed to allow Hopkins to get under his skin. Hopkins is notoriously known for playing mind games both in and out of the ring. This time around Pascal should not allow this to happen and just remain focused on his fight plan or to even just fight fire with fire. We see he did engage with a bit of his own mind games as the publicly accused Hopkins on being on some form of performance enhancement drugs for being so active in the later rounds at his age of late 40s.
Now on to Bernard Hopkins and what he must do in order to win.
Hopkins being the older, wiser experienced fighter of the two has many advantages of his own in this fight. Hopkins is the more intelligent fighter with the superior ring IQ and ring generalship. He also has some of the most air tight defense and that is why he rarely gets hit cleanly or gets knocked down and why it was such a shock that Pascal did even knock him down.
Notice how Bernard keeps his chin tucked in so tight to the top of his chest. No other fighter tucks in and protects their chin for 12 rounds like he can.
Hopkins is also the taller fighter at 6'1" with the longer reach at 75" to Pascal's 5'10.5" and 72".
Hopkins should utilize his height and fight tall and hide behind his long jab and set up all power shots from that jab he was highly successful doing this pretty much for the second half of their first fight and Pascal had no answer.
Hopkins has the far superior stamina and endurance. In fact, Hopkins pretty much turns it up in the late rounds, often exploiting his opponents' weaknesses or lack of stamina. So Hopkins must take the fight into the later rounds where he can take over control of the fight when Pascal will most likely again begin to fade significantly.
Hopkins is known for being a dirty fighter, but for some strange reason he tends to get away with all his dirty tactics such as headbutting, testicle punches, rabbit punches and punching on the breaks. Very ironically, Hopkins fought probably one of the his cleanest fights ever against Pascal and did not have to resort to these notorious illegal methods, but if he finds himself in trouble with Pascal's power he might have to go back to his old ways to even the score.
Hopkins usually has the psychological edge both outside the ring as in the pre-fight build up to inside the ring in the actual fight. In this fight, Hopkins must use every mental edge he can over Pascal and make him think he can not win and he will not be able to fight the full 12 rounds as he has been taunting him through this pre-fight hype.
Hopkins should pull every trick he has up his sleeve from wearing another intimidating costume to the ring to staring down Pascal during the announcements and not touching his gloves. He should also taunt, showboat and talk smack to him as much as he can throughout the fight until he has taken away Pascal's confidence.
Hopkins is a notorious slow starter who often feels out and respects his opponents way too much in the first few rounds, often giving away too many of the early rounds where again Pascal can knock him down and possibly hurt or even stop him this time. This time Hopkins must be much more active in the first half of the fight and if anything throw the jab to keep Pascal off him.
Hopkins has a low punch output and this is one reason why he loses rounds even though he should be winning them. In order to rectify this he must increase his punches and let his hands go more.
Hopkins also does not have knockout power, so he must break down his opponents instead. By going to Pascal's body and throwing higher volume of punches in order to hurt and back him up and he could more likely win over the judges to steal the rounds.
Hopkins is a dirty fighter and also not a clean, graceful fighter on the eyes. He has a style that wears down and breaks down fighters instead of cleanly effectively hurting or knocking them out. Most inexperienced judges would prefer the more aggressive clean-hitting effective fighter to that of Hopkins' style.
However being the taller fighter with the longer reach again he can cleanly outbox Pascal instead of excessively holding on to him as he often does with his opponents.
Hopkins actually should fight just as he did in the second half of their first fight from the opening bell this time as if it is Round 13. By doing so, he can secure the early rounds as well not jeopardizing another draw or even loss this time.
Many of Hopkins' losses are often close and you could argue that some of those losses could have been ruled a draw or even gone the other way, but that again is Hopkins' weakness: he fights and does just enough to steal a round or to win the last four or five rounds, making the fight real close.
Hopkins needs to win so big that it convinces the judges in Canada that there is no way they can say otherwise. The problem is Hopkins was never a Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather, leaving very little to no question in the judges minds on who won the fight. He needs to do that—especially in Canada if he wants to be the oldest world title champion in all of history Saturday night.
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