43 YEAR-OLD HOPKINS STILL GOOD ENOUGH TO BEAT PAVLIK
Going into the 170-pound catchweight bout between Middleweight Champion Kelly Pavlik and Bernard Hopkins, the question on everybody’s mind was whether or not Pavlik could be the first man to stop the 43 year-old Hopkins. The question should have been whether or not Pavlik could beat Hopkins at all.
Saturday night, Hopkins once again defied logic when he systematically exposed and dominated Pavlik over twelve one-sided rounds. Looking downright clueless at times, Pavlik was never in the fight against a man that has made a trend out of baffling people by continuing to fight and beat top names in boxing.
Right from the start, Hopkins backed Pavlik off with jabs and shots to the body. He landed the first big punch of the fight by sneaking in a right hand on Pavlik midway through round one. A popping jab through the gloves snapped an inactive Pavlik’s head back. The listless Pavlik managed to sneak in one straight right hand on Hopkins against the ropes with no effect.
Hopkins came out and tagged Pavlik with another right in round two. A leaping left hook landed shortly thereafter as Hopkins was already looking like he could do whatever he wanted against the flat-footed puncher. Hopkins added another left hook, followed by one to the body, an uppercut and another left hook. Yet another left hook snapped Pavlik’s head up and wobbled him briefly, enticing Hopkins to land another three-punch combination. Hopkins topped the rally off with a left-right, to which Pavlik responded by working his jaw.
Pavlik tried to go on the offensive in the third round, prompting Hopkins to clinch – a tactic he was using only once per round thus far but began utilizing more often. Shortly thereafter, the Middleweight Champion walked into a sharp left hook from Hopkins. Hopkins doubled up on the jab and stuffed Pavlik with a right, showing that he could do the business with either hand. Pavlik walked right into an uppercut through the gloves and tried to answer with a right only to be hammered by a right from Hopkins instead. A left hook knocked Pavlik back as the boxing lesson continued. Then Pavlik stumbled forward into a jab that knocked him backwards again.
If he hadn’t already proved how much of a gap in talent existed between the two of them, Hopkins punished Pavlik at his own game by slugging in the middle of the ring early on in round four. While Pavlik missed slow, looping punch after slow, looping punch, Hopkins made him pay with short, accurate shots of his own. Credit Pavlik for never backing down, but that’s about the only thing he ever had going for him. His never-back down attitude led him into a hard, head-turning right hand from the Executioner.
Hopkins was brilliant, holding infrequently, letting his hands go more than he has in years and complaining enough to earn Pavlik warnings for rabbit punching. If Pavlik managed to land a glancing blow, Hopkins answered right back with a flush one. A big right again turned Pavlik’s head in the fifth as Hopkins took Jermain Taylor’s approach to his rematch with Pavlik and made it more effective. Finally, after Hopkins landed four consecutive punches, Pavlik landed another straight right – only his second good shot in the entire fight, but Hopkins again took it well. The crowd grew shrill as Hopkins battered Pavlik back with more combinations that bloodied Pavlik’s nose.
As Pavlik tried to pick up the pressure, Hopkins beckoned him on to start round six and promptly chased the Middleweight Champion off with a left and a right that landed. Hopkins pulled away from a jab and countered with a straight right that jolted Pavlik’s head back. A similar right made Pavlik stutter step moments later. Two more right hands ended the round, one coming a moment after the bell. For some reason, Pavlik raised his glove at round’s end, breathing hard, hurting and looking absolutely befuddled by the better boxer.
The more Pavlik tried to punch with Hopkins, the more he got punched, especially early in the seventh round. Hopkins even pulled a page from the books of Ray Leonard and Roy Jones by winding his glove up with his mouth wide open and drilling Pavlik with a right, followed by an assortment of punches – the ultimate slap in the face to any outclassed opponent. The horrendous beating continued as Hopkins would shout, wind up his glove and unload on a covering Pavlik for the last thirty seconds of the round. After slamming Pavlik’s exposed head aside, Hopkins dropped his gloves, having thrown caution to the wind in front of one of the sport’s best punchers.
Hopkins worked Pavlik like a pinball with an uppercut and a right hand to start the eighth round. Already losing every round big, Pavlik was docked a point by Referee Benjy Esteves for rabbit punching as Hopkins’ consistent complaining paid off. Probably wanting to even the point deductions, Esteves docked Hopkins for holding in round nine, though Hopkins wasn’t doing it nearly as excessively as he had in his past fights. Hopkins gave a slight fist pump to brush it off, knowing Pavlik had still not won a single round or even come close. Pavlik headed to his corner, bleeding over his left eye after taking one too many right hands.
Finally, midway through round ten, Pavlik landed his money punch – a killer straight right hand to the side of Hopkins’ head. And nothing happened. Hopkins took the punch and answered with a three-punch combination to the surprised Pavlik’s head. And Hopkins still ended up winning the round.
Late in round eleven, Hopkins pummeled Pavlik with both hands, knocking him back on shaky legs. A better combination landed early in the twelfth and final round when Hopkins connected on a three-punch volley to the face. Hopkins stopped to talk to Pavlik before launching another attack. When Pavlik landed his straight right once again, Hopkins went so far as to shrug his shoulders in response. Just about the only thing Hopkins didn’t do was offer Pavlik a free shot – something he probably could have gotten away with given how lopsided a fight it was. Hopkins even tried to go after Pavlik after the bell before the trainers entered the ring and split them up. A bloodied and beaten Pavlik could only look on sadly as his trainers felt the need to Hopkins from a safe distance.
The scorecards were even closer than they should have been with two judges giving Pavlik a round or more, which was being extremely generous. 119-106, 118-108 and 117-109 were the official scores in favor of Hopkins, who immediately walked to Pavlik and spoke with him about how to get his career together after the miserable defeat. But Hopkins didn’t talk nearly long enough to mention even half of Pavlik’s flaws in the ring. Pavlik nodded obediently, taking his drubbing like a man.
Oscar De La Hoya, Winky Wright and Antonio Tarver all did better against Hopkins in losing efforts than Pavlik was able to do with an even older version of the Executioner. Unlike De La Hoya, Wright and Tarver, Pavlik was in the prime of his career for his fight against Hopkins, seventeen years the junior of his opponent. And he lost in horrific fashion.
The path to redemption for Pavlik is to return to middleweight and take on Arthur Abraham in what would have been a bigger fight had both men gone into it undefeated. With Pavlik no longer in a position to demand a bout with Joe Calzaghe, Abraham is the only meaningful fight left at the moment. Abraham says he wants the fight, so there is no reason for it not to happen.
Hopkins, meanwhile, deserves all the praise in the world for spotting an imperfect fighter being elevated into the spotlight and having the confidence to step into the ring and expose each and every one of those flaws for one more great victory. Pavlik is a very limited fighter, but he packs a terrific punch, which Hopkins took away from him in this fight. Hopkins now wants the winner of the fight between Joe Calzaghe and Roy Jones Jr. next month, but he’s only likely to get the winner if it’s Roy as Calzaghe has plans to retire with his one good win over Hopkins.