Boxing Stabs Bernard Hopkins in the Back on the Way Out

In what was supposed to be his farewell fight, Bernard Hopkins officially left Quebec City with a draw against WBC Light Heavyweight Champion Jean Pascal this evening.

In reality, however, the 45-year-old from Philadelphia battled back from two early knockdowns to easily outmaneuver and at times dominate the champion in his home providence of Quebec.

Simply put, Hopkins should right now be the oldest man to ever win a title in boxing, surpassing even George Foreman’s heavyweight title-winning victory over Michael Moorer back in 1994, if only by a little more than a month.

Yet somehow, two judges saw the fight as a draw by scores of 113-113 and 114-114, altering boxing history in a despicable way.

There is currently an investigation going on regarding “whited out” numbers on Canadian judge Claude Paquette’s even scorecard. But Belgium’s neutral judge Daniel Van de Wiele, too, called it a draw at 114-114. It should be noted that the only way to even come up with such a score would be to rule even rounds in a fight that featured none. Only American judge Steve Morrow saw it for Hopkins at 114-112, which was much closer to reality. It could easily be argued that “The Executioner” won it even wider.

After getting dropped twice in the first three rounds, Hopkins came back strong in the fourth and didn’t lose another round the rest of the way. He landed clean right hands to the head, banged away at the body, and stuck his tongue out at Pascal time and time again to add insult to injury. For long stretches, Pascal refused to even throw a punch for fear of getting hit in return. The champion’s inactivity was so glaring and his devastating right hand so absent that the local fans were probably assuming he had reinjured the shoulder that has plagued him for much of his career.

But Pascal made no such excuse after the fight, instead claiming simply that he deserved to win. Hopkins had trouble even going through with an interview himself, and who could blame him?

While it’s true Hopkins is always the first to cry foul when he comes up on the short end of the stick, this time it was warranted. There was no way to argue he clearly beat Joe Calzaghe, who out worked him in 2008, and it would be hard to give him either fight against Jermain Taylor in 2005, considering the fact that he flat out didn’t fight most of those two bouts. But this time, Hopkins not only out worked his opponent, but at times embarrassed and humiliated him.

As bad as Hopkins was robbed by the judges, the Canadian fans were robbed perhaps even more so by the non-performance of Pascal.

Hopkins threw 100 more punches than him and landed 50 more. When Bernard Hopkins outworks you, you know you’re at the bottom of the barrel in terms of action. The fans who were booming with boos long before Hopkins ever entered the arena were silenced around the middle rounds of the fight after seeing their man outclassed more with each passing round. If Pascal couldn’t even convince them he had won, how did he manage to convince two “qualified” judges?

Hopkins seemed to know it was coming, even after pulling ahead for the first time in round nine. He could have stayed on cruise control but instead looked to knock Pascal out in the championship rounds. That gave Pascal more openings than he otherwise would have gotten, but he still couldn’t do enough with them to convince anyone he won either of those stanzas. At the final bell, there was a reason Hopkins celebrated while Pascal hung his head in defeat.

But boxing has a cruel way of not letting great champions ride off into the sunset. Very few it seems can escape without serious injury or on the heels of a series of crushing defeats. Hopkins had his chance to go out on top in 2006 when he moved up to light heavyweight and schooled Antonio Tarver. Instead, he chose to keep fighting to see just how far he could take it, looking good at times and not so good at others.

Tonight, he had his second chance to go out the way he wanted. And he proved he’s still the best light heavyweight in the world to all but two men, whose opinions unfortunately happened to count.

So once again, the door is left open for Hopkins to continue fighting, if only to avenge this “draw.” But he wouldn’t lose an ounce of respect if he walked out for good after this latest disgrace dealt by the boxing game. As Bernard would say, boxing never wanted him to succeed anyway. But like his entrance music for the fight belts out, he did. And he did it his way.

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