Hopkins to fight Dawson, and then ...
Bernard Hopkins’ legendary career has seen many amazing nights, but none like Saturday. As long as there is a sport of boxing, people will look back and be inspired by the story of how a 46-year-old man became world champion.
This was not George Foreman catching Michael Moorer with a single punch late in a fight that all judges had him losing on the scorecards. Nor was it MMA legend Randy Couture winning a world title against Tim Sylvia when most considered Fedor Emelianenko the top fighter in the division. Bernard Hopkins outthought, outfought and outclassed a unified, linear champion in Jean Pascal across two fights. And he did it despite being older than Foreman and Couture were at the time of their victories.
With the victory, Hopkins breaks Foreman’s record as the oldest man to ever win a major boxing championship by six months. It puts the seal on a remarkable career revival. After his disappointing performances against both Enrique Ornelas and Roy Jones Jr., most believed that his advancing age finally had caught up with him. If he didn’t quite prove the doubters wrong in December, he’s certainly done so now. That he did it on the same day his old rival once again was knocked out by an opponent who wouldn’t have been able to live with Jones in his prime underlines just how exceptional Hopkins’ performance was.
Denied the decision last time around against Pascal because of two early knockdowns, Hopkins was even better Saturday night at Montreal’s Bell Centre than he was in December’s 12-round draw. Not only did he take Pascal’s hardest shots without buckling, but he was far busier. Once again, he dragged Pascal into his fight, denying the adopted Canadian the space and time the champion needed to maintain a pace that the elder man might struggle to match. Pascal at times showed his frustration by throwing wildly, at others he simply held, trying to cut short Hopkins’ effective work inside. Whatever he tried, he had no answer for the shrewd — if at times crude — tactics of the old warrior.
Hopkins shows no signs of slowing down, let alone retiring. The new champion is contracted to defend his new titles against Chad Dawson, the former WBC champion who lost via technical decision to Pascal last year. While Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer spoke of wanting to look for loopholes to avoid what Hopkins derided as a “boring” fight, Hopkins vs. Dawson is a fight that the younger man’s camp has been trying to make for years.
Fighting on the undercard of Pascal-Hopkins, Dawson secured a comfortable victory over Adrian Diaconu on the judges’ scorecards. But his old flaws were still on display. Despite the pleas of new trainer Emanuel Steward, Dawson lacked aggression throughout the fight and too often was content to maintain positional advantage instead of pushing the action. Not only do such diffident tactics make for boring fights, but they also could play into the hands of Hopkins, who is adept at imposing himself on opponents. Steward has plenty of work to do with his flawed contender if Dawson is to get the victory over Hopkins he’s long coveted.
Across the Atlantic Ocean, meanwhile, a young prospect showed different flaws with new WBO light heavyweight champion Nathan Cleverly once again eschewing his physical gifts and boxing fundamentals to slug it out with late replacement Aleksy Kuziemski. After a strong start, Cleverly became complacent and reckless. In a tremendous third round, he walked into a spiteful right hand from the Pole that rocked him. While he quickly recovered and re-established his dominance, the incident once again raised questions about Cleverly’s discipline and concentration.
After the victory, Cleverly and promoter Frank Warren spoke of wanting to see the protégé of Joe Calzaghe follow his mentor in proving himself in big shows in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium as well as in America. While a unification fight is in all probability some way down the line for a young champion still learning his trade, given Hopkins’ history with Calzaghe and his willingness to travel to Wales for a mooted rematch last year, maybe one day we will see one of the youngest champions take on the eldest ever.