Hopkins surprises again

By Tom Donelson
Updated: October 21, 2008

IOWA CITY, Ia. — There was a time that Bernard Hopkins career remained an enigma, a fighter with an impressive record but in the eyes of many pundits, these wins came in a period of a weak Middleweight division.

This all changed when he fought Felix Trinidad in 2001. At the age of 36 and up against a younger lion ready to take charge of the division, the underdog Hopkins schooled Trinidad and stopped him in the final round; sending the Puerto Rican fighter into the first of his many retirements.

Before 2001, Hopkins’ main legacy fight was a lost to Roy Jones several years earlier. Since 2001, Hopkins have been engaged in many big events and even at his advance age, found a way to surprise pundits.

Against Kelly Pavlik, Hopkins did to the Ohioan fighter what he did to Trinidad seven years earlier, he schooled the younger fighter

Coming into the fight, this was supposed to be a coronation of the great young superstar, but someone forgot to tell Hopkins that he was to play the role of aging superstar fighting one fight too many.

Instead, he used angles and popped Pavlik at will.

The scores reflected what happened in the ring as Hopkins looked the quicker and fresher fighter. Against a rugged pressure fighter, Hopkins played the matador to Pavlik’s bull.

The last round symbolized the whole fight as the older Hopkins threw twice as many punches as his younger opponents and connected on three times as many. Pavlik’s face showed the judges’ decision was deserved as he ended the fight both bruised and cut.

As for Hopkins, his greatness as a fighter has become clear in the end phrase of his career. There is only one fighter who has matched Hopkins status as an elite fighter at his age; that fighter is Archie Moore.

Moore was still the best light heavy weight in his mid 40’s and challenged for the heavyweight title twice at his advanced age. Over the past decade, Hopkins has beaten Antonio Tarver, Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad and now Kelly Pavlik while losing two very close fights to Jermaine Taylor.

This would be an impressive resume for a younger fighter but it is amazing for a fighter past 40 and most of these fights occurred past Hopkins’ 40th birthday. Now the question remains, what is there is left?

For Hopkins, he would love a shot at the winner of Calzaghe-Jones and I suspect, Hopkins is secretly hoping for a Jones’ upset so he can revenge his lost to Roy Jones some fourteen years earlier.

If Calzaghe does win, he would love to revenge his lost to the Welsh fighter and with either fighter; we are talking big money. Hopkins is one of those fighters who depended upon smarts as much as skills and that is what have served him so well.

He has always been one of the smartest boxers of his generation and his technical skills have allowed him to not just survive but defeat younger opponents.

As for Kelly Pavlik, he learned a few lessons. First lesson was that his youth and strength can easily be used against him as Hopkins did. He could never get off as he did against Taylor and Hopkins ability to use angles gave Pavlik trouble.

The second lesson is that maybe, Pavlik is not yet ready to move up to light heavyweight but he still has unfinished business at the Middleweight division and there is still much to accomplish at Super Middleweight.

In the Middleweight division, in which he is the recognized champion; there is the specter of Arthur Abraham. He’s one of the toughest fighters in boxing and this would be a great fight.

Pavlik’s career is just beginning and the talent is there for greatness but against Hopkins, he was not facing a great fighter but a Hall of fame and all time great. That was the difference last Saturday night.

It was a very good fighter learning to be great losing to a Hall of Fame fighter who still had much left to teach his younger opponent.