Beginning with his 2001 destruction of then-unbeaten Felix Trinidad, you could draw a correlation between just about every opponent who has crossed paths with Bernard Hopkins.
Whether they have won or lost against the ageless wonder, none have really ever been the same after facing him. In fact, you could argue, not a single fighter has gone on to score another meaningful victory in his career.
The merits of such statements depend as much upon your exact definition of a meaningful victory as it does your belief in whether some of Hopkins' foes were either already on the decline or not elite to begin with. Still, it’s quite an eye-opening exercise to check out Hopkins’ resume and make a run at disproving the assertion.
Former light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal is one who fully buys in to the theory. In fact, he has helped give it the most traction throughout the recent buildup to his showdown Saturday against Lucian Bute in Montreal (HBO, 10:15 p.m. ET/PT).
It’s an interesting stance for Pascal (28-2-1, 17 KOs) considering, on the surface, he appears to fit this exact mold since losing to Hopkins in their May 2011 rematch. Pascal missed the next 17 months due to injuries and has nothing more than a pair of innocuous wins against inferior competition to show for himself over the past three years -- a unanimous decision victory over Aleksy Kuziemski in December 2012 and a TKO against George Blades last September.
But this is where his one caveat to the equation comes into play: Pascal believes he’s the one Hopkins opponent to have beaten the system.
“Honestly, I don’t like to brag about myself, but I really think I’m the only boxer who came out better from a Hopkins fight,” Pascal told ESPN.com. “Jermain Taylor, even though he won both fights, was never the same. Kelly Pavlik was never the same. Antonio Tarver was never the same. The southpaw [Winky Wright] wasn’t the same. Even [Joe] Calzaghe went on to retire and wasn’t the same.
“I’m the only one who came out better from my fight against Bernard and [it’s] probably because I know that in my mind I won those two fights.”
Pascal, long one of boxing’s most colorful quotes, has never been afraid to use a bit of hyperbole in order to passionately make a point. But both his December 2010 disputed majority draw (which most felt Hopkins had won) and tight unanimous-decision defeat in the rematch clearly offered Pascal prudent opportunities to learn from his mistakes.
Hopkins not only exposed deficiencies in the footwork and technique of the fighter 18 years his junior, he simply owned Pascal in all aspects of the mental game. It was something that has stuck with Pascal, 31, who, to his credit, claims to have grown from the setback.
“It doesn’t matter what the results were, those two fights got me a lot of experience against a smart fighter,” Pascal said. “I learned from those fights and it gave me the leverage to be a better fighter and to dominate my opponent both inside and outside the ring for my next fights.”
Pascal has an opportunity against Bute, in a fight being promoted as the biggest in Canadian history, to do more than become the first to break the curse of “The Executioner” by scoring a significant win. It would also set him up for big opportunities in a suddenly red-hot division.
“Even though I’m not champion, I’m still relevant in the division,” Pascal said. “People must’ve forgot. I’m the one who put out the blueprint how to beat [Chad] Dawson. I’m the first one who gave Dawson -- the prime-time Dawson -- his first loss. Even though I’m not champion, I’m making more money than those champions. I’m like the cash cow. So I know I’m still relevant. People must’ve forgot.”