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Hopkins deserved win, now a rematch

12/21/2010

In a perfect world, which this is not, Bernard Hopkins would have gotten the decision he deserved against Jean Pascal on Saturday night in Quebec City, Pascal's backyard.

Hopkins should have gotten the decision -- after the third round, he pretty much dominated the rest of the fight -- and become boxing's oldest world champion just a few weeks shy of his 46th birthday.

By boxing standards, Hopkins is a geezer. But he is a supreme athlete and was the fighter who was fresh as a daisy at the end. Meanwhile, Pascal -- head down and wearing a dejected look -- was the one whose body language suggested he would have rather been anywhere but in the ring with Hopkins.

"Jean Pascal, his corner and all of the Canadians in the arena and on television know I won the fight," Hopkins said. "The crowd was loud in the beginning, but the silence was deafening as I dominated Pascal from the middle rounds all the way to the end of the fight. After the last round, Pascal went back to his corner with his head and hands down. I am sure he is still hanging his head today to think he let a 45-year-old man beat him up the way I did."

Pascal was gassed after about five rounds and in retreat, while Hopkins, 18 years his senior, was the busier fighter. In fact, Hopkins was the guy tracking Pascal down throughout the bout and ripping him with body shots and rights hands.

B-Hop put it best after the fight when he said of Pascal: "He ran from an old grandpa."

While judge Steve Morrow's card of 114-112 was on the money for Hopkins, judges Claude Paquette (113-113), and Dan Van De Wielle (114-114) had it a draw as Pascal retained the light heavyweight title.

Pascal said he believed he won, even though he sure didn't sound convincing. He also said, "That wasn't my best fight." Translation: "I know I lost."

Frankly, the scores could have been even slightly wider for Hopkins because even though he was knocked down in the first and third rounds, the one in the opening round was bogus. Pascal cuffed him behind the head with a right hand and Hopkins went down on the foul, but referee Michael Griffin, who generally did a fine job, missed it. The knockdown shouldn't have counted. But even if you give Pascal credit for it, Hopkins was doing well enough in the round that it easily could have been scored only 10-9 in Pascal's favor instead of the traditional 10-8, because the knockdown was so weak.

"He knows what happened in there and he has to live with it," Hopkins said. "The film doesn't lie, but I bet he doesn't even watch the tape so he and all his people around him can tell him something other than the truth. He lost the fight.

"If this guy has a backbone and wants to walk around with any kind of dignity and self-worth, the only thing he can do is fight me again. If that was me, I know that is the only way I could really live with myself."

So even though Hopkins took Pascal to school, he wound up with a bad break and a draw. OK, so it wasn't highway robbery, but that doesn't change the fact that he deserved the victory in what was a very good fight. By Hopkins' often less-than-exciting standards, it was a sheer barnburner.

But now what? Hopkins obviously deserves a rematch and Pascal, who said he was open to it, needs to fight him again to clean up the mess.

"If I were him, I would want to redeem myself and my reputation immediately after what happened," Hopkins said.

If only it were that easy.

First off, Pascal was the big draw in the fight and the reason 16,500 packed the Pepsi Coliseum. Hopkins isn't interested in a return north of the border, where the fight makes the most sense.

"The closest I will ever come to Canada again is Niagara Falls," he said. I assume he meant he'd be on the U.S. side.

There is also Pascal's contractual situation. He defeated Chad Dawson via 11th-round technical decision in a dominant performance in August, but their contract included a rematch clause for Dawson. It allows Pascal to take an interim bout -- which he did against Hopkins -- before having to face Dawson again.

So even if the WBC, which sanctioned the bout, ordered Pascal-Hopkins II, Pascal likely would have to give up the title, which he doesn't want to do, and face Dawson again. Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer, Hopkins' promoter, said after the fight that WBC president for life Jose Sulaiman, who was ringside, had ordered a rematch. However, Sulaiman said he would like to see one but didn't actually mandate it. At least that's what Pascal's promoter, Yvon Michel, told me.

The rematch clause for Pascal and Dawson isn't as set in stone as it might appear. According to Michel, "We have signed an agreement to fight Chad Dawson if HBO or Showtime is willing to pay a license fee the same or higher than the last time. So I don't know." Michel went on to say that there was a deadline for that decision looming.

From what I understand, HBO paid about $2.5 million-ish for Pascal-Dawson. Would the network actually pay that much again? It sure doesn't seem worth it based on how the first fight went.

Maybe Pascal doesn't want to fight Hopkins again after how badly the first fight went, although he can surely make more money in that rematch than one with Dawson. But if Pascal does want a Hopkins rematch next, he should hope HBO doesn't make as generous an offer this time, which according to Michel, would free them from the obligation.

It's hard to see Showtime being interested in Pascal-Dawson II when it's an HBO leftover. Showtime surely would prefer a sequel to the dandy it aired Saturday instead.

Michel is a smart promoter. He's not looking to antagonize Dawson's promoter, Gary Shaw, by ignoring their contract in favor of a Hopkins rematch. Instead, he's content to let the situation play out and let HBO and Showtime crunch their numbers.

"It is our intention to take our responsibility and also honor our agreement, so we have to communicate with the parties involved," said Michel, who planned to talk to HBO about the situation this week. "We are not trying to escape our agreement."

My preferred scenario is that HBO not offer the requisite money to formalize Pascal-Dawson II, which would pave the way for Pascal-Hopkins II. And then I'd like to see Dawson challenge titlist Tavoris Cloud, who outpointed Fulgencio Zuniga on Friday night, and who may be the best of the 175-pound bunch. Dawson once gave up a belt to fight a rematch with Glen Johnson rather than face Cloud, who was his mandatory challenger. Cloud went on to win the vacant belt, but he and his team have always felt like Dawson ducked them. That element would add some heat to the fight. Then I'd like to see the Pascal-Hopkins II winner fight the Cloud-Dawson winner.

If that worked out (a huge if), I'd like to see the guy who emerges from Pascal-Hopkins-Cloud-Dawson fight the winner of a super middleweight title bout between Lucian Bute and the eventual winner of the Super Six World Boxing Classic (Andre Ward?).

Maybe somewhere in there we can also find room for a big fight for the winner of the Jan. 8 light heavyweight unification match between Beibut Shumenov and Jurgen Brahmer.

My fantasy scenario is most likely nothing more than a pipe dream. It makes too much sense, and this is boxing, which often makes no sense. But one thing it does show is that there are plenty of good fights between super middleweight and light heavyweight to make.

And if my fantasy scenario did work out, would anyone dare bet against Hopkins?