ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Bernard Hopkins gave Kelly Pavlik a
boxing lesson and a first loss that he will never forget.
The 43-year-old Hopkins used lightning quick combinations and a
cagey, near-perfect defense to embarrass and confuse Pavlik in a
12-round non-title bout Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall.
Hopkins, who dominated the middleweight class for a decade, made
the 26-year-old Pavlik -- the WBC and WBO middleweight champion --
look slow and powerless in fighting at 170 pounds, 10 pounds over
his weight class.
"I think this was my best performance, better than [Antonio]
Tarver, better than [Felix] Trinidad, better than Oscar [De La
Hoya], better than my 21 defenses," Hopkins said. "I am extremely
Hopkins received winning scores of 119-106 from judge Alan
Rubenstein, 117-109 from Barbara Perez and 118-108 from Steve
The mismatch was obvious from the opening bell, and Hopkins
reveled in the beating he gave the Youngstown, Ohio boxer. By the
fifth round, Pavlik was bleeding from the nose and by the seventh
Hopkins was taunting him.
During one stretch in the round, Hopkins landed four or five
straight punches, and then stepped back started winding up on his
punches before delivering them.
"He was a great fighter but I knew my style and quickness was
underrated and it was going to give him problems tonight," Hopkins
Pavlik (34-1) never stopped stalking Hopkins of Philadelphia,
but he never seemed to hurt him.
"I just could not get off tonight," Pavlik said. "I don't
know why? It was not his slickness. It just wasn't me out there
tonight. I couldn't do anything I'm used to doing. We're going back
to the drawing board. it just wasn't me tonight. I'll be more
comfortable going back to 160."
With tinges of gray in his beard, Hopkins even looked the
fresher fighter. He came into ring wearing an executioner's mask
and black robe with an 'X' on both, and he terminated Pavlik's
perfect mark in improving to (49-5-1).
The crowd had come to hail Pavlik, who had battered Gary Lockett
in his first title defense in June.
When he was in trouble early, they chanted "Kel-lee! Kel-lee!"
Halfway through the fight the chants become "B-Hop! B-Hop!"
Hopkins landed a barrage of blows in the 12th round and started
yelling at Pavlik in a move that was no more than a gleeful taunt.
"I wanted to pick it up and step it up," Hopkins said. "I
wanted to stop him."
When the final bell sounded, both fighters continued to throw
punches, forcing referee Benji Esteves to dive between them.
Hopkins then walked over to the television cameras and glared,
wondering how so many had predicted that Pavlik would knock him out
for the first time in his career.
In hindsight, it's a wonder Pavlik was still standing at the
Hopkins praised Pavlik after the fight.
"I was a fan of yours before the fight and I am a fan of yours
now," Hopkins told Pavlik in the corner. "You just need to get a
little more slickness. You need to bend you knees more like your
coach was telling you. Middleweight is your destiny."