May 13, 2011

Foreman: Hopkins must KO Pascal to break my record!‏

By Jeffrey Freeman -- Legendary former two-time Heavyweight Champion of the World George Foreman addressed the media yesterday via international conference call in promotion of the upcoming Jean Pascal-Bernard Hopkins Light Heavyweight Championship rematch, scheduled for May 21st in Montreal, Canada and airing on HBO. Hopkins, at age 46, is attempting for the second time to become the oldest boxer to win a legitimate world title in any division. That record is currently held by George Foreman who was 45 years old when he knocked out Michael Moorer in 1994 to regain the heavyweight title in a stunning upset. In his first attempt to break the record, Hopkins was held to a controversial draw by the Canadian Pascal last year in Quebec City.

Big George Foreman insisted that Bernard Hopkins must KO Light Heavyweight Champion Jean Pascal in order to truly break his record.

"These fights are not won by decisions. Hopkins should look for the knockout like I did when I fought Michael Moorer. There is no way I could be in the record books without that one-two knockout punch. Bernard Hopkins must get it by way of knockout. He must realize that my record will not be broken on a unanimous decision. There must be a knockout."

That's a tall order for Bernard Hopkins, who is not exactly known for his knockout punch or aggressive style. Hopkins is much more of a technician in the ring, one who seems to enjoy distance fights that give him the opportunity to showcase his unparalleled boxing skills. When KO's do come, Hopkins creates knockouts, he doesn't look for them. Foreman of course, was a legendary knockout artist who is well known for his knockouts of Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, Gerry Cooney, and of course Michael Moorer. Big George was a huge underdog (literally and figuratively) when he challenged Heavyweight Champion Michael Moorer in 1994. People said that George was too slow and too old for Moorer - that he stood no chance but the proverbial puncher's chance. Despite being outboxed by Moorer for most of the fight, Foreman never stopped trying for the knockout and in the 10th round it finally came in the form of a devastating right hand from Big George that instantly relieved Michael Moorer of not only his senses, but the Heavyweight Championship of the World.
There is actually some interesting historical precedence in the career of Bernard Hopkins to justify George's insistence on a Hopkins KO, or at least a Hopkins that is looking for the KO, as George always did in his career.

In 1994, Bernard Hopkins traveled to Ecuador to challenge the Ecuadorian Segundo Mercado for the vacant IBF Middleweight title. The usually sturdy chinned Hopkins was knocked down twice in that fight and held to a draw. Sound familiar? It should because in the first Pascal fight, which was held in Pascal's home town of Quebec City Canada, Hopkins was -you guessed it- knocked down twice and held to a draw. Hopkins fought Mercado again in his next fight less than six months later - this time, wisely, in the United States. Hopkins stopped Mercardo in seven rounds, taking it out of the hands of the judges, and winning his first world title.

This rematch is not being held in the United States however. Hopkins is again fighting Pascal in Pascal's backyard, this time in Montreal. Some have suggested this was not a wise decision on the part of Hopkins, and that he will have nobody to blame but himself if he comes up on the wrong end of another so-called "hometown" decision.

George Foreman knows that the best way to avoid a hometown decision is to score a knockout!

Can Hopkins do it? Can he overcome Pascal's home ring advantage and get the KO over Pascal to break the record the way Foreman says it must be broken?

Big George seems to think so, "I thought such a record would last a lot longer than it has lasted."

Pascal: Hopkins has no fanbase in America!
World Light Heavyweight Champion Jean Pascal took a break from his training on Wednesday to address the media via international conference call in promotion of his upcoming  title defense rematch against Bernard Hopkins scheduled for May 21st in Montreal, Canada. Pascal (26-1-1 w/ 16 KOs) will be attempting to make the fifth successful defense of his WBC Light Heavyweight Championship, and the second defense of his Ring Magazine World Light Heavyweight Championship, which he won recognition for by beating Chad Dawson last year.

The 46 year old Hopkins (51-5-2 w/ 32 KOs) will be attempting to make history and become the oldest boxer in any weight division to win a legitimate World Championship. That record is currently held by George Foreman, who was 45 years of age when he knocked out Michael Moorer in 1994 for the heavyweight title. The Canadian Pascal and the American Hopkins fought to a controversial majority draw last year in Quebec City in a surprisingly good fight that saw Hopkins on the canvass twice but more or less in control throughout the fight, particularly the second half. Many observers felt that Hopkins did enough to win, despite being downed twice by Pascal. The fight featured an American judge (who scored the fight for Hopkins by two points), as well as a Canadian judge and a Belgian judge; both of whom scored the fight even, a draw.    

These are the basic fight facts, though you might not know it from listening to Jean Pascal rant about drug testing and allegations of cheating.

"I'm gonna bark like a dog and expose him to the nation! If we're both clean, let's just take the test! If he's not taking anything, why get upset? I believe that people who don't want to disclose the truth are people with something to hide."

"If Barack Obama was willing to show his birth certificate, why doesn't Bernard Hopkins have to take the test?"

Good grief, enough already!

When I hear about steroids, drug testing, PEDs, and "cheating" in the sport of boxing, I tune out quick. It doesn't interest me in the least, I think it's 99% BS, and frankly, I just don't care. Like everybody else, I've heard Pascal say ad nauseum that he is willing to "take the test" - fine, go take the damn test - but what about these persistent allegations of cheating? Is your opponent loading his gloves Jean? Removing the padding from them? Drinking from a special bottle, you know, the one I mixed? Did he bite you? That's how I understand cheating. Apparently things have changed and boxing has become something like baseball, where the asterisk * symbolizes a tainted sport. Fortunately, boxing is not quite there yet. When asked directly by Dan Rafael if he believes Hopkins is cheating, Pascal responded by (thankfully) saying, "no, I don't think Bernard is cheating."

Great! So glad we could clear that up because as an old school follower of boxing, I look for more traditional angles of attack when it comes to a fighter taking an advantage over another fighter - things like ring size for instance, glove type, weight qualifications, 15 rounds or 12 - things like that, or even something like "hometown" advantage, which by the way is an advantage that Pascal has taken into the ring with him in 26 out of 28 fights, fighting almost exclusively in Canada. Pascal has fought in the United States one only time, beating Omar Pittman in Florida by decision on ESPN in 2008. Later that year, he ventured to the UK where he was beaten by the British Carl Froch in a bid for the vacant WBC Super Middleweight title.

The current Light Heavyweight Champion of the World has not ventured out of O Canada since.

Knockout Digest asked Jean Pascal about fighting outside of Canada now that he is a WORLD Champion.   

"I have no problems fighting outside of Canada. I'm going to go where  the fans want me to go. I fought in England in 2008 - I wasn't scared to go overseas, because I'm a warrior, a soldier, and I always want to give the best show possible. For this rematch, I was willing to go to the United States to beat up Bernard Hopkins but he has no fans in America. That is why he chose to go back to Canada to make more money because he knows that in Canada we have great fights and great fans. He's is going to make more money in Canada than he's going to make in America because he has no fanbase!"

Pascal's Promoter Yvon Michel then chimed in, "This fight being in Canada is the best business possible and if it would have been the best business possible to fight in the United States, he would have fought in the United States. What I find funny is we never ask the American champions if they would be willing to defend their titles outside of the United States to see if they are real world champions."

The "best business" possible is to give yourself the best possible advantage to win the fight and that is exactly what Champion Jean Pascal does when he is able to defend his title time after time in front of his hometown crowd. A short ride home after the fight isn't the only advantage associated with fighting in your hometown or home country. Loud, potentially judge influencing cheers, from your fans every time you throw a punch, a hostile environment for your opponent; those are advantages, and with that volatile dynamic often comes the "hometown" decision in favor of the local fighter. Fighting at home if possible is an advantage as old as the sport itself but with Pascal it's getting ridiculous and it's time for him to truly earn the status of WORLD Champion by fighting and defending his title in other parts of the world, particularly if he insists on alleging that his opponent is taking some unfair advantage. Bernard Hopkins did not make 20 successful defenses of the Middleweight Championship in Philadelphia, although I'm sure he would have liked to. That is by means to suggest that Jean Pascal has benefited from any hometown scoring, or any advantage beyond having loud loyal fans that boo his opponent like Jack the Ripper and raise the roof when their hometown guy makes his way to the ring. Just as Pascal willingly takes advantage of the benefit of the doubt afforded to him by fighting at home, he should extend that benefit of the doubt to Bernard Hopkins and drop all this cheating nonsense. 

"When you fight Bernard Hopkins, it's always complicated."

Thankfully, on May 21st, the talk stops, and the punching starts.

"He doesn't like me. I don't like him so we can take care of that in the ring, where we can hit eachother legally."

Hopkins wants to execute Dawson, Bute, then Super 6 Winner!
Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins currently has his sights set on eclipsing George Foreman's record for oldest boxer to ever win a legitimate world title.

If he beats Jean Pascal on May 21st, the record and the title is his. What next? Archie Moore apparently. Well, not literally.

Bernard Hopkins is looking for three more fights after his rematch on May 21st with Light Heavyweight Champion Jean Pascal. On a conference call to promote the upcoming fight against Pascal, Hopkins stated that he has at least three more fights left on his contract with HBO and he wants them to be big fights against top quality opposition. It's rare these days when a fighter is willing to call out his next opponent, let alone his next three but that is more or less what The Executioner did in announcing that he wants to fight Chad Dawson (assuming Dawson gets by Adrian Diaconu), Lucian Bute, and then the winner of the Super 6 tournament.

Talk about having your work cut out for you. Hopkins not only plans to regain the Light Heavyweight Championship of the World from Champion Jean Pascal, he has ambitious plans for defending that title.

"I can give you the names of the fighters I am preparing to execute. If Chad Dawson beats Adrian Diaconu, then that fight would be in that fall. Then I would love to go back to Canada and fight Lucian Bute, and then maybe the winner of the Super 6 tournament."

Many people expect Andre Ward to emerge as the Super 6 winner. Hopkins vs Ward as B-Hop's swan song?

"To me, that would really be representing Archie Moore in a big way."

Yes indeed it would.

Archie Moore of course, reigned as Light Heavyweight Champion well into middle age, in fact he was at least 45 years old when he made his last successful defense of the light heavyweight title. Moore's true age is a matter of debate, but needless to say he was an early pioneer when it came to defending a world boxing title successfully into his 40's. George Foreman picked up where Archie Moore left off winning the heavyweight title at 45 and successfully defending it for the last time at 47.

Today, Bernard Hopkins seems to have his sights set on being not only the oldest to win a world title, but also the oldest to successfully defend it.

May 9, 2011

Weekend Review: Pacquiao Dominates Mosley

In a "fight" that was really no fight at all, pound for pound king Manny Pacquiao (now 53-3-2 w/ 38 KO's) pounded on the mortal remains of Shane Mosley (now 46-7-1 w/ 39 KO's) for twelve rounds on Saturday night, securing a very predictable unanimous decision victory, and retaining his WBO welterweight belt in the process.

Mosley was never in the fight and for all intents and purposes, he lost every minute of every round - even the one in which he was credited with a "knockdown" of  Pacquiao in the tenth. Apparently two of the judges refused to accept the knockdown as legitimate (which it wasn't) and scored the round accordingly, taking no point(s) away from Pacquiao for the "knockdown." Kudos to those two judges for not penalizing Pacquiao for a mistake made by the officials at ringside and then exacerbated by referee Kenny Bayless who, instead of ruling a knockdown, should have ruled it a slip.

Pacquiao, who on this night was not exactly the force of nature we had come to expect, did manage to seriously hurt Sugar Shane in the third, scoring a conclusive knockdown that Shane later admitted hurt him very badly and essentially ruined his appetite for fighting. From that point on, it looked like Shane Mosley was just doing his best to go the distance and not completely embarrass himself.

Official scores were: 119-108, 120-108, and 120-107.

KO Digest scored the fight 120-107, ignoring the "official" knockdown in the tenth and scoring that round  10-9 for Manny.

~Jorge Arce KO12 Wilfredo Vazquez Jr
(Wins WBO Super Bantamweight title)

This highly entertaining fight more or less saved the whole Pacquiao-Mosley pay per view card from being a completely boring wash. Jorge Arce (now 57-6-2 w/ 44 KO's) came on strong in the eleventh and then again in the twelfth round to score a dramatic TKO victory over Wilfredo Vazquez Jr (now 20-1-1 w/ 17 KO's), when Vazquez Sr. threw in the towel to save his son from any more punishment. It was a debatable call, and Vazquez Jr was naturally disappointed with his father's decision after the fight.

At the time of the stoppage, Vazquez appeared to have survived the Arce onslaught and was in a comfortable clinch, with Arce perhaps punched out, when the towel came in. Either way, Arce would have won the decision (assuming the judges would have given him the 12th round) so at that point it really just comes down to a father protecting his son, and who can argue with that?

Official scores at the time of the stoppage were: 104-104, 104-104, and 107-102 in favor of Arce.

~Kelly Pavlik W10 Alfonso Lopez
(Super Middleweights)

Going into this comeback fight, Kelly Pavlik seemed to understand the importance of not just winning it, but looking good. He got the win, but he didn't look so good. What happened? Either Kelly Pavlik picked a legitimately tough-to-beat opponent for his comeback fight, or he's just not the top level fighter he was before rehab. I am inclined to go with a little of the former but more of  the latter.

The ring rusty Pavlik (now 37-2 w/ 32 KO's) won a majority decision victory over Lopez (21-1 w/ 16 KO's) but he was not terribly impressive, and it was not the type of performance that would generate fan interest in seeing Pavlik take on the elite fighters at super middleweight. A win is a still a win though and Pavlik will probably get another chance to win back the fans.

Official scores were: 95-95, 98-92, and 99-91.

~Evander Holyfield KO10 Brian Nielson

Holyfield (now 44-10-2 w/ 29 KO's) drops Nielson (now 64-3 w/ 43 KO's) in the third and stops him in the tenth with a volley of punches. Holyfield looked a little fresher than he had in recent performances but that probably had more to do with his opponent than anything else. This was the out-of-shape Nielson's first fight in nine years.

~Daniel Geale W12 Sebastian Sylvester
(Wins IBF Middleweight title)

The Australian Daniel Geale (now 25-1 w/ 15 KO's) wins a middlweight belt by split decision over Sebastian Sylvester (now 34-4-1 w/ 16 KO's) in Germany. Sylvester was attempting to make the fourth successful defense of his IBF belt. Amazing how differently judges can see a fight.

Official scores were 118-110 and 118-112 for Geale, and 118-110 for Sylvester.

May 5, 2011

Prediction: Manny Pacquiao vs Shane Mosley

It's been the Year of the Upset.

After starting off the new year writing about the demise of the big boxing upset, wondering, "Whatever Happened to the Upset?" - the sport of boxing has answered me with a year full of against the odds surprises such as: Hyped prospect James Kirkland KO'd by the unknown Nobuhiro Ishida. Power punching middlweight contender David Lemieux stopped by Marco Antonio Rubio. Alleged "quitter" Victor Ortiz becoming a vicious tiger before our eyes and defeating the favored Andre Berto, and biggest of all so far; top pound for pound featherweight sensation Juan Manuel Lopez KO'd at home in Puerto Rico by the unheralded Orlando Salido.

This weekend in Las Vegas, 39 year old Shane Mosley takes his shot at the biggest upset of all, facing current pound for pound king, and all time great Manny Pacquiao in a fight that many panned as a regrettable, undesirable, mismatch the moment it was made. That negative reaction struck me as odd at the time, considering what a warrior Shane Mosley has been all throughout his career. Surely Mosley would at least be competitive with Pacquiao I figured. Hell, he might even beat him, especially if you buy into the logic that an aging great fighter is sometimes capable of that one last great performance when nobody expects it. That's certainly what we saw last month when Eric Morales gave the boxing world a thrill and came within a few points of defeating the highly favored Marcos Maidana.

So will the upset trend continue with Mosley beating Pacquiao on May 7th?

No, I don't think so.

A few months ago, I thought maybe an upset was possible, or at the very least a competitive fight but everything I have seen and heard so far since that time leads me to believe that Shane might look OK for two or three rounds but after that he's gonna start taking a beating from Pacquiao, and at that point the fight will effectively be over with Shane reduced to just going through the motions, ineffectively stalking, looking for one punch while Pacquiao will consistently hit Mosley with every punch in his formidable arsenal. All that remains to be seen is if that beating will be enough to stop Shane inside the distance.

Defeating Shane Mosley is expected from Manny Pacquiao, stopping him would be the true feather in his cap. 

Can he do it? Will Pacquiao earn that feather and become the first man to stop Mosley? The feeling here is that he will not. Shane has a ton of heart and a damn good chin but considering Pac's propensity for showing mercy to opponents, Shane is likely to hear the final bell. What he is also likely to hear is that he just lost a very wide, unanimous decision to Pacquiao in a pretty dull fight that failed to live up to the hype.

It won't even be remotely close, and Pacquiao will make beating Mosley look even easier than Mayweather made it look because at no point will Shane be able to hurt Pacquiao like he hurt Mayweather last year in the second round. Shane wins no more than two rounds, takes a full body beating from Pacquiao and wisely hints at retirement after the fight.

Prediction: Manny Pacquiao W12 Shane Mosley