By Nick Tylwalk
Following his one-sided victory over Kelly Pavlik in 2008, Bernard Hopkins seemed almost apologetic, saying he was done fighting young opponents. You got the idea that part of him felt guilty, knowing that boxers who still had bright futures in front of them weren't going to be able to keep up with the old master.
Fortunately, B-Hop changed his mind and decided to keep fighting. That allowed us to witness events like the one that unfolded last Saturday, when Hopkins defeated Jean Pascal, becoming the oldest man ever to hold a world title belt and finding himself sitting atop a division where all of the top challengers are under 30.
There wasn't much question about whether or not Hopkins would be able to out-box Pascal, who is about as far removed from Bernard in terms of technique as it's possible to be and still be a world champion. Yet there were times it looked like Pascal might overwhelm his older challenger with his wild but powerful shots, and Hopkins appeared stunned in both the fourth and 12th rounds (good luck trying to get him to admit it though!).
If we had a time machine and could summon the vintage Hopkins from the late 90s, he doesn't get tagged by those shots, and the fight is probably a snoozer. B-Hop also played to the (hostile) crowd, sticking out his tongue, dropping his gloves and even doing push-ups before coming out for the seventh round. It was as if he'd taken a page from his old rival Roy Jones.
And that's what makes Hopkins' late career success even more remarkable. As Max Kellerman pointed out during the broadcast and countless others have echoed since, he's added entertainment value to his bag of tricks.
B-Hop has also made it clear he's not ready to quit, so he'll have more chances to prove his mettle against men just over half his age. Chad Dawson is almost certainly next, and though Bad Chad definitely has talent, would you bet on him to beat Hopkins given what we just saw out of each man on Saturday? I wouldn't.
After that, perhaps Tavoris Cloud or Nathan Cleverly would make sense. Both fighters are under 30, by the way.
Fighting all of them would take Hopkins well past his 47th birthday and elevate an already outstanding career to a legendary one. There's no road map to what he's doing, in boxing or any other sport, really.
One thing's for sure, though: As boxing fans, we're certainly lucky he decided to keep fighting younger guys.
More boxing thoughts now that the weekend has had time to digest:
* I think my stepfather, a boxing fan but no supporter of the Golden Boy, said it best: Of all the people in boxing who seem to have their stuff together and wouldn't be susceptible to a substance abuse problem, Oscar De La Hoya would be near the top of the list. But hey, wildly successful people have demons too. While I'd be lying if I said I'd miss Oscar's goofy grin mugging it up at boxing events when the camera finds him, I'll add my voice to the chorus wishing him all the best in his recovery.
* Hopkins says he will leave the sport before he is taking regular beatings. Roy Jones? Not so much. His loss to Denis Lebedev was his third straight, and he has to seriously think about calling it a career. My hope is that he joins the HBO announce team full time, because he is an excellent analyst.
* MMA champion Nick Diaz has been lusting after a big money boxing fight for a couple of years, and he was on track to fight Jeff Lacy in the fall. No longer, though, as a big opportunity has come along in his natural sport in the form of a potential meeting with Georges St. Pierre. Hard to blame him for going in that direction - and he'llcertainly spice things up more than we've seen in GSP's recent outings - but it would have been interesting to see what he'd bring to a boxing ring.
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