By Cliff Rold
Pernell Whitaker, when Bernard Hopkins won his first Middleweight belt…
Roy Jones Jr., when at age 36 he became the undisputed Middleweight king…
Floyd Mayweather Jr., when he moved up the scale to win the Ring Magazine Light Heavyweight belt at 41 years old…
Manny Pacquiao, today, as Hopkins celebrates winning the lineal Light Heavyweight Championship at age 46…
All of these men, from 1995 to now, have been recognized as the consensus ‘pound-for-pound’ king when Hopkins achieved the milestone title wins of his career. The first two couldn’t make it to their mid-30s still firing on all cylinders. The latter two haven’t even got there yet.
Anyone want to bet Hopkins can’t hang around to see who comes after Mayweather and Pacquiao? After Saturday, with his incredible win over Jean Pascal to win the crown at 175 lbs., Hopkins can already see his future ahead and he’ll have to put in work to stick around.
Let’s go to the report cards.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Pascal A; Hopkins B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Pascal B+; Hopkins B/Post: B+; B+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Pascal B-; Hopkins A/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Pascal A; Hopkins A/Post: B; A
Pre-Fight: Speed – Dawson A; Diaconu B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Dawson B; Diaconu B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense – Dawson B+; Diaconu B-/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Dawson B+; Diaconu B+/Post: Same
Here’s another list of names: Oscar De La Hoya, Antonio Tarver, Kelly Pavlik, and Jean Pascal twice. They aren’t just men Hopkins beat. They are men this scribe picked to beat Hopkins, almost always on the guess that he’d get old THAT night, almost always knowing the best Hopkins was better than the men he was facing.
We aren’t getting the best Hopkins anymore, but we’re getting the best he has left and that’s still better than almost anyone in the game. As expected on Saturday, Pascal built a lead through the first four or five rounds and then Hopkins took over.
He’d hinted at it earlier than that. A massive right hand from Hopkins had Pascal holding and in all sorts of trouble in the third. That could have been his end but he hurt Hopkins badly in the fourth to stave off what was to be inevitable.
By the end of round six, the fight was in Hopkins’s hands. Pascal made some moves in the ninth and eleventh, might have even stolen one or the other, but the second half was a lesson and Pascal is no teacher.
Hopkins endured being hurt again in the 12th but kept his feet and Pascal couldn’t follow up. Here’s what’s interesting in the scoring. Pascal, if he turns hurting Hopkins into a trip to the floor in the rematch the way he scored a pair of drops the first time, he saves his belt. He couldn’t and so fans wound up with roughly the same scoring in terms of rounds won and an exhibition of how narrow the scoring margins can be.
There could have been at least a single scored knockdown in Hopkins favor as well for further illustration.
Hopkins moves to 6-1-1 since moving to Light Heavyweight in 2006 and continues to face a ream of quality foes. If he moves next to the victor in chief support on Saturday, Chad Dawson (30-1, 17 KO), the trend only continues. Dawson may not have been inspiring but he was efficient and calculating in easily defeating Adrian Diaconu (27-3, 15 KO). Going into the fight, the big question was how could Diaconu handle the gap in height and the length of the Dawson jab.
Hopkins-Dawson emerges as the toughest match, if not necessarily the most fun match, at Light Heavyweight from here. The old man ain’t done yet. Perhaps it’s time to admit he’s not old just yet, period.
They come and go in boxing. Hopkins watches them do it. Then he laces them up for another ride.
Report Card Picks 2011: 15-5
Cruiserweight: The big result of the week is noted but snuff films don’t merit much response.
Light Heavyweight: Hopkins and Pascal trade places while Dawson and Diaconu hold their lines. Glen Johnson may come out of the ratings after the Carl Froch fight at Super Middleweight in June. Pascal is taking some grief after the Hopkins loss but it’s fair to remember he outhustled Dawson and gave fans some sensational wars with Diaconu and Carl Froch. So he lacks the ring IQ to deal Hopkins? So what? He’ll be back and fans should appreciate the total package, flaws and all, because when he’s not fighting a genius he’s still damn entertaining.
Flyweight: With over a year of inactivity and nothing scheduled, former lineal champion Daisuke Naito exits the ratings.
Strawweight: After an assist from a reader, Donnie Nietes officially vacating at 105 is recognized and he is removed from the ratings. It makes room in the top ten for Denver Cuello.
To see how all the weeks big results shook out…
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org