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Pascal-Hopkins II, Dawson-Diaconu Pre-Report Cards

By Cliff Rold

Hopkins won more rounds.  Almost everyone can agree on that.  How many more is the key.  If he won seven, and one scored the two early rounds where he was knocked down in the standard 10-8 fashion, then Hopkins got what he earned last December in his challenge of reigning Light Heavyweight Champion Jean Pascal.

He earned a draw.

And he won the night. 

It was the rare fight where, no matter the official outcome, the story of the night was so overwhelming as to make the verdict secondary.  A 45-year old acknowledged ‘great one’ was putting it on a younger, faster man.  It was great theatre, and the theatre was enough. 

Sort of. 

There were those who scored eight rounds for Hopkins, or one of the knockdown rounds 10-9.  From that well, we had controversy.

Now, we have a rematch.

Let’s go to the report card.

The Ledgers

Jean Pascal 

Age: 28
Titles: Lineal/Ring Magazine World Light Heavyweight Champion (2010-Present, 1 Defense); WBC Light Heavyweight (2009-Present, 4 Defenses)

Previous Titles: None

Height: 5’11

Weight: 174.9 lbs.

Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 173.35 lbs.

Hails from: Laval, Quebec, Canada (Born in Haiti)

Record: 26-1-1, 16 KO


Record in Major Title Fights: 4-1-1, 1 KO

Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 3 (Adrian Diaconu, Silvio Branco, Chad Dawson)

Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat or Draw: 2 (Carl Froch, Bernard Hopkins)

Vs.

Bernard Hopkins

Age: 46

Current Title: None

Previous Titles: Ring/Lineal World Middleweight (2001-05, 6 Defenses); IBF Middleweight (1995-2005, 20 Defenses); WBC Middleweight (2001-05, 7 Defenses); Ring/WBA Middleweight (2001-05, 6 Defenses); WBO Middleweight (2004-05, 1 Defense); Ring Light Heavyweight (2006-08, 1 Defense)

Height: 6’1

Weight: 174.9 lbs.

Average Weight - Five Most Recent Fights:  173.5 lbs.

Hails from: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Record: 51-5-2, 32 KO

Record in Major Title Fights: 22-4-2, 13 KO, 1 No Contest

BoxingScene Rank: #1 at Light Heavyweight
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 13 (Lupe Aquino, John David Jackson, Glen Johnson, Simon Brown, Keith Holmes, Felix Trinidad, Carl Daniels, William Joppy, Oscar De La Hoya, Antonio Tarver, Winky Wright, Kelly Pavlik, Roy Jones)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat or Draw: 4 (Roy Jones, Jermain Taylor, Joe Calzaghe, Jean Pascal)

Grades
Pre-Fight: Speed – Pascal A; Hopkins B
Pre-Fight: Power – Pascal B+; Hopkins B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Pascal B-; Hopkins A
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Pascal A; Hopkins A

All Hopkins has to do is win seven rounds again, and stay off the floor, and this is a done deal, right?

Not necessarily. 

As was the case in the two Jermain Taylor fights and the first Pascal contest, Hopkins is likely to suffer again in early rounds scoring, warming to the task while sheer energy and output gives a few rounds to his foe.  At 46, Hopkins has to be careful to protect his legs early.  Pascal, who carries some pop and a sizable edge in hand speed, caught Hopkins with stuff the older man couldn’t see coming.  When he slowed down, when Hopkins timed him, Pascal’s inferior ring IQ relative to the genius of Hopkins shifted the contest.

For long stretches in the heart of the fight, Hopkins boxed Pascal’s ears off.

Hopkins might not be able to fight Pascal better, or much differently, this time.  Pascal can make some adjustments and improve.  Pascal, in the later rounds the first time, had success in wilder exchanges.  It is arguable that his best round in the second half was the 12th.  With Hopkins chasing and engaging, Pascal landed better and harder shots because the abandon of the moment favored raw speed and athleticism.  If he can lure Hopkins into more exchanges, selectively engaging and not just lunging while Hopkins is in wait, Pascal can improve his game.  A more concerted body attack wouldn’t hurt either.

Hopkins of course doesn’t get traps set for him and doesn’t do wild exchanges often.  Pascal’s whole steroid test baiting of Hopkins comes off as either a weak attempt at angering the old man or whistling in a graveyard.  If it’s the latter, Hopkins has already won the mental battle and this fight is more a formality than most realize.  Hopkins’s pursuit of history, of being the oldest World Champion ever, is close at hand.  If it’s the former, hey, at least he’s trying.

Pascal, at the weigh-in and press conferences, doesn’t come across as scared of Hopkins.  With a certain raucous crowd backing him Saturday night in Montreal, he’ll be able to borrow a little more edge from the faithful.  So will Hopkins who feasts on boos like they’re some anti-kryptonite.    

The televised undercard is a fight important to the future of the division and tantalizing all on its own as well, a main event on any other night based on the men in the ring.  Will it be a good fight?  So far, we at least know both men can make good shows losing to Pascal.  The winner, especially if it is Dawson, will emerge as the number one contender for the main event victor.

Those are called stakes.

Chad Dawson
Age: 28
Title: None
Previous Titles: WBC Light Heavyweight (2007-08, 3 Defenses; Vacated); IBF Light Heavyweight (2008-09, 1 Defense; Vacated)
Height: 6’1
Weight: 173 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 174.35 lbs.
Hails from: New Haven, Connecticut
Record: 29-1, 17 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #2 at Light Heavyweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 6-1, 2 KO (7-1, 2 KO including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 4 (Carl Daniels, Tomasz Adamek, Glen Johnson, Antonio Tarver)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 1 (Jean Pascal)

Vs.

Adrian Diaconu
Age: 32
Title: None
Previous Titles: WBC Light Heavyweight (2008-09)
Height: 5’9
Weight: 174.4 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 176.8 lbs.
Hails from: Montreal, Quebec, Canada (Born in Romania)
Record: 27-2, 15 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #5 at Light Heavyweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 0-2 (1-2 including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 0
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 1 (Jean Pascal)

Pre-Fight: Speed – Dawson A; Diaconu B
Pre-Fight: Power – Dawson B; Diaconu B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Dawson B+; Diaconu B-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Dawson B+; Diaconu B+

This came very close to being a title fight during Chad Dawson’s initial run as a WBC champion.  It didn’t come off, Diaconu ending up with the WBC belt and Dawson chasing bigger names in Glen Johnson and Antonio Tarver.  They would both have been undefeated then.  Now they fight with the knowledge that another defeat could be crippling.  Of the two, Diaconu is the more aggressive but Dawson will tower over him and his long southpaw jab will be a major weapon.  Diaconu isn’t a one-punch knockout artist so he’ll have to be willing to take the jab and keep coming.  It might work.  Since the first fight, a brutal war, with Glen Johnson, Dawson has been more cerebral in the ring.  Sometimes, that has meant looking almost passive even as he was winning rounds.  Against Pascal, faced with speed that trumped his own, Dawson often froze before making a move late.  Diaconu, also outmatched in speed, never froze even if Pascal outfought him twice. 

The Picks

He won’t freeze against Dawson either.  Ultimately, it won’t matter.  The length and technical superiority of Dawson will be more than enough to handle a Diaconu whose inactivity, given styles, is more a detriment to him than Dawson’s own lack of regular appearances will be on the other side.  Dawson can be hurt, and may get rocked a time or two if Diaconu gets close, but the jab will rule and Dawson should win a comfortable decision.

In the main event, the pick here remains what it was the first time around.  The older man is capable and, on his best day, far superior, but he’s 46 years old.  Even as the best 46 year old we might ever see, Pascal’s athletic advantages combined with the experience of the first fight should be enough to build an early lead and steal a few more rounds in the second half than was the case the first time.  Pascal being on his turf in Montreal, no matter impartial officials, counts as an intangible to consider as well.  Add it up and the coin flip, in a close contest to call, again favors Pascal via decision.    

Report Card Picks 2011: 14-4

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 roldboxing@hotmail.com

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