By Keith Idec, photo by Tom Hogan

NEW YORK – Bernard Hopkins didn’t predict that he’ll beat Joe Smith Jr. on Saturday night as easily as he defeated Pavlik eight years ago.

But the former undisputed middleweight and light heavyweight champion did discuss Smith in the same sentence as Pavlik, who was undefeated yet ill-equipped to deal with Hopkins’ experience and toughness when they fought in October 2008. Smith made sure to let Hopkins know, though, that their scheduled 12-round fight in Inglewood, California, won’t look anything like Hopkins’ dominant victory over the much younger, supposedly stronger Pavlik.

“Kelly Pavlik’s nothing compared to me,” Smith said. “In that fight, he was straight up, coming straight forward, towards [Hopkins]. It’s not gonna be anything like that. He’s gonna see a totally different fighter than Kelly Pavlik. I’m stronger, faster, a way better boxer. And I’m just motivated to get to the top, and I’m not letting him stop me from getting there.”

The 27-year-old Smith (22-1, 18 KOs) stopped Polish light heavyweight contender Andrzej Fonfara (28-4, 16 KOs) in the first round of his last fight, June 18 in Chicago. Pavlik was more accomplished than Long Island’s Smith and 34-0 (30 KOs) when he faced Hopkins (55-7-2, 32 KOs, 2 NC) in their HBO Pay-Per-View main event eight years ago at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

Then 26, Pavlik had stopped Jermain Taylor in the seventh round of their middleweight title fight a year before the Youngstown, Ohio, native fought Hopkins, who was 43 when he battered Pavlik (119-106, 118-108, 117-109). Pavlik also had out-boxed Taylor to win their 12-round, 164-pound rematch by unanimous decision eight months before Hopkins beat him.

The 51-year-old Hopkins’ fight against Smith, the headliner of an HBO tripleheader from The Forum (10 p.m. ET/PT), is supposed to be the last bout of a Hall-of-Fame career Hopkins started in October 1988, a year before Smith was born.

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.