Sunday, May 22, 2011

Notes from the Hopkins-Pascal II card

·      Strategically, Jean Pascal employed different tactics in the rematch against Bernard Hopkins than he used in their first fight.  After exhausting himself in their first meeting trying to knock Hopkins out, Pascal paced himself much better throughout the night.  On my card, which I had Hopkins winning by 115-113, Pascal took the final two rounds and seemed to be the fresher fighter in the championship rounds.  I had Pascal winning five rounds last night: better than the first fight but not good enough to secure the victory. 

·      However, fresh does not necessarily mean accurate.  HBO posted a statistic in the 11th round that Pascal was averaging only a little more than five landed power shots per round.  That's an anemic number.  Also, consider that Pascal doesn't really throw a jab and you have a sense at how completely inept his offense was most of the night.

·      The amazing thing about Hopkins' defense is that he is not a runner.  He does not endlessly circle away from exchanges or avoid close combat.  Like a prime Winky Wright, Hopkins is seemingly there to be hit, but nobody finds him with actual consistency.

·      No fighter has yet to elude Hopkins' lead right hand.  What a weapon!  He moves in like he's going to throw a jab or a left hook and then unleashed the right hand with pinpoint accuracy, almost always getting through his opponents' guard.  Last night, he even looped his right hand some; Pascal never saw it coming. 

·      In many ways, last night was a vintage Hopkins performance.  He led with his head, he threw numerous kidney punches, he held and hit at the same time, he punched during the break and he displayed numerous, impressive headlock positions.  I don't know if he was influenced by the death of Randy Savage, but the Macho Man would have been proud.  Don't feel so bad for Pascal, he repeatedly threw rabbit punches and hit behind the head.

·      If the above paragraph sounds like British referee Ian John-Lewis didn't have control of the fight it's actually far worse than just the fouls.  He missed possibly two knockdowns for Hopkins.  The ninth round was egregious.  Hopkins connected on Pascal with a short right hand.  Pascal was off balance after the punch and his gloves touched the canvas.  It wasn't a devastating shot, but the knockout should have been called.  The tenth round was less clear.  After an exchange, Pascal missed with a wild left hook and fell, again with his gloves touching the canvas.  I'm less certain about this being scored a knockdown, but the ninth round was an obvious one.

·      Pascal did exploit one flaw of Hopkins.  After Hopkins would throw his lead right hand and subsequent follow up punches, he would move to his left, while staying in the pocket.  Pascal countered a number of times with a straight right hand, landing during several sequences. 

·      Hopkins' chin is special.  Pascal ripped Hopkins with a few counter rights and thundering left hooks, yet Hopkins took the punches well.  Over the years, I have seen Jermain Taylor, Joe Calzaghe and Antwun Echols hit Hopkins with punishing shots, straight on the chin.  Somehow, Hopkins remained on his feet.  Pascal's knockdowns in their first fight occurred because of a rabbit punch which was illegal, and another shot behind the ear, which was just barely permissible.

·      Over the last decade, in many of Hopkins' fights, he abandoned his jab.  Since the Kelly Pavlik fight, he has featured the jab with more regularity.  It's not a hard jab, but it's accurate and well thrown. 

·      Both Jim Lampley and Max Kellerman spent the last three rounds of the fight essentially bestowing hosannas upon Hopkins for his spectacular career accomplishment.  I saw it as a much closer fight than they did.  Their remarks were heartfelt (I'll comment on that more in a little bit), but I think that when they review the tape, they will find that they were a little hasty in their valedictory pronouncements.

·      It was a good thing that Hopkins secured foreign judges.  The judges last night did a great job and scored the fight appropriately, ignoring the hometown, Montreal crowd and Pascal's mostly ineffective, aggressive flurries.   They saw the right fight.  Kudos to them.

·      For Pascal, he is a good fighter, but he may have been exposed on the elite level.  He needs 20 to 30-second breathers after his flurries, takes rounds off and gives opponents opportunities to steal rounds.  These are not the characteristics of a future pound-for-pound fighter.  The first thing Team Pascal should do is to hire an Alex Ariza, or an elite conditioning coach.  While Pascal has impressive musculature, he has insufficient stamina.  He is not even 30 yet; there is no reason why he needs to take so many breaks.  I think that with someone like Ariza, Pascal can reach the highest levels of the sport.  Without this change, he may be a titleholder but he will never be one of boxing's best.        

·      Don't let anyone tell you that Hopkins doesn't have a sense of humor.  From hiring singers and penning a Hopkins-specific version of the Frank Sinatra classic "My Way" during his ring walk, to his impromptu push-ups at the beginning of the seventh round awaiting Pascal, Hopkins supplied a number of wonderful, light moments.  In another sense, he's so good a playing the bad guy.  I guess, to continue the wrestling theme, he would have been the ultimate heel or bad guy in the ring.  He understands performance and has somehow made himself into one of the top characters in all of boxing.  Whenever he retires, he will surely be missed.  

·      I have now seen Michael Buffer give his introductions in at least five different languages: all with almost perfect, native pronounciations in his non-Engligh assignments.  The man continues to astound me.  He may have the best job in the world and he does it well. 

·      HBO was effusive in praising Hopkins last night.  If you are familiar with the network, that is an interesting turn of events.  HBO and Hopkins have always had a complex relationship.  On one hand, Hopkins has appeared on either the network or its PPV cards almost 20 times.  So by that mark, he's one of their featured fighters.  Yet, the HBO brass and commentator Larry Merchant have been very confrontational with Hopkins over the years.  From the network's rampant cheerleading of Jermain Taylor in his two fights with Hopkins, to their failure to secure a spot for Hopkins after his sensational win over network-favorite Kelly Pavlik, to passing on Hopkins' first fight with Pascal, to Merchant's scalding criticism of many of Hopkins' in-fight performances, the relationship between HBO and Hopkins has sometimes bordered on the surreal. 

·      In a bit of poetic irony, prior to last night's fight, Merchant authored a warm video essay on some of Hopkins' greatest accomplishments in the ring.  I have no idea whether Merchant volunteered to author the piece or if he was compelled to do so by the network as a make-nice gesture (come to think of it, can anyone really compel Merchant at this point in his career), but Merchant's retrospective exuded class.

·      Lampley and Kellerman both had poignant monologues toward the end of the broadcast regarding Hopkins' enduring legacy and singular accomplishment of being the oldest fighter to win a championship.  In many ways, they all grew up together.  Although Lampley may be best known for his call of Foreman-Moorer or Tyson-Douglas, Hopkins has provided the network with some of its most dramatic upsets in the last ten years, from Trinidad to Tarver to Pavlik.  In addition, Hopkins fought on major pay-per-views against de la Hoya, Calzaghe, Taylor and Wright. 

·      Along the same lines, Hopkins had noted that it was "nice to come home," in reference to returning to HBO.  He knows that the network is the premier destination for boxing in the United States.  When you appear on HBO, you matter.  It's one of the highest validations for an American fighter in the sport.  So while Hopkins may spar with Merchant or disapprove of some of Lampley's calls, he loves that they are there for him. 

·      Before I give Chad Dawson a hard time for what he didn't do last night, let me start with praising him for what he did accomplish.  Dawson completely dominated Adrian Diaconu, easily a top-six light heavyweight.  Diaconu had no idea how to apply pressure or land anything with consistency.  Dawson toyed with Diaconu, spanking his opponent and teaching him a lesson when he dared to make Dawson work.    

·      Dawson featured all of his punches last night.  Dawson sat down on his straight left hand very well, landing some punishing shots on Diaconu.  Dawson also threw his right hook and jab with regularity.  I was most impressed with his uppercut, which he used to thwart Diaconu's pressure.   Unfortunately for Diaconu, Dawson had enormous height and reach advantages.  If Diaconu couldn't get inside, there wouldn't be much of a fight.  Despite Diaconu's attempts, he couldn't find a way in.  I scored it 118-110 for Dawson. 

·      Yet with all of his physical and technical talents, Dawson can be painful to watch.  He seems to fight with no urgency and is more than content to pile up points without pressing the action.  He could go for knockouts; he just doesn't want to.

·      The impact of Emanuel Steward on Dawson, who is now working with at least his fifth trainer, was hard to detect.  Perhaps Dawson threw his left hand with a little more authority and ran a bit less but at no point did I watch last night's fight and say, "That looks like an Emanuel Steward fighter."  After scoring with big punches, Dawson let Diaconu off the hook on numerous occasions.  As in the old days, Dawson was content just to win the round.  I'm not sure what Steward or any trainer can do the change that mentality at this point in Dawson's career. 

·      Unlike Hopkins, Dawson seems to be oblivious to the notion that boxing and sports as a whole are entertainment.  Give Floyd Mayweather Jr. credit.  He doesn't necessarily fight in an action style, yet he provides endless entertainment for those who follow the sport.  Dawson is not captivating in or out of the ring.  At some point, he has to give the fans something.  Dawson better keep on winning because if he loses again, no premium network will be rushing to offer him another fight.  

·      Hopkins is mandated to fight Dawson next.  On paper, Dawson has all the advantages, but his lack of killer instinct shows a sign of weakness, which the old man will be able to exploit. 

1 comment:

  1. quincy lavallaisMay 22, 2011

    b hop is one of the best in boxing i hope to be like that wen i go pro in boxing