SI.com boxing writer Chris Mannix brings you blow-by-blow, round-by-round thoughts on light-heavyweight fight between Kelly Pavlik and Bernard Hopkins.
ATLANTIC CITY -- Greetings from south Jersey fight fans, where the Blog is coming to you live from Boardwalk Hall. We're four rows from ringside, not close enough to get doused with sweat from a clean headshot (it happens) but just close enough to notice the layers of MichaelBuffer's makeup beginning to melt off, getting ready for the light heavyweight fight between undefeated middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik and former light heavyweight champ Bernard Hopkins.
I have to admit, I wasn't too high on this fight when it was announced. On the surface, it seemed like such a blatant money-grab. Hopkins, while still a popular fighter with PR skills that improve by the day, is 43 and a shell of the man who ruled the middleweight division for nearly a decade. Never the aggressor, in recent fights Hopkins has settled for 10-15 second flurries followed by 45-50 seconds of clutching and grabbing. Not only is that style not aesthetically pleasing, but it is rarely successful: Hopkins 2-3 record in his last five fights is evidence of that.
Still, this fight has some compelling storylines. First, Hopkins has never been KO'd and the power-punching Pavlik (alliteration, anyone?) stands as the best chance to be the first one to do it. Second, it will be interesting to see how a young Pavlik will handle a crafty, tactical veteran like Hopkins. Pavlik loves the big shot; throughout his career Hopkins has been adept at avoiding it.
So there's that.
Still, I'm taking Pavlik in this one. The fact that Pavlik is roughly a 5-1 favorite had me thinking during the entire 2 ½ hour drive from New York to Atlantic City about tempting fate with Hopkins, but I just can't bring myself to bet on a guy who will need to turn a prize fight into a Greco-Roman wrestling match to win. I just can't.
So there you have it, folks. Let's get to blogging.
11:35 p.m. -- Pavlik enters the ring with the entire city of Youngstown behind him. I know this because they are all here. Good thing the steel mills are closed on Sunday's.
11:37 p.m. -- And Hopkins has a rapper with him. He missed a golden opportunity there. Pavlik's nickname is the Ghost, what more appropriate entrance song would there have been than Ghostbusters?
11:38 p.m. -- Hopkins is wearing his trademark executioner mask to the ring and is pacing the canvas right now while wearing it. Gotta admit, he looks pretty intimidating.
11:39 p.m. -- That said, no one in Pavlik's corner seems to mind it. The smirk on Pavlik trainer JackLoew's face says it all. They're here to win.
Round 1 -- Here we go. Both fighters feeling each other out. Surprisingly Hopkins is the aggressor early , throwing some strong jabs that find their mark. Clean body shot for Hopkins followed by a left hook. Now Pavlik is the aggressor. Good movement by Hopkins keeps Pavlik at bay and B-Hop scores with a couple of clean jabs. Strong right from Pavlik! Hopkins is warned about grabbing Pavlik's head...won't be the last time. Flurry by both fighters! Close round. 10-9 HOPKINS
11:43 p.m. -- If Hopkins can maintain this pace, he's got a chance. A good one.
Round 2 -- Pavlik stalking Hopkins, but it's Hopkins scoring the clean shots. Big left hook from Hopkins. Pavlik smiles, but that had to sting. Good combination by Hopkins. Pavlik just can't seem to find his range. Big right by Hopkins! Pavlik hurt! Hopkins closes in but can't finish him. Pavlik looks out of sorts. Good round for Hopkins.10-9 HOPKINS
Round 3 -- Pavlik looks a little wary of Hopkins' power. He should, Hopkins is teeing off on him. Big combination from Hopkins. Pavlik is leading with his chin now. Hard power shots from Hopkins! Now it's Pavlik tying them up. Hopkins looks like he's running a little low on gas this round, but Pavlik can't take advantage. Another round for Hopkins ... this is getting serious.10-9 HOPKINS
Round 4 -- Pavlik still taking shots and failing to respond. His jab isn't landing and Hopkins is counterpunching beautifully. Good body shot by Pavlik but Hopkins ties him up.10-9 HOPKINS
Round 5 -- Pavlik's defense is terrible. He's just too easy a target. Hopkins, meanwhile, is moving like a man half his age and avoiding any clean contact. Good flurry from both fighters. Hopkins holds on. Hopkins looks tired. Razor thin round.10-9 HOPKINS
Round 6 -- Both fighters are swinging wildly now. Hopkins trades with Pavlik before tying him up. Big right hand by Hopkins, Pavlik is just not doing anything to avoid those punches.
Both fighters are clutching now, it's turning into a Hopkins-style fight. Another series of clean shots by Hopkins. Pavlik just can't seem to snap off any combinations.10-9 HOPKINS
12:04 a.m. -- I think we may have underestimated the size advantage for Hopkins. B-Hop looks considerably bigger than Pavlik.
Round 7 -- New round, same story. Hopkins is connecting with force. Hard rights are followed by sharp lefts. Whenever Pavlik gets inside, Hopkins ties him up. When Pavlik chases him, Hopkins moves and lands good right and left hooks. More combinations for Hopkins! He waves his hand like Ali! Dominant round for Hopkins.10-9 HOPKINS
Round 8 -- This is not the Bernard Hopkins from the last two years. This is a Hopkins of 10 years ago. It's extraordinary. More combinations from Hopkins rattle Pavlik. He STILL can't get a combination of his own off. Now Pavlik loses a point for grabbing the head! This is like The Twilight Zone! Up is down, down is up. Pavlik has become Hopkins. And Hopkins has won another round. 10-8 HOPKINS (with the deduction)
12:12 a.m. -- Pavlik now has to KO Hopkins to win.
Round 9 -- These rounds are like a constant instant replay. Hopkins is pummelling Pavlik with rights and lefts and Pavlik is just absorbing them. Finally, a good combination from Pavlik. Hopkins ties him up. Pavlik is bleeding from his from his left eye. Closer round, but Hopkins wins another.10-9 HOPKINS
Round 10 -- A more defensive Hopkins opens the round but he is still landing the cleaner punches. Pavlik continues to come forward but Hopkins is elusive. Pavlik tries to line up Hopkins but he can't seem to find a target. Hopkins is still blasting away! Pavlik ties him up again. Has Pavlik won even one round in this fight?10-9 HOPKINS
Round 11 -- Hopkins knows he's up and knows he can only lose by KO. Let the clenching begin. Pavlik tries to break free but Hopkins only lets him get one or two shots off before tying him up. Smart, very smart play by Hopkins. Hopkins drives his body into Pavlik. Close, but we're ready to give this one to Pavlik. Barely. And it was his best round by far.10-9 PAVLIK
12:24 p.m. -- The crowd is headed for the exits. They are stunned. As I am. Completely and utterly stunned.
Round 12 -- Pavlik just cannot seem to bring himself to let his hands go. Hopkins throws some big shots! Pavlik hurt! Hopkins is just toying with him now. He has no respect for Pavlik's one-punch power. More combinations by Hopkins. In a round he could have just as easily mailed in, the 43-year-old Hopkins looks like the fresher fighter. Punches thrown after the bell! Both corners spill into the ring! Hopkins loks out at the assembled meda and glares. He should. Everyone completely underestimated him.10-9 HOPKINS
12:29 a.m. -- I'm still stunned. And Hopkins is still glaring.
12:30 a.m. -- Hopkins wins, unanimous decision. Man, is he angry. He should be. We all thought he was through.
12:33 a.m. -- Whew, what a fight. The Blog is off to check in on B-Hop and see what's in store for him next. Thanks for reading Blog fans, catch you next fight.