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Pavlik to Face Hopkins In October: Is This The Best Kelly Could Get?

Bernard Hopkins Kelly PavlikBy Jim Dower: In a bit of disappointing news, undefeated middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik (34-0, 30 KOs) will be moving up to 170 lbs to face 43 year-old Bernard Hopkins on October 18th, in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Pavlik, 26. had been hoping to land fights against a variety of opponents, such as Joe Calzaghe, Sergio Mora, Winky Wright and Paul Williams. However, Pavlik’s promoter, Bob Arum, was unable to work out deals with any of them, leaving only Hopkins as the best option for a big money fight for Pavlik. Unfortunately for boxing fans, this is a fight that will likely be a less than thrilling match up given Hopkins’ advanced age, which by the time the fight occurs in October, Hopkins will be almost 44 years-old.

Besides the age factor, Hopkins, as he proved in his last fight with Calzaghe in April, isn’t an opponent that will stand and trade shots with Pavlik like most boxing fans are hoping to see in a Pavlik bout. More likely, Hopkins will stay on the outside, moving constantly, and occasionally coming inside to throw a fast 1-2 combination followed by a clinch. In other words, a grind it out type of fight similar to the old style of heavyweight John Ruiz.

This is how Hopkins has fought in the past three years, dating back to his bout with Howard Eastman in February 2005. Since then, Hopkins has used this punch and grab style in fights against Jermain Taylor, Winky Wright, Antonio Tarver and Calzaghe. It’s a hard style to beat, there’s no doubt about it, because using this manner of fighting, Hopkins is able to dictate all of the action.

When he’s on the outside, he’s moving around and unable to get hit, and when his opponent gets in range, he either lowers his head and throws to shots and clinches immediately, or he moves away. This leaves his opponent frustrated, needless to say, for they don’t have time to set up their offense and have to deal with having Hopkins constantly clinching them.

As far as opponents go, this is perhaps the worst choice that Pavlik could find in terms of finding an exciting fight. This is going to be a backwards step for him, because he won’t look good in beating Hopkins, who for his part will turn the fight into a boring clinch-fest before the fight is over. In fact, I see this as a fight that will tarnish Pavlik much in the same way that it did to Calzaghe, who struggled to defeat Hopkins by a 12-round split decision. It’s not that Pavlik doesn’t have better boxing skills and power, because he surely has from what I’ve seen of him, but he’s never had to face someone as slick as Hopkins.

When using the punch and clinch technique, it’s a style that makes Hopkins almost unbeatable, for it neutralizes the youth, power, speed and boxing ability of his opponents, turning the fight into a dull stalemate. In a way, it reminds me of watching the game show Jeopardy, in that whoever hits the button first has an advantage over his opponent because they can answer the questions first, most of them fairly easy, before their opponents get a chance.

In this case, Hopkins will come in like a bull and land one, maybe two shots, then followed by his vise-like clinch, thus preventing the taller, more powerful Pavlik from getting in any of his own shots. For those boxing fans who think that Pavlik won’t have problems beating this style, they need to think again and take a look at Hopkins’s fights against Taylor, Wright, Tarver and Calzaghe. If those excellent fighters had problems dealing with Hopkins’ punch and grab technique, what makes you think a slower, more methodical fighter like Pavlik will do any better.

Indeed, I see Pavlik having major problems with Hopkins, because he’s not as fast as those other fighters that Hopkins has fought and is more dependent on having a stationary opponent directly in front of him. Hopkins, though 43 and past his best years, isn’t going to sit there and be a sitting duck for the predictable Pavlik. Quite the opposite, in fact. He’s going to move around and keep Pavlik chasing him all night, and whenever he gets close, you can expect to see Pavlik tagged quickly with a fast 1-2 to, then grabbed into a clinch. I expect Pavlik to win the fight, but it will be a close, controversial bout similar to the Calzaghe-Hopkins bout, leaving boxing fans unsatisfied and more than a little angry for having wasted $49.95 on this fight.

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