(AP Photo/Tim Larsen)
By TOM CANAVAN, AP Sports
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP)—After thoroughly confusing and dominating previously unbeaten Kelly Pavlik, Bernard Hopkins walked to the edge of the ring and stared at some of his detractors in the media.
The message was obvious. Don’t ever doubt me again, even at 43 years old.
“I’m tired” of having to prove himself, Hopkins said. “What do I have to do? Kill someone? I believe I am the most underrated fighter when it comes to defense, when it comes to offense, when it comes to my heart. In my heart, I fought like I had to prove something.”
Hopkins (49-5-1) showed himself to be one of boxing’s all-time greats Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall, taking Pavlik to school in a 12-round non-title fight in which he beat up and embarrassed the middleweight champion with skills honed in a magnificent 20-year career.
“To be 43 years old and doing anything in sports is good,” Hopkins said.
The one-sided victory could set a rematch with Roy Jones Jr. early next year, provided Hopkins’ longtime antagonist beats Joe Calzaghe next month in a fight in New York City. Calzaghe scored a controversial decision over Hopkins in April.
Jones beat Hopkins in a 12-round decision in 1993.
“If I am going to fight again, it has to be no later than January or February, or it’s a wrap,” Hopkins said, hinting at retirement. “Because of the time frame, I can’t keep starting this old 1965 car and think that it is going to take me through. I know my limits.”
Pavlik (34-1) will have to start again after being exposed. What’s obvious is that the Youngstown, Ohio, fighter will have to stay in the middleweight ranks.
His fight against Hopkins was at 170 pounds, and Pavlik looked slow and powerless in carrying an extra nine pounds.
Pavlik is required to meet Marco Rubio of Mexico for the WBA middleweight title. Rubio maintained his status as the WBA’s No. 1 contender with a split decision over Enrique Ornelas earlier on the card.
Pavlik clearly has weaknesses.
“The strategy coming in was to win the fight, back Bernard up and cut the ring off,” said Jack Loew, Pavlik’s trainer. “Things were just not working. We went to Game A, B, C and just nothing worked tonight.”
Hopkins was a big reason for that. He watched countless hours of video on Pavlik and noticed that most of his opponents danced to his right.
Hopkins said that allowed Pavlik to jab with his left and set up his powerful right.
“I kept going to my right, which was his left and he could not handle it,” Hopkins said. “His feet couldn’t adjust going that way. He could not throw across his chest with his right hand.”
Pavlik looked lost from the opening bell as Hopkins beat him to the punch countless times.
A left hook in the second round caused Pavlik to buckle momentarily. Hopkins drew blood from Pavlik’s nose in the fifth round and taunted his foe in the seventh, winding up for punches in an impressive flurry.
The question coming into the fight was whether Pavlik could become the first man to knock out Hopkins. By the final round, Hopkins was battering his opponent and threatening to make Pavlik’s first loss a knockout.
“I just wanted to step on the gas pedal,” Hopkins said. “I wanted to stop him.”
Hopkins threw 304 power punches in the fight and landed almost half, according to CompuBox Statistics.
Pavlik threw only 211 power punches and landed just 55.
“I knew I was a better fighter than Kelly Pavlik and I knew I could overwhelmingly outgun whatever he did,” Hopkins said. “He’s a straightforward guy and if you notice Bernard Hopkins is at his best when he comes to me like that.”
A gracious Hopkins walked over to Pavlik after the fight and told him he would be one of the game’s top fighters, provided he stayed in the middleweight ranks.
“He still is the new face of American boxing; one loss is not the end of the world,” Loew added.
When asked about Hopkins, Loew gave him credit, noting he had believed that his fighter could wear the old man down.
“He surprised me, he really did,” Loew said. “But again our work rate wasn’t there. We couldn’t get off and throw punches. Kelly was throwing one or two punches at a time.”
Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.