Hopkins a 45-calibre Executioner

MURRAY GREIG, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:31 AM ET

For more than two decades, Bernard (The Executioner) Hopkins has been the consummate boxing anachronism.

To watch Hopkins work is like viewing a highlight reel of some of the all-time greats through backwards binoculars — except instead of shrinking, his skill set is magnified with each passing year.

Go back and watch the tapes of any of his 58 fights. Check out the way he almost imperceptibly dips to the left and slightly rotates his upper body before delivering, from nowhere, a lethal left hook — a la Joe Louis.

Watch how subtly he utilizes the ropes to laterally spin out of trouble — just like Archie Moore. Or the way he tucks his chin down behind his shoulder — a defensive posture made famous by Sugar Ray Robinson.

Unprecedented

Even before he won the world middleweight championship in 1995 and embarked on an unprecedented run of 20 title defences before beating Antonio Tarver to become the first 160-pounder to win the light heavyweight (175-pound) title since Dick Tiger beat Jose Torres in 1966, Hopkins looked — and talked — like a man out of time.

An astute student of boxing history, he routinely invokes names like Louis, Moore and Robinson when discussing his style and legacy.

Hopkins (51-5-1, 32 KOs) will have an opportunity to cement his status as one of the greatest ring generals of all time Saturday night in Quebec City when he challenges WBC light heavyweight champ Jean Pascal (26-1, 16 KOs) at the sold-out Pepsi Coliseum.

Hopkins will be 28 days shy of his 46th birthday, and if he wins he’ll become the oldest fighter in the history of the sport to win a significant world championship — 38 days older than George Foreman was when he KO’d Michael Moorer for the world heavyweight title in 1994.

“The difference between me and Foreman is that most people didn’t think Foreman could do it. He was the underdog of all underdogs when he faced Moorer,” Hopkins said in a teleconference call last week.

“Not only do people think I can win, they think I can win big, and I plan on proving them right.”

Hopkins has won five of his last six fights, including lopsided decisions over previously unbeaten (34-0) Kelly Pavlik in 2008 and light heavyweight Roy Jones Jr. last April.

The 17-year age gap between Hopkins and Pavlik was the largest of Hopkins’ career — until now. There’s a nearly 18-year age disparity between Hopkins and Pascal, which serves as just one more motivation for “The Executioner.”

“Youth doesn’t bother me,” said Hopkins. “I have faced youth. Pascal hasn’t faced someone like me. He hasn’t faced a legend. He is hosting me in his country, on his turf, defending his title.

Greatness

“He has a lot to be nervous about, on top of the fact that when he looks in the opposite corner on fight night he is going to see greatness. I can only add to my legacy. I can only continue to make history and back up what I have already accomplished.”

It says here that he’ll do it.

Pascal, who looked lethargic in beating Chad Dawson for the title in August, clearly has stamina issues.

Against Dawson, he was content to stay on the outside and lunge in when he saw an opportunity to score points — but that won’t work against the cagey Hopkins, who is a master at exploiting an opponent’s weaknesses.

Unless this is finally the fight that sees Hopkins age right before our eyes — and there’s no reason to believe it will be — the old warrior should have enough left in the tank to win a convincing decision or score a late KO.

True to his old-school philosophy, Hopkins is not averse to using every gimmick in the book — including dirty tactics — to impose his will on an opponent who “is going to see greatness.”

That’s what defines him.

And it’s just one more reason to believe the old lion will again show why he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Louis, Moore and Robinson.

murray.greig@sunmedia.ca


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