Boxers almost come to blows over belt

WBC and IBO light-heavyweight champion Jean Pascal of Montreal, left, comes face to face with...

WBC and IBO light-heavyweight champion Jean Pascal of Montreal, left, comes face to face with American challenger Bernard Hopkins at the final news conference before their fight on Saturday in Quebec City. (Stevens Leblanc/QMI AGENCY)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:38 PM ET

QUEBEC CITY -- Light-heavyweight champion Jean Pascal of Montreal nearly got an early start Wednesday to his title match against American challenger Bernard Hopkins, scuffling at the pre-fight news conference at Quebec City Hall.

Neither boxer appeared to be in the holiday spirit when Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume handed Pascal's WBC belt to Hopkins for a photo-op.

The pugilists came face to face as Hopkins smiled, clutching the belt behind his back. The smile evaporated when Pascal wrapped his arms around his adversary.

"It's my property," Pascal said. "I'll give you till three to give it back."

"Come and get it," was Hopkins' reply.

The two men grabbed each other and exchanged trash talk before they were broken up.

It's standard procedure for fighters to trump up an altercation to sell a bout, but Pascal (26-1-0, 16 KOs) made it seem the altercation was spontaneous.

"He's trying to mess with my head," the 28-year-old told reporters. "But it didn't work because I was waiting, I was prepared for this."

Hopkins, a veteran of 57 fights over 22 years, appeared bemused when asked why he put his hands on Pascal's hardware.

"I had the belt, it looked tempting to me," Hopkins (51-5-1, 32 KOs) said. "I said 'wow, the mayor has the belt, I might as well go and get my hands on it now, and sort of get used to it.' I have plenty at home in my trophy case."

The news conference had a festive air Wednesday as Santa Claus made an appearance. Hopkins joked that he might ask St. Nick for a championship belt, something a man his age, 45, has never won.

The Philadelphia native would be the oldest world champion in boxing history if he beats Pascal on Saturday before 16,500 hostile fans.

The fight will be broadcast on the U.S. Showtime network. It's the biggest fight on Canadian soil since Roberto Duran beat Sugar Ray Leonard at Montreal's Olympic Stadium in 1980.


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