QUEBEC CITY - Jean Pascal of Laval, Que. retained his WBC and IBO light-heavyweight titles by the skin of his teeth Saturday when his bout against American Bernard Hopkins ended in a draw that had the Hopkins camp vowing to protest.
Hopkins, 45, appeared to have the edge in the final half of the fight after Pascal knocked him down in the first and third rounds. Hopkins got stronger as the fight went on, controlling the pace down the stretch and landing more punches.
American judge Steve Morrow agreed, scoring the bout 114-112 in favour of Hopkins. But Quebec judge Claude Paquette scored the fight a 113-113 draw, as did his Belgian counterpart Daniel Van de Wiele, whose card read 114-114.
The sellout crowd of more than 16,000 expressed their displeasure with resounding boos, likely irked that Pascal didn't win. Richard Shaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, says the Hopkins camp will appeal the decision and they demanded an immediate rematch.
"This is bad for the sport, it's bad for Pascal," an incredulous Shaefer told reporters. "If you guys think that Pascal helps himself with these kind of decisions then youíre wrong because the boxing community around the world is not going to embrace that."
Hopkins (51-5-2, 32 KOís) said he felt that he was the clear winner.
"Y'all got eyes," Hopkins told the post-fight news conference. "At the end of the day, TV, film, DVR don't lie."
Hopkins took particular issue with Van de Wiele's 10-10 score for round 10. Hopkins landed several power shots early in the round and didn't seem to be hurt by Pascal's replies.
The Philadelphia native was 28 days from his 46th birthday on Saturday and was trying to become the oldest fighter ever to win a major boxing championship. The veteran was animated and enthusiastic about his performance while Pascal was grim-faced and brief in his assessment of the bout.
"I believe that I won, but the judges decided otherwise," said Pascal (26-1-1, 16 KO's).
"I donít understand the American judge who turned in a 114-112 card for Hopkins, since I sent him to the canvas twice."
Pascal also expressed muted admiration for his crafty opponent, who frustrated with body shots that kept Pascal off balance and sapped his power and stamina.
"Hopkins is 45-years-old and he's still in the game," said Pascal. "He's a complicated boxer in the ring and I'm proud of myself despite the disappointment. I am still champion, even though we wanted the win."
Pascal acknowledged that the controversy over Saturday's draw will likely have to be settled in the ring.
"If Bernard Hopkins wants to have a rematch I have no problem with it but I have to sit down with my promoter and discuss it."
Hopkins wavered when asked if he would fight again. At one point he said a draw on hostile territory is as good as a win, especially at his age. But he later suggested he wants another chance at history.
"Beating George Foreman's record was really important to me. I love what I do."
But one thing appeared certain in Hopkins' mind - a fight in Canada will be out of the question.
"The closest I'll come to Canada is Niagara Falls," he quipped.