Niagara's a natural for Hopkins-Pascal replay

Bernard Hopkins receive a hit from Jean Pascal during the WBC and IBO championship at the Quebec...

Bernard Hopkins receive a hit from Jean Pascal during the WBC and IBO championship at the Quebec City Colisee, Saturday December 18, 2010. (Beniot Gariepy/QMI AGENCY)

LYLE FITZSIMMONS, Sports Network

, Last Updated: 3:15 PM ET

To most people, it was a throwaway line.

During post-fight commentary in which Bernard Hopkins vented about a draw after dominating the final two-thirds of a Showtime main event with Jean Pascal, he referenced indignities suffered in his last foreign road trip.

Eerily similar to the two-knockdown miscarriage in Quebec, the old man from Philly had been treated to a Southern Hemisphere version exactly 16 years -- and one day -- earlier, twice rising from the deck to take control of a what became a dubious deadlock with Segundo Mercado in Quito, Ecuador.

It was the bout that fueled Hopkins' original jingoistic fire -- prompting him to claim he'd never again brandish a passport and board a plane to risk untoward activity benefiting a hometown opponent.

He kept the promise until Saturday, when he earned a 114-112 nod from judge Steve Morrow but saw a bid to regain the IBO's 175-pound belt and win the WBC version snuffed out by knotted scores of 113-113 and 114-114 from Claude Paquette and Daniel Van de Wiele, respectively.

Morrow gave Hopkins eight of 12 rounds to arrive at his knockdown-skewed totals, while Paquette saw seven rounds in the 45-year-old's favor and Van de Wiele awarded him six of 12 with one even.

So out of a possible 36 rounds across three official scorecards -- Hopkins won 21, or 58.3 percent.

Nonetheless, it all equaled a "successful" IBO/WBC defense for Pascal -- a Haitian-born Canadian resident, by the way -- and triggered the familiar "look at his face and look at mine" post-fight protest from the perpetually unmarked and habitually disappointed Hopkins.

"You all saw it. I beat the guy up. I dominated the fight. It was a sure enough robbery," he said.

Incidentally, the Montreal Gazette, based less than 20 miles from where Pascal lives, scored it 115-111 for the American.

"It was a perfect fight for a senior citizen. I set a profound bar and statement," Hopkins said. "I beat Pascal. If I got the decision, you wouldn't be saying Pascal got robbed. Somebody had to be fighting their ass off to come from two knockdowns, fighting a Canadian in Canada and get a draw."

It was amid the cranky aftermath that the long-time former middleweight king gave me my nugget:

"The closest I will ever come to Canada again," he said, "is Niagara Falls."

Instantly, my "holy cow someone just mentioned my hometown" radar went off.

And immediately thereafter, I converted my columnist tape recorder to a promoter crystal ball.

Imagine the possibilities, I thought, if the sport's oldest wannabe champion and his upstart 28-year-old foil could renew hostilities next year right there in the "Honeymoon Capital of the World."

Not only is it home to thousands of cash-carrying tourists every day between May and September, but it's also got the bells and whistles needed for an event of Hopkins-Pascal II's magnitude.

A casino with a big, boxing-friendly arena -- check. An outdoor attraction to distract large down-time crowds -- check. Scores of nearby restaurants to satisfy eclectic visitor tastes -- check.

Not to mention the sort of international hook available in a place where the fighters' countries of residence are separated by a 950-foot steel arch bridge anchored a few hundred feet above the watery froth from a barrel-drawing cataract.

IT'S THE U.S. VS. CANADA

Saturday Night Live vs. SCTV. Hulk Hogan vs. Wayne Gretzky.

A culture clash of epic proportions -- on a 20 x 20 square canvas.

The publicity tour alone puts Atlantic City or Las Vegas to shame, with tagline possibilities like "Border War" and "Brawl at the Falls" that both ratchet up tension -- not to mention ticket sales -- and guarantee publicity beyond the tired, old Jersey shore and Nevada desert routines.

Forget mayors of middling cities and their cheesesteak/beer bets. A matchup like this correctly framed could involve executives in much larger offices, putting Barack Obama and Stephen Harper in charge not only of making appropriate wagers, but galvanizing national pride.

Perhaps, with a Hopkins win, signature Canadian crooner Anne Murray could be forcibly retired from the music business via televised pay-per-view laryngectomy. Or, if Pascal again leaves with his belts, every NFL field would be re-drawn to include a 55-yard line at its midpoint.

Speaking of midpoints, the final pre-bout photo shoot could be held midway across the aforementioned international bridge -- under dueling American and Canadian flags, of course -- presenting Hopkins the chance to one-up his typical fight-week venom by tossing one of Pascal's entourage to the rapids below.

Sorry folks, but with all this as an alternative, another hum-drum Saturday with Snooki or Wayne Newton won't get it done. And if money men Richard Schaefer and Yvon Michel do take my advice and put it in writing, I promise I won't ask for more than a small part of the gate as a finder's fee.

That... and maybe just one case of Labatt Ice smuggled through customs.

THIS WEEK'S TITLE-FIGHT SCHEDULE:

THURSDAY

WBA super flyweight title -- Osaka, Japan

Hugo Fidel Cazares (champion) vs. Hiroyuki Hisataka (No. 6 contender)

Cazares (33-6-2, 24 KO): Third title defense; Third title fight in Japan (1-0-1, 0 KO)

Hisataka (19-8-1, 8 KO): Third title fight (0-2, 0 KO); Won four of nine fights since 2007 (4-5, 3 KO)

Fitzbitz says: "Mexican veteran heads overseas to continue title-fight momentum." Cazares by decision

SUNDAY

WBA flyweight title -- Saitama, Japan

Daiki Kameda (champion) vs. Silvio Olteanu (No. 14 contender)

Kameda (18-2, 11 KO): Second title defense; Beaten by decision in first two title fights (2007, 2009)

Olteanu (11-3, 5 KO): First title fight; Eleven straight wins since beginning career 0-3 (11-0, 5 KO)

Fitzbitz says: "Japanese youngster improving as title reign evolves." Kameda in 10

Vacant WBA bantamweight title -- Saitama, Japan

Koki Kameda (No. 2 contender) vs. Alexander Munoz (No. 5 contender)

Kameda (23-1, 15 KO): Fifth title fight (3-1, 0 KO); Held WBA title at 108 and WBC title at 112

Munoz (35-3, 27 KO): Eleventh title fight (7-3, 3 KO); Two WBA title reigns at 115 (2002-04, 2007-08)

Fitzbitz says: "Youth and homeland advantage give Kameda a tiebreaking edge." Kameda by decision

Last week's picks: 2-0 Overall picks record: 261-86 (75.2 percent)

Lyle Fitzsimmons is a veteran sports columnist who's written professionally since 1988 and covered boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and posted online for clients in North America and Europe. Reach him at fitzbitz@msn.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/fitzbitz.


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