|Bernard Hopkins (left) shoves Jean Pascal during a press conference in Montreal on Monday. (QMI Agency/Sebastien St. Jean)
MONTREAL -- The hate runs deep between WBC/Ring light-heavyweight champ Jean Pascal of Laval, Que., and his American challenger, Bernard Hopkins.
Pascal touched a nerve with his veteran opponent at a pre-fight news conference Monday when he suggested the 46-year-old take a blood test prior to their May 21 rematch at the Bell Centre.
Hopkins shoved the 28-year-old champ at the podium and the two had to be separated. Such confrontations are the standard way to drum up interest in a fight, but Hopkins seemed to be genuinely incensed at the suggestion he has used nefarious means to achieve a ripped physique at an advanced age.
The bad blood continued during media sessions. Pascal says Hopkins will pay the price for insulting Quebecers during their contested draw Dec. 18 in Quebec City.
"Bernard doesn't like me, and that's fine because I hate him," Pascal (26-1-1, 16 KOs) said as he prepared to fly to Florida for training.
Asked if the vitriol is simply a the usual pre-fight sales job, Pascal replied: "No, no, I'm telling you, it's personal because Bernard Hopkins disrespected Quebecers by saying the people of Quebec are little people, that Quebec City is a village."
The Hopkins camp cried foul after last year's 12-round title fight was ruled a majority draw. The Philadelphia native blamed Canadian officials for the result and at one point vowed he would never again box in Canada. Pascal says his challenger has forgotten who paid his bills.
"Hopkins made a lot of money off of these people on Dec. 18," he said. "This guy lacks respect for people so I really want to set things straight on May 21 at the Bell Centre."
Pascal will defend his WBC belt for the fifth time while Hopkins (51-5-2, 32 KOs) is trying to become the oldest man ever to hold a major boxing championship.