From the opening minutes of the first round to the final seconds of the fight, Hopkins was smarter, slicker, faster and more aggressive. It was like a college professor lecturing to a grade school student on the artistry of boxing. When Pavlik expected Hopkins to be defensive and carefully pacing himself, the former middleweight and light heavyweight champion was boldly aggressive and constantly on the attack.
He used his jab to set Pavlik up and a stream of right hands to break him down, ultimately leaving him broken and hopeless by the fight's final few rounds.
Pavlik (34-1) had, it now seems, unwisely chosen to continue to go up in weight rather than do as Hopkins did for a decade, which was defend the middleweight title. He had moved up to 166 pounds to face Jermain Taylor in a rematch of the fight that won Pavlik that title and although he won his punches had less snap and he did not seem as dominating as he had been when he took the title from Taylor by knocking him out.
But rather than move back down to his best weight, Pavlik and his handlers agreed to move up to 170 to face Hopkins for a $3 million pay day, believing the former champion had begun to age noticeably in his most recent loss to Joe Calzaghe in April.
They got the money right but everything else went wrong and it was apparent from the opening round, when Hopkins' hand speed was so clearly superior. Time after time his right hand beat Pavlik's jab, eventually cutting open his left eye lid, bloodying his nose and bruising his face.
Pavlik had no answers and his loyal trainer, Jack Loew, realized it early but could do nothing about it.
"After three rounds I could see Kelly had nothing,'' Loew said. "He's not a light heavyweight. He's a middleweight, 160 is his weight.
"And the guy he fought is unbelieveable. The stamina he had for a 43-year-old guy was amazing.''
So too were the tears that wetted Hopkins' (49-5-1) eyes as he stood defiantly on the ring apron after the unanimous decision in which he won all but one round was announced. Staring at so many who had predicted his demise, Hopkins became overcome with emotion.
"This is he greatest performance I ever made,'' he said later. "I'm tired of proving myself. What I gotta do? Kill somebody?''
Saturday night was quite enough. Any doubts that remained about Hopkins' place in boxing history were erased not only by the victory but by its one-sided nature. Hopkins did to Pavlik the same thing he did to Felix Trinidad years ago. He undressed him. He broke him down so completely he took all the fight out of him and left nothing but doubt and the hesitancy to punch that comes with it.
While Loew kept calling for Pavlik to throw a double jab, his fighter became unable to throw even one. His hands, it seemed, had become unable to move and the more doubt creeped into his mind the harder Hopkins hit him.
"I just couldn't get off,'' Pavlik said. "I don't know why. It just wasn't me out there.''
Actually it was him but the more important factor was he was in there against perhaps boxing's most astute professors, Bernard Hopkins. The lesson he administered was both costly and caustic. It was a total destruction of a man, something Hopkins' trainer Naazim Richardson kept talking to Hopkins about throughout the fight.
"What drove me to be the best tonight was things were taken from me,'' Hopkins said. "From Jermain Taylor (who dethroned him by disputed decision) to Joe Calzaghe (who did the same). They say Bernard Hopkins is old? Yes I am. They say Bernard Hopkins is finished? Don't say that now.''
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