By Kieran Mulvaney
The younger man sat on the stool, milking every possible second of rest between rounds. Seeing it, the older man leaped to his feet, walked a few feet from his corner, and began doing push-ups.
The crowd roared in appreciation, as it did throughout the night, from the moment Bernard Hopkins entered the ring to a tape of him singing his own version of "My Way" - accompanied by a trio of picture-perfect backing singers - to the reading of the scores and the official acknowledgment that he had achieved boxing history, becoming the oldest fighter to win a title.
Jean Pascal was the Montreal fighter, and the Montreal crowd yearned for him to win. It roared its deafening approval whenever the defending 28-year-old light heavyweight champion threw a flurry of punches or landed a hard right to Hopkins' jaw. But it cheered and applauded in acknowledgment, and with ever greater enthusiasm as the night progressed, when Hopkins asserted control, made Pascal miss, or stunned the hometown favorite - as on several occasions he did - by feinting with the left and then landing a hard right hand over the top.
Pascal began brightly enough, but Hopkins landed the first telling blow, in the third, with just such a left hand feint/overhand right combination. Pascal returned the favor in the fourth, cracking Hopkins with a right and a left that was diminished in its effectiveness only by the bell.
But soon thereafter, as he has so often in the past, Hopkins drew the sting from his opponent's tail, mesmerizing him, tormenting him with his deceptive movement, effective defense and surprisingly quick counters. By the beginning of the seventh, it was the younger man, not the 46-year-old, who looked exhausted. And when, to begin that frame, Pascal took every available fraction of a second he was permitted before rising from his stool, Hopkins mocked him, walking from his corner and doing push-ups on the canvas.
Several rounds were close enough that there remained an element of uncertainty, but when Michael Buffer read out the unanimous decision scores, it seemed there could be only one winner. Bernard Hopkins had made history.
"I didn't feel like I was 46 tonight. I felt closer to 36," Hopkins said. "I can say I am a great fighter. It was exciting. I think everybody enjoyed themselves.
"It feels great. I set out to do exactly what I wanted to do, which was to break this record. I knew it was going to be a tough fight, but I wasn't going to be denied.
"You don't get a chance to do this too often. You're supposed to win titles when you are younger, in your 20s, not when you are 46."
He had not, he acknowledged, always had a reputation for being in fights as exciting as this one had been; but, he said, "I'm going to keep fighting like this until I leave this game."
As for when that would be, the short answer seemed to be, "not anytime soon."
"I want to fight for as long as I can," Hopkins exulted.
On the basis of Saturday night, that may be for some time yet.
Posted 12:00 AM | May 21, 2011
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