The common thread running through the three biggest fights of Pascal's 28-bout career is his inability to finish what he started. Like a thoroughbred sprinter asked to stretch out in a distance race, Pascal has consistently had trouble reaching the finish line with any kick left. It cost him his only loss against Carl Froch in 2008. Two years later he barely escaped getting knocked out by Chad Dawson in the 11th round of a fight he won on points by technical decision. Against Hopkins, only a draw saved him from absorbing his second defeat.
Now Pascal has a chance for a do-over. If he is to win this time, he'll have to find solutions to the many problems Hopkins still poses at 46, plus overcome his own stylistic failings. "Pascal has an impressive body, but in a physical fight he starts to feel fatigue around the seventh, eighth or ninth rounds," says Daniel Cloutier, longtime Montreal boxing writer. "Pascal is always at his best through the sixth and seventh rounds. Why, I don't know. He trains very hard."
One reason could be that the 28-year-old Pascal sometimes doesn't pace himself, according to his promoter, Yvon Michel. "Jean wanted to go for the kill early against Froch. When he realized he wouldn't be able to trade blows with him, beginning in the seventh round he wanted to just move, move, but he slowed down. He had given so much of himself earlier." The same was true in the Dawson fight. "He threw a lot of punches early and slowed down."
Hopkins is the flip side of the coin. Despite being 18 years older, Hopkins picked up the pace midway through the fight, and was outworking Pascal right to the wire. Michel traces Pascal's fade not to lack of stamina, but to the way he prepared for the fight. Incredibly, Pascal apparently took the future Hall of Famer somewhat for granted.
"He never trained like it was going to be the toughest fight of his career," Michel says. "Everybody in camp was telling him he was fighting an old man, and it could be his last fight ever. Beating Dawson was such a big win for him. He didn't feel the same sense of urgency with Hopkins." This time around Michel thinks things will be different. "He is working as hard as he did for Dawson. He'll be faster. He didn't have the quickness against Hopkins. Jean will dictate the pace of the fight, not Hopkins."
Pascal's overconfidence going into the first fight was undoubtedly reinforced when he put Hopkins down in the final seconds of the first round with a shot that nailed him toward the back of the head. It was the first time in 16 years Hopkins had hit the canvas. Two rounds later, Pascal did it again. Those two knockdowns proved to be both the best thing that could've happened to Pascal and in some ways the worst. Two of the three judges scored the bout dead even. So without those knockdowns - both scored 10-8 rounds - Pascal would have lost. But by sending the iron-chinned Hopkins to the canvas, Pascal became overconfident, which nearly was his downfall. "When he put Hopkins down twice, he went all out, trying for the knockout," Michel says.
Given that Hopkins (51-5-2, 32 KOs) had not been knocked out in 59 career fights, and tasted canvas only twice before in 420 rounds, Pascal's decision to go for an early takeout seemed a bit misguided. If Pascal has learned anything from the first fight, it wasn't apparent at a press conference for the rematch. "I won the first fight in Quebec City, and I will decisively win the rematch," Pascal says. "But this time when I send him to the canvas, I'll make sure he doesn't get up again. Hopkins isn't getting any younger, and he gave everything he had left in his body the last time. He can't be any better."
Hopkins, for his part, begs to differ. "I'm a threat and my age doesn't matter," he says. "Pascal knows it. He was credited with two knockdowns and is almost twenty years younger than me, and he still wasn't able to win the fight. I gave Pascal an old-fashioned beating and I'll do it again."
Perhaps the biggest problem Pascal faces is Hopkins's vast experience in major fights, including 24 championship bouts. Over the course of his career, Hopkins has developed into one of the great ring masters of all time, and benefits from having trainer Nazim Richardson in his corner. Richardson is astute at making adjustments, as he did against Pascal. After the fifth round, Richardson told Hopkins: "We don't want to be throwing big shots like that. He is going to go big, so you go small, with short shots inside."
From that point on, Hopkins began throwing a flurry of short, choppy punches, which kept Pascal on the defensive more than he would have liked. The final punch stats clearly indicate Hopkins was the aggressor. Hopkins connected on 153 of 502 shots, compared to just 86 of 350 for Pascal. Hopkins also dominated in power punches, landing 129 of 311, while Pascal succeeded with 57 of 102. Not surprisingly, Pascal won only one round from each of the judges in the final seven.
The winner of this fight is expected to face the victor of the co-feature, Dawson (29-1, 17 KOs) versus Adrian Diaconu (27-2, 15 KOs).
"Jean will dictate the pace of the fight, not Hopkins." - Pascal promoter, Yvon Michel.
Posted 12:00 AM | May 5, 2011
HBO WCB - May 21, 2011
Dawson vs. Diaconu