Bernard Hopkins and Kelly Pavlik; The Questions that Answer - Boxing
By Phil Santos, (Oct 27, 2008)  
In a fight that did more to muddy the waters within the 160, 168 and 175 pound divisions, (Middleweight, Super Middleweight and Light Heavyweight), Bernard Hopkins defeated the seemingly indestructible Kelly Pavlik.

What does Bernard Hopkins recent victory over Kelly Pavlik mean? By not only bettering but truly outclassing one of the world’s top pound-for-pound fighters, and the current Middleweight boss, Hopkins adds another quality victory to his Hall of Fame career.
This guys plaque in Canastota has been sitting in storage for years, they just have to keep adding to the inscription. If Hopkins hope was to prove he is still a viable contender and supremely skilled despite his age….well then….mission accomplished. This type of victory all but assures B-Hop another big money fight should he decide to continue lacing up the leather.

This win does not, however, do anything to further his standing at Light Heavyweight. Consider the fact that you have Chad Dawson slaying two of the divisions giants, (Glen Johnson and Antonio Tarver), in back-to-back fights and Joe Calzaghe defeating the bigger, heavier handed Hopkins in his previous fight. Hopkins can’t possibly move up in ranking being he is already considered a top 5, possibly top 3, Light Heavyweight contender going in. You can rightly rank Hopkins ahead of Tarver at this point but I believe Hopkins needs a win over a true 175 pounder, like Glen Johnson, before stepping between Dawson and Calzaghe. And I realize Hopkins TKO’d Johnson in their only meeting but that was 1997 and was fought at 160….ancient history.

Since stunning Antonio Tarver by venturing up to Light Heavyweight and taking his titles Hopkins has two wins and one loss while facing three smaller opponents. Winky Wright, Joe Calzaghe and now Kelly Pavlik all jumped up at least 7 pounds to meet Hopkins in the ring. Over his last 6 fights Bernard Hopkins is 3-3 with no knockouts. He lost his last two fights at Middleweight, (Jermain Taylor twice), and his last fight at Light Heavyweight (Joe Calzaghe). Hopkins remains a serious contender at 175 but nothing more at the moment. Barring a match-up with Chad Dawson or a Roy Jones Jr. victory over Calzaghe in November there are few, if any, scenarios in which Hopkins status at 175 could improve.

So how would the Executioner rate at 168? Well there is that pesky Calzaghe guy again. While there is no reason to think Hopkins would drop below 170 pounds there is even less reason to believe that he defeat the elite at Super Middle. Consider the fact that he hasn’t fought below 170 pounds since 2005 and that fight, a loss to Jermain Taylor, spelled the end of his Hall of Fame Middleweight campaign. Even more telling is that Taylor, the only man to defeat Hopkins twice, is barely rated in the top 10 at 168 by The Ring Magazine. Like the Light Heavyweight division 168 is well guarded at the top by Joe Calzaghe and Mikkel Kessler. Hopkins is capable of knocking off an Anthony Mundine or Lucian Bute but again that places him in the top 3-5 168 pounders in the world.

I’m not going to waste the space speculating as to where B-Hop would rate at 160. He is no longer a Middleweight and there is no reason to think he would consider a return. The fact remains he could likely compete with and possibly beat the best the Middleweight division can offer however at 43 years of age I don’t think he could make the weight without paying a physical toll.

What does his recent loss to Bernard Hopkins mean for Kelly Pavlik? Since making a huge splash in the sport by stopping Edison Miranda and Jermain Taylor in back to back fights Kelly Pavlik had been anointed the next great Middleweight and earned recognition, deservedly so, as a top 10 pound for pound fighter. While he remains the Middleweight Champion, despite the loss, the lopsided manner in which Hopkins handed the champ his first loss raised more than a few eyebrows.

Now words like exposed and over-rated are being thrown around, at the mention of Pavlik, like this loss somehow erases much of what he has accomplished over the past couple of years. I don’t see it as nearly that severe. History tells us that when some fighters lose their aura of invincibility they are no longer dominant. Mike Tyson is a prime example. Pavlik is viewed as a heavy handed, solid chinned pressure fighter. He is willing to eat a shot or two in order to land his big right hand. Reason being that right hand is a fight changing trip straight to la la land for most opponents.

The way I see it Hopkins didn’t expose Pavlik as an over-rated fighter. What his win did show us is that a highly skilled technician with good defensive skills, and the ability to fight while moving backward, can give “The Ghost” fits. His wins over Miranda and Taylor, though impressive, do nothing to prove he can outbox a top tier fighter. He can certainly outslug with a highly rated slugger. That we do know. Even in his rematch victory over Jermain Taylor he secured a win more so by pressuring and forcing the athletically gifted Taylor into uncomfortable situations. And nobody ever considered Taylor to be a technical wizard anyhow.

Kelly Pavlik remains the crème of the 160 pound crop. The one man who has emerged as his biggest threat is Arthur Abraham. Pavlik vs. Abraham would be an exciting proposition but I’m not sure that Abraham has the tool set required to take Pavlik apart. Abraham can bang and he has a granite chin but I’d have to rate Pavlik and Abraham’s technical skills a push. The man that may be a wild card is Winky Wright if he ever ends his hiatus that’s lasted for over a year now. Wright has the boxing skills to make a difficult fight for anyone at 160 and similarly to Hopkins his age, 37, means it’s now or never as far as big-time future fights are concerned. And given the way he was out classed by B-Hop don’t expect Pavlik vs. Wright, a fight that was rumored to have been recently turned down by Winky, to be anywhere near the top of Pavlik’s list of future opponents. Taking all this into account Pavlik’s loss to Hopkins does very little to effect his status as the best Middleweight on the planet.

Does Pavlik losing to Hopkins at a higher weight mean that “The Ghost” is ill equipped for a title run at 168 or eventually 175? This is a tougher question to answer. I tend to think that Pavlik will struggle if and when he opts to make a permanent jump up in weight. At 160 the 6’2’’ Pavlik, with his 75’’ reach, and exceptional punching power is a nightmare for fellow Middleweights. That advantage would disappear against the likes of Joe Calzaghe, Mikkel Kessler, Chad Dawson and a number of other serious contenders between 168 and 175. Were he not the bigger, stronger man going in, (which he wouldn’t always be fighting above 160), it’s reasonable to assume that Pavlik is incapable of out boxing championship caliber fighters outside of his division. While Pavlik’s skills may still improve a serious question mark has arisen concerning his ability to earn a decision over a slick boxer.

There is no shame in losing to a future Hall of Famer like Bernard Hopkins. Conversely if Pavlik hopes to pave a road to Canastota you would expect the 26 year old to put forth a better account of himself against his ageless opponent. Pavlik still has a bright future. Remember that even the greatest fighters ever spent time on the losing end of some battles. What matters most moving forward is how Kelly bounces back after this loss. Perhaps focusing on defending his belts and continuing to clean out the Middleweight division, starting with Arthur Abraham, would be a good first step toward solidifying his legacy. Assuming he is successful then the opportunity for big money fights versus bordering divisional champions or pound for pounders will present themselves.

Are we ready to wrap things up kids? After all that babble here’s what I was trying to say.

Kelly Pavlik holds all the cards regarding the future of his career and his status as an elite pound for pounder. As for how great a champion he will end up being, that remains to be seen. His loss to Hopkins hurts more now than it will in a year or so providing he can put together a solid win streak and a few title defenses. This loss may have dulled the shine of Kelly Pavlik’s star but the situation should only be temporary. Pavlik is a smart kid and likable guy who should land on his feet and come back stronger after his twelve round schooling session with Hopkins.

Where Bernard Hopkins is concerned this win is yet another where he went in as the underdog and came out the lion tamer. B-Hop can still get it done, it may not always be pretty but you have to admire the results. This win over Pavlik opens the door for another meaningful fight if there is anyone willing to give him a shot. His skill set and awkward style make him a very avoidable option for the top dogs at Light Heavyweight and after making Pavlik look silly I doubt there are many 168 pound fighters lining up to challenge the Executioner. His win over Pavlik is impressive but does little to change his status among his peers. Once you are a lock future Hall of Famer another impressive win can’t make you more of a lock to get in right? Hopkins position in the game is unchanged but this win earns him sustained relevance and redemption after losing to Calzaghe.

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