QUÉBEC CITY - The Executioner has slipped Father Time once more, but Bernard Hopkins' late-innings comeback last night wasn't enough to put him in the record books.
Hopkins, less than a month shy of his 46th birthday, came from behind to earn a majority draw last night against 28-year-old light-heavyweight champion Jean Pascal before a sold-out crowd of more than 16,000 at the Pepsi Coliseum.
Hopkins came up short in his bid to become the oldest boxer to win a world title belt, and Pascal retained it.
"I had that guy beat up," Hopkins said. "He was holding me. I'm a 45-year-old guy and he hit me in the back of the head. I never complained.
"Just because you go to a different country it doesn't mean the votes can't be counted correctly. I had lots of energy and I threw more punches. I put on a hell of a performance. It was a robbery."
Pascal scored first in the final seconds of Round 1, catching Hopkins leaning forward and nailing him with a clubbing right on the back of the head that floored him. It was a questionably legal knockdown, but there was no doubt about Pascal's hammering left to the face that put Hopkins down with a knee on the canvas in Round 3.
After that, Hopkins started to look his age. It seemed as if Hopkins couldn't handle Pascal's speed, as the younger champ landed multiple combinations each round, at times visibly hurting Hopkins. Meanwhile Pascal bounced and danced to elude much of Hopkins' offense.
But slowly Hopkins turned the tide, bulling forward with a body attack, then reddening Pascal's face. By the final two rounds, Pascal was fading, and Hopkins was dancing on his toes. While waiting for the judges' scorecards, Hopkins went to the ropes and exhorted the crowd with chants of "45! 45! 45!"
The three judges scored it 114-114, 113-113, and 114-112 for Hopkins.
"He fights dirty and he fights with his head, but I think I did enough to win the fight." Pascal said. "Look, I dropped him two times and both were legitimate. We can do a rematch, no problem."
Hopkins, now 51-5-2, had implied before the fight that he would consider retiring if he were to lose. That seems unlikely given his strong close. And so Hopkins' certain Hall of Fame career is likely to go on into its fourth decade, calendarwise. The North Philadelphia native began fighting professionally in the late 1980s, after being paroled from prison, where he was serving a term for robbery.
Trusting few in the business, he moved early to manage his own career. He held the middleweight title from 1995 to 2005, beating Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya during that reign. In 2005 he lost twice to Jermain Taylor, and at age 41 he seemed finished. Then in 2006, he jumped up two weight classes to upset Antonio Tarver and win a light-heavyweight belt. Saying he had nothing left to prove, he retired - then came back, and in 2008 destroyed younger middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik.
After that Hopkins feuded with his own company, Golden Boy Promotions (he's a part-owner), accusing the company of trying to shove him into retirement, before reconciling. It turned out he did have something left to prove. Before the Pascal fight he was going to "prove to people that it ain't over until you want it to be over."