MONTREAL - You can't really manufacture history, but you can try to manufacture hype.
When the rematch of WBC light-heavyweight champion Jean Pascal (26-0-1, 16 KOs) and challenger Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins (51-5-2, 32 KOs) was announced in February, the Washington, D.C., media-relations firm that handles Hopkins came up with the idea to have him enter the ring here tomorrow night at the Bell Centre in a vintage Bobby Clarke sweater, ostensibly to remind the crowd of some of the great hockey battles between the Flyers and the Montreal Canadiens.
Two problems with that: One, the Flyers and Canadiens already have been bounced from the Stanley Cup playoffs and, two, Hopkins isn't that much of a hockey buff, anyway.
As a compromise, Hopkins said he will wear the Clarke jersey at today's weigh-in but not the fight.
Asked if he remembered where he was and what he was doing when the Flyers won Lord Stanley's Cup in 1974 and '75, Hopkins said, "Can't say. I wasn't watching hockey then.
"You want to know when I became kind of interested in hockey? When the Flyers got that goalie, the black guy [Ray Emery], who had the pictures of fighters, including one of me, on his helmet. Those hockey guys are pretty tough. They'll fight if they have to. They'll slug it out."
Hopkins digs sports history, but not so much about the days when the Flyers' Bernie Parent and the Habs' Ken Dryden were the most celebrated goaltenders of the 1970s. He's more into remembering the feats of boxing legends George Foreman and Archie Moore, maybe because he's so close to joining them.
Much has been made of Hopkins' second opportunity to displace Foreman as the oldest fighter ever to win a widely recognized world championship. Big George was 45 when he knocked out WBA/IBF heavyweight champion Michael Moorer in the 10th round of their Nov. 5, 1994, title bout at Las Vegas. If the 46-year-old Hopkins - denied the record when he had to settle for a majority draw in his first meeting with Pascal on Dec. 18 - succeeds the second time around, he'll surpass Foreman's signal accomplishment by 192 days.
But if Hopkins' public-relations people really wanted to get a Canadian crowd revved up by tearing a page of the past, it might have been better to link B-Hop with Moore, the "Old Mongoose," than with Clarke or even Foreman.
Foreman holds his record because Moore already was the light-heavyweight champion at age 45, having won the 175-pound title on a unanimous, 15-round decision over Joey Maxim on Dec. 17, 1952, in St. Louis, when Moore was 36 (or 38, depending on which of his listed birth years you choose to believe).
Moore was 3 days shy of his 43rd birthday, according to Boxrec.com, when he defended his belt against a 28-year-old Canadian fisherman named Yvon Durelle on Dec. 10, 1958. The fight was held in the Montreal Forum, the then-home of the Canadiens and the building that was replaced in 1996 by the Bell Centre. Moore was a 4-1 favorite to take care of Durelle, who was young, awkward and as strong as a grizzly bear.
Durelle came out blazing, knocking Moore down three times in the first round as a highly partisan pro-Durelle crowd went into a frenzy. Moore very nearly didn't make it to his feet in time on the first knockdown, rising, woozily, at nine. An overanxious Durelle might have damaged his own cause, hovering over Moore several seconds and forcing referee Jack Sharkey to delay his count.
Riding that crest of momentum, the challenger again nearly reeled in Moore again in Round 4, flooring him for a fourth time.
But the always-resourceful Moore gradually shook off the cobwebs and marshaled his remaining strength, rallying to knock down Durelle four times, twice in the 11th round, before Sharkey stepped in to wave the fight off 49 seconds into Round 11.
The Ring magazine named Moore-Durelle I its 1958 Fight of the Year, and the Canadian Press voted it that year's top sports event. And so what if the rematch wasn't nearly as exciting, with Moore bombing out Durelle in three rounds on Aug. 12, 1959, also in Montreal.
Interestingly, Moore served for years as Foreman's trainer and was in Big George's corner in 1974, when the then-heavyweight champion was stopped in eight rounds by Muhammad Ali in the celebrated "Rumble in the Jungle" in Kinshasa, Zaire.
So proud was Moore of his stirring comeback against Durelle that he used to travel with a film of the fight, which he showed several times to amazed audiences while he was with Foreman in Africa. It probably remains the performance for which Moore is best known in a career in which he went 185-23-10 with a record 131 knockouts.
Hopkins said he would like to take the Bell Centre crowd out of tomorrow night's fight, as Moore did 52 1/2 years earlier in the same city.
"Archie Moore was still a threat, still a champion, when he was older than I am," Hopkins said. "And don't forget, they were going 15 rounds back then. I would love to push the envelope, if the opportunity comes, to do some of the things he did.
"It is so surreal to follow in the footsteps of a legendary fighter like Archie. And to do it in the same city? That would make it even more special." *