“It feels great,” Hopkins told reporters after eclipsing the achievement of George Foreman, who was 45 when he knocked out Michael Moorer to win the heavyweight title in 1994.
“I knew it was going to be a tough fight, but I wasn’t going to be denied. You’re supposed to win titles in your twenties, not when you’re 46.” The bout was a rematch of the duo’s controversial majority decision draw in Quebec City last December which Hopkins thought he had done enough to win but only one of the three judges awarded him a win.
On Saturday in Montreal, however, all three judges awarded the canny, former undisputed world middleweight champion the fight with Hopkins claiming 116-112, 115-114 and 115-113 majorities.
That result seemed unlikely when, after a quiet opening round, Pascal came to life in the second round and landed several hard punches, including a combination against the ropes that had the crowd of 17,560 roaring its approval.
In the third, Hopkins, 52-5-2 (32 KOs), turned the tables, feinting with a left and then landing a booming overhand right hand that buckled Pascal’s legs, forcing the younger man to hold on.
Pascal, 26-2-1 (16 KOs), returned the favour in the fourth, landing a big right and then following up with a right-left combination that had his opponent looking hurt at the end of the round.
Although Pascal was the younger man by 18 years, he appeared to tire surprisingly early in the fight and took advantage of every second of the one-minute rest between rounds to catch his breath on his stool.
When he appeared to take especially long to stand up at the beginning of round seven, Hopkins mocked him by doing push-ups in his corner while he waited.
By that stage, Hopkins had seized control of the contest, with Pascal beginning to look confused. An overhand right in the eighth round nailed Pascal, as did another right in the ninth.
In the tenth a short right hand spun Pascal around and he staggered forward, touching the canvas with his gloves, but British referee Ian-John Lewis did not call a knockdown, instead ruling the Canadian had slipped.
A great fight
As the fighters emerged for the twelfth and final round, Pascal in particular appeared exhausted, but he summoned the last of his energy to attack Hopkins with everything he had left, landing two hard rights as the two exchanged furiously at the final bell.
But it was not enough and Pascal, who claimed the belts by beating Chad Dawson in August, was left to praise the new champion.
“Bernard fought great tonight,” he said. “He is a great champion. he has really good defense and a lot of tricks. I am a young fighter and I am green.
These two fights will make me better in the future.” Hopkins, who made his professional debut in 1988, was delighted with his achievement.
“It was exciting,” the American said.
“I’ve been accused of being boring but I’ve saved the best for last. I’m going to fight like this until I retire. But I want to fight for as long as I can.” Hopkins also received tribute from Foreman, whose record he broke.
“What great conditioning,” he marvelled. “And he did it in Pascal’s home town. Isn’t that something? He was just so much better. I’m happy for Hopkins and I’m happy for mature athletes.”
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