Hopkins seeks boxing history in Montreal
The time for talk looks to be over for World Boxing Council light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal and veteran challenger Bernard Hopkins.
Nearly two months of verbal barbs, jabs and accusations were reduced to a few words at the final news conference Wednesday in Montreal before their rematch in the ring.
When invited to speak, Hopkins said "enjoy the fight" and sat back down.
When Pascal took the microphone, he just said "three days left, enjoy the fight."
It was left to the promoters to put their spin on what was said, but it was clear both boxers had decided to do their talking with their fists on Saturday night at the Bell Centre. The bout is to be screened in the United States on the premium channel HBO and on pay-per-view in Canada.
It is a WBC-mandated rematch of their Dec. 18 bout in Quebec City, when Pascal dominated the early rounds with two knockdowns and Hopkins controlled the final seven in what was scored a majority draw.
Before that bout, the Philadelphia native known as B-Hop had also said "enjoy the fight" at the news conference, but then answered reporters' questions when he left the stage. This time, both fighters ducked out.
Pascal (26-1-1, 16 knockouts), of Montreal, will defend the WBC title he won in 2009 for the fifth time while 46-Hopkins (51-5-2, 32 KOs) will try to become the oldest world champion since a 45-year-old George Foreman beat Michael Moorer for two heavyweight belts in 1994.
Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, immediately pronounced his fighter Hopkins as winner of the war of few words.
"At the first press conference in Montreal to announce the fight [in March], I felt that Bernard was able to get under Jean Pascal's skin and today he did it again," said Schaefer. "For Pascal to come up and say 'enjoy the fight' shows you in a way that he wants to be like Bernard, following his lead.
"Bernard always says it's the mind games outside the ring that lay the foundation to win the fight inside the ring. I think we've seen that here again. Bernard Hopkins is winning the battle outside the ring already, no question about it."
He has a point.
Before the news conference, Pascal was still in full trash-talk mode on French-language radio station CKAC.
"I can't make him swallow his teeth because he doesn't have enough left," Pascal told the all-sports station. "But I can try to make him swallow his tongue."
Then he predicted a knockout.
"I'm not paid by the hour, so the quicker the better," he said. "But because I like to give the fans their money's worth, I want to punish him for 12 rounds and, at 2:55 of the last round, knock him out."
But on stage at the news conference, he opted only to echo what Hopkins said.
Promoter Yvon Michel said he preferred a quiet news conference to the one in March, which ended in a shoving and shouting match between the fighters when Pascal badgered Hopkins to take an anti-doping blood test.
He called Hopkins a cheater but then back-tracked by saying he didn't believe the former middleweight king used performance-enhancing drugs.
His comments prompted Hopkins to suggest he may take legal action for defamation after the rematch.
Hopkins later said he would kill Pascal in the ring.
"Everything has been said and written," said Pascal's promoter Yvon Michel. "There's no more bragging, it's time for the fight.
"I'm happy it went like that. No scuffles, no interviews after. Now it's time to take care of business."
Pascal's trainer Marc Ramsay scoffed at the notion that Hopkins had one-upped his fighter again in the pre-fight psychological battle.
"We don't care what Hopkins says or what his strategy will be," he said. "We put a little too much focus on that last time and the tempo was a bit dictated by Team Hopkins because we were reacting to everything.
"Now the focus is on what Jean can bring to the fight and that's all that's important."
More than 13,00 tickets had been sold as of last Friday and Michel expects a crowd in excess of 17,000.
The co-feature has a WBC elimination bout between Adrian Diaconu (27-2-0, 15 KOs) of Montreal and American Chad Dawson (29-1-0, 17 KOs), both former WBC champs. The winner becomes mandatory challenger for the title.