By Kieran Mulvaney
When Bernard Hopkins faces Chad Dawson on HBO World Championship Boxing on Saturday, it will be the seventh occasion on which he has fought the same opponent a second time. Of the previous six, one came soon after an initial encounter that Hopkins had comfortably won; one came many years after a bout he had clearly lost; one was an immediate rematch of a fight that cost him the middleweight title; two followed draws; and one, like Saturday’s fight with Dawson, succeeded a bad-tempered grudge match that ended in a bizarre no-contest.
Hopkins is renowned as a cerebral and adaptable boxer, and ring smarts and adaptability have played a key role in The Executioner’s remarkable rematch record of 5 wins and 1 defeat. He’ll aim to improve that against Dawson.
Here’s how events unfolded in his previous second chances:
Roy Jones, Jr. (L12, May 22 1993; W12 April 3 2010)
The first encounter was the inaugural title tilt for both future Hall-of-Famers; despite the excellence of their subsequent careers, the middleweight bout was unremarkable. Their second battle, which didn’t take place until Hopkins was 45 and Jones was effectively shot, was unwatchable, but it enabled Hopkins to secure his long-desired revenge.
Segundo Mercado (D12 December 17 1994; TKO7 April 29 1995)
In his next attempt to win the middleweight crown, Hopkins struggled to adapt to the altitude in Mercado’s native Ecuador and was floored twice before escaping with a draw. In the rematch, closer to home turf in Maryland, Hopkins left no doubt, and stopped Mercado to begin his lengthy championship reign.
Robert Allen (NC August 28 1998; TKO7 February 6 1999)
Hopkins’ seventh title defense was an ugly affair; in a bizarre finish, referee Mills Lane pulled the two men apart from a clinch with such force that Hopkins fell through the ropes and onto the floor, twisting his ankle and forcing a no-contest decision. In the aftermath, Allen taunted Hopkins, claiming he had quit; a focused and enraged Hopkins dominated his opponent in the rematch. (The two men fought a third time in 2004, with Hopkins winning convincingly on points.)
Antwun Echols (W12 December 12 1999; TKO10 December 1 2000)
Hopkins won the first meeting comfortably enough, but Echols’ power rocked the champ once or twice along the way. The rematch was a foul-fest that was highlighted, if that’s the word, by Echols essentially body-slamming Hopkins to the canvas and injuring the Philadelphian’s shoulder in round 6, an act that resulted in the challenger being penalized two points; after a timeout, Hopkins elected to continue, ultimately stopping Echols with a barrage against the ropes in the 10th.
Jermain Taylor (L12 July 16 2005; L12 December 3 2005)
After a record 20 successful defenses of his middleweight title, Hopkins started slowly against the younger Taylor, who built up a big early points lead. Hopkins dominated down the stretch, but Taylor held on to secure a close and controversial split decision. The rematch unfolded much the same way: this time Hopkins stepped up the pressure slightly earlier, but an eleventh-round rally was enough for Taylor to secure another very narrow points win – the only rematch to date from which Hopkins has not emerged victorious.
Jean Pascal (D12 December 18 2010; W12 May 21 2011)
As with Taylor, Hopkins fell behind early against light-heavyweight titlist Pascal, his cause not aided by two knockdowns, including one that the veteran insisted resulted from a punch behind the head. Once again, Hopkins was rampant down the stretch, but the early points hole was so deep that he could only secure a majority draw. Pascal started the rematch brightly enough, but this time Hopkins took charge earlier, ultimately dominating Pascal physically and psychologically and becoming the oldest boxer to win a major world title.