- Eric Raskin, Boxing
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Forget about turning back the clock. Against Kelly Pavlik on Saturday, Bernard Hopkins hurled the clock off the roof of a 40-story building and watched it shatter into a hundred tiny pieces on the street below.
From the Hopkins fans to the Pavlik fans to the writers on press row, more than 11,000 jaws shared a gradual downward trajectory at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., as the 43-year-old Hopkins did what not even he, in his infinite self-confidence, could have imagined possible: He pitched a shutout against the undefeated 26-year-old middleweight champion of the world.
It was like the last three years of showing various signs of aging never happened. This was the same prime, perfect Hopkins that dismantled Felix Trinidad at Madison Square Garden seven years ago -- back when he was 36 and supposedly ready for the taking.
Most of us acknowledged that Hopkins had a shot at beating Pavlik. After all, The Executioner had gone more or less even up against Joe Calzaghe his last time out.
But to beat Pavlik every single round? To be flirting with a knockout in Round 12? To find himself toying with his younger opponent? To send the mostly pro-Pavlik crowd home with chants of "B-Hop! B-Hop!" ringing in their ears?
These outcomes were utterly inconceivable.
They've led to a reality that might be even more ludicrous than what we witnessed in the Boardwalk Hall ring: More than 15 years after their forgettable title bout at RFK Stadium in Washington, Hopkins and Roy Jones are one Jones victory away from becoming the hottest matchup that can be made in all of boxing.
Hopkins was 28 and Jones 24 when the latter won a unanimous 12-round decision on May 22, 1993.
If Jones-Hopkins II takes place in 2009, Hopkins will be 44 and Jones 40.
Seniors' tours are supposed to provide an opportunity for famous athletes to live off their names without having to compete against the best in the world.
But if Jones defeats Calzaghe on Nov. 8, the best in the world and the guys on the seniors' tour will be one and the same.
And yes, Jones is an underdog against Calzaghe. Logic dictates that the guy who got violently stretched out in consecutive fights in 2004 and hasn't beaten anyone credible since shouldn't be able to defeat the undefeated reigning champ from Wales.
But if Hopkins, a loser in three of his previous five, can win every last round against Pavlik, then anything's possible.
"I would fight Roy, but I'd also go to England to fight Calzaghe," Hopkins said after re-earning the boxing world's stunned admiration against Pavlik. "I'd fight either one of those guys, but fighting Roy would be huge, and that's the one that people would want to see."
Indeed it is. And let's just take a step back for a moment and think about how ridiculous that statement is.
It's been 15 years since they first fought. That's a span of 32 fights for Hopkins and, counting the upcoming Calzaghe fight, 35 for Jones.
For a little perspective, consider that the entire pro career of fellow Philly fighter David Reid, once thought to be a future rival of Hopkins', spanned only 19 fights and less than five years.
Continuing with the Philadelphia connection, note that Hopkins' hometown baseball team, the Phillies, will return to the World Series this week for the first time in 15 years. Baseball is a considerably less physically punishing game than boxing, right? So baseball players should have greater longevity, correct?
Of the entire '93 Phillies roster, only one player, Curt Schilling, is still a major leaguer. And he's rehabbing from surgery and might never wear a uniform again.
Phillies fans can tell you what an eternity these 15 years have felt like. But after that same eternity, Hopkins and Jones are one upset win away from circling back around to each other.
Here's the catch, however, that must be pointed out: Hopkins and Jones have tried negotiating before with famously unproductive results, and a Jones victory against Calzaghe guarantees nothing.
The talk of Jones-Hopkins II first became serious in 2000, when they agreed to appear on the same HBO card in Indianapolis, with Jones facing Richard Hall and Hopkins taking on Syd Vanderpool. I interviewed Hopkins prior to that doubleheader, when all signs were pointing toward a fall meeting with Jones at Madison Square Garden.
"I've waited seven years for this," Hopkins said at the time. "I'm a much better fighter than I was seven years ago, and now is the time for Bernard Hopkins to establish himself as the man in boxing."
Negotiations unraveled, however, and Hopkins had to wait another year to establish himself as the man, or at least close to it, by knocking out Trinidad. With B-Hop hotter than ever after that, talk of a Jones rematch bubbled to the surface again in 2002, when the two fighters again shared an HBO twin bill, this time from two separate locations.
The end result was split-screened boxers barking uncompromising percentage splits at one another.
"How we gonna split it 50-50? I beat you one time," Jones argued. "60-40, I kick your [butt]."
Every punch Hopkins throws carries behind it the weight of how underappreciated he feels. After the way he took Pavlik to school, can you imagine him settling for 50 percent or less of the pie against Jones?
And if Jones beats Calzaghe and is coming off a win just as remarkable as Hopkins' victory last weekend, can you imagine a man who stood alone as boxing's pre-eminent egomaniac for most of his career settling for 50 percent or less of the pie against Hopkins?
Unless the promoters can bake up a pie too large to resist, the chance of two stubborn superstars like Hopkins and Jones agreeing to an even split seems remote.
But then again, it isn't any more remote than the chance of a 43-year-old man looking 26 and a 26-year-old man looking 43 on Saturday night.
If that can happen, then Jones can beat Calzaghe, Hopkins and Jones can agree to terms, and two guys in their 40s can turn the rematch of a dull bout from 1993 into 2009's biggest boxing attraction.
Eric Raskin is a contributing editor and former managing editor for The Ring magazine.