- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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The WBC on Thursday ordered a rematch between light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal and former champion Bernard Hopkins, three weeks after they fought to a highly disputed draw.
"The WBC board of governors has voted in favor of ordering the immediate rematch between WBC champion Jean Pascal and emeritus champion Bernard Hopkins for the WBC light heavyweight championship of the world," WBC president Jose Sulaiman wrote to the camps. "The winner of this fight has the obligation to fight Chad Dawson immediately without any intervening contest."
Under the order, Pascal and Hopkins have 30 days to negotiate a deal. If they do not reach an agreement, a purse bid will be ordered for Feb. 4 at the WBC offices in Mexico City.
"This is a great thing for boxing and hopefully fans will get to see another great fight with Pascal and I," Hopkins said in a statement. "I'm looking forward to starting off the New Year by making history as the oldest athlete to win a major championship in any sport."
"I'm very happy the WBC did the right thing," Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, Hopkins' promoter, told ESPN.com. "I think Bernard clearly deserves the immediate rematch. I feel very strongly that Bernard Hopkins won the fight. Now we just need to get it on again. I am sure that Bernard will leave no doubt that he is the light heavyweight champion. I'm going to be talking to [Pascal promoter] Yvon Michel and, based on the conversations I've had with him in the last few days, he and Jean Pascal are interested in the fight."
The WBC's ruling, however, could mean that Pascal, also the lineal champion, could be stripped of his alphabet title because he may have to fight Dawson in a rematch of their August fight.
When Pascal defeated Dawson by 11th-round technical decision last summer, Dawson had a rematch clause in his contract in the event of a loss.
The contract allowed both fighters to take interim bouts before the rematch was due. Dawson (29-1, 17 KOs) did not take one. However, Pascal did -- and fought to the draw with Hopkins (51-5-2, 32 KOs) on Dec. 18.
If Pascal (26-1-1, 16 KOs) opts to fight the rematch with Dawson, it means he would be stripped of his WBC belt based on the organization's order. If he goes ahead with the rematch against Hopkins, he could face a lawsuit from the Dawson camp.
Gary Shaw, Dawson's promoter, refused to comment when reached by ESPN.com.
However, immediately after Pascal-Hopkins, Shaw and Michel both acknowledged that the Pascal-Dawson rematch clause was contingent on a network paying at least the same or more than HBO did for the August fight. Sources told ESPN.com that a network would have to offer least $2 million for the rematch clause to remain intact.
"We have signed an agreement to fight Chad Dawson if HBO or Showtime is willing to pay a license fee the same or higher than the last time. So I don't know," Michel said after the Pascal-Hopkins fight, when asked which rematch they would pursue.
Showtime, the only other American network that spends seven-figure money for fights, is not interested in Pascal-Dawson II. It is unclear whether HBO is interested in the rematch, at least at that price.
Showtime televised Pascal-Hopkins and has an option on a rematch, Schaefer said. He also said that Showtime boxing chief Ken Hershman told him he is interested in Pascal-Hopkins II.
"Ken Hershman told me the fight was the highest-rated boxing event on Showtime in over three years," Schaefer said. "The fact that this fight generated tremendous ratings on Showtime means there is a spot for Bernard Hopkins on Showtime. They are excited about having Bernard Hopkins. Bernard showed against Pascal that you can't count out the older guys."
Hopkins, who turns 46 on Jan. 15, was bidding to become the oldest world champion in boxing history when he faced Pascal on his turf in front of 16,500 fans in Quebec City last month.
Pascal scored a flash knockdown in the first round and a knockdown in the third round, but Hopkins appeared to dominate most of the rest of the fight against a man 18 years younger than him.
In the end, one judge had it 114-112 for Hopkins while the two others had it even – 114-114 and 113-113.
Hopkins campaigned for a rematch immediately after the fight, saying, "If this guy has a backbone and wants to walk around with any kind of dignity and self-worth, the only thing he can do is fight me again. If that was me I know that is the only way I could really live with myself.
"If I were him, I would want to redeem myself and my reputation immediately after what happened."
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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