John Hopoate Silences Critics; Stops Mirovic In Give And Take War

15.09.08 - By Tony Nobbs: In one of the most brutal fights in Australian heavyweight history, number 8 contender John Hopoate (10-2, 10 KO's) from Manly, NSW, claimed the National heavyweight championship by stopping defending champ Bob Mirovic (29-20-2, 20 inside the route) from the NSW Central Coast at the Gold Coast Convention Center in Broadbeach, Quensland on Wednesday night. It was an epic give and take war as the two combatants hammered away at each other having fans on the edge of their seats every second..

Prior to the match, promoter Jamie Myer's first ever Pay Per View event, the general thinking was if “Hoppa”, a boxer for a little over two years, was to upset the odds he would have to do it inside the first six rounds. That over the second half of the fight, 42 year old Mirovic's much superior experience would see him wear down and stop the former Rugby League bad boy.

The fight started with both throwing in center ring. Mirovic was backed into the ropes by a right hand and the opening seconds belonged to Hopoate who blasted home run shots. Mirovic took most on the gloves and got out of danger but the 33 year old Tongan born Hopoate kept coming – and coming. Late in the round the 107 kg ex Australian Test winger threw the 121 Man Mountain to the canvas.

The pace continued with both men getting in quality shots and in the second round Hopoate appeared stunned. He walked away side on, not allowing Bob to find a finisher. Both men were repeatedly warned for rough tactics with Hopoate deducted points by ref Brad “The Rose” Vocal in round three for an attempted head butt.

In the middle rounds Hoppa appeared to gas, losing his gum shield in round six, and it looked as if the predictions were right but every time Mirovic attacked, the challenger responded in kind. There was some heavy bombs landed by both and the fight looked as though it could at any time. Hopoate found his jab and he repeatedly knocked the veteran back driving it in hard. In the early part of the fight, it was Mirovic who went to the body, then Hopoate worked down stairs more and more as the slug fest continued.

In round eight Mirovic fell to the floor off balance soon after he was hit with a combination of head punches but was ruled no knock down.

Technically it was far from classic but Hoppa showed some boxing brains, grabbing the occasional angle and swaying away from left hooks to counter with right hands. In round nine he hurt Mirovic and never let him off the hook as he rained in a vicious volley of body and head shots finished a left hook. Bob stumbled forward to the canvas. He was up at seven but was in no way to continue and new trainer Jeff Fenech threw in the towel. Official time 2.53 of the ninth round.

After the fight both men were full of praise for each other.

“He's a tough bastard” said Hopoate which brought laughter from the crowd. “I thought I could hurt him with my power but he kept on coming. That was tough, bloody tough”.

“I thank John Bob for giving me the opportunity, I thank my trainer Dave Millward, my cornerman George Reno. I thank promoter Jamie Myer for putting the fight together. Kali Meehan and Solomon Haumono for the sparring, without them I wouldn't be here.”

“John is tough and he hits hard. Apart from Mike Tyson (in sparring) he hit me harder than anyone”. After the fight, Bob was taken to hospital where X Rays revealed two breaks in his right arm. (His arm was in a sling in center ring following the fight.)

Hopoate, who entered the fight with a slight injury to his left shoulder, popped it in the third and broke his hand in “about the sixth”.

The next day both men wore the bruises as a badge of honor. Both will require surgery.

“I'm in pretty bad shape. My face it pretty roughed up. My pride basically kept me going. I wanted to be Australian champion. It still hasn't sunk in.”

“I basically couldn't hold my right arm up for the final couple of rounds and could only jab. That makes it tough against a young guy with power like Hoppa” said Mirovic.

Prior to the fight Mormon Hopoate prayed that he would not seriously hurt Mirovic and said Thurdsay “Bob's too old now. I don't want to see him get hurt. This punches”.

At a press conference last week father of eight Hopoate was asked if a win would bring “sporting redemption” after he was banned from NRL, being the most suspended player in history.

“I will still be John Hopoate. I could win the world title, I could be a priest and I'd still be John Hopoate. I still treat people the same and they will treat me the same”.

“There is nothing that will change the past. I made mistakes, I'm teaching my kids what not to do”.

Mirovic joked that the fight would resemble the Thrilla in Manila where Muhummad Ali jabbed a toy gorilla. “If you ever saw the footage at the press conference, that's what I'll be doing to Hoppa”.

Hopoate replied “Bob's not Muhummad Ali – and I'm not either, so I don't know what he is talking
about that for. Even if I had a quarter of Muhummad But I'm still going to knock him out.”

Thursday morning Heavyweight Icon Joe Bugner, who endorsed both the fight and promoter Myer said he was “very impressed” with Hopoate's performance.

“At the very first press conference in Sydney that I was invited to, John asked me how he could beat Bob. I told him the only way he could take the title was to go out and attack and attack and to his credit he followed up on that.

It was just sheer power. He wanted to take that belt, he'd have hit Bob with a bar stool if he had to. He was penalized by the referee but he stuck to his guns. He found that extra bit to do something very special. He created history. He didn't beat just any old nobody, he beat one of the most experienced fighters on the boxing circuit here in Australia. I give him all the credit and he deserves the public to get behind him.”

Bugner also warned Team Hoppa not to get fixed on the hype. “Listen, he is still very inexperienced, he still only has twelve fights to his name. He's still limited. There are fighters who are going to give him big problems. They should watch who they match him with. With John's style and profile he could be in some great great fights but he doesn't need to be rushed”.

In under card action, WBC number 23 Willie Kickett defeated Indonesian number 2 Zoel Fidal by a shut out over ten rounds in a WBO & IBF regional junior lightweight Youth title bout. Kickett appeared to hit the canvas in round five after catching a right hook from switching Fidal.

Melbourne's WBO number 12 Lance Gostelow scored a 54 second KO over Argentine boxrec # 28 ranked Pablo Ernesto Olivetto at light welterweight scheduled for eight. A right to the temple did the trick.

ANBF # 10 Kerry Foley, a gym mate of Hopoate, out pointed tough Queenslander James Chan (ANBF # 3 cruiser) over six rounds in a entertaining light heavyweight six rounder.

Melbourne based Former Turkish world amateur champion Sedat Tasci stopped ex Aussie featherweight champ Mat Powell (OPBF # 7) from the Gold Coast in round four of a lightweight six. Manchester Commonwealth Games rep Greg Eadie (boxrec # 7 Aussie) got off the floor in round four to out point former Filipino champ Rey Anton Olarte (#5 Phil) over six at lightweight.

In the show opener , off TV, Qld state light middleweight champion Chris Stewart (boxrec # 11 Aust) stopped local Nick Savidis in the fourth, also down for six at middleweight poundage.

Main Event PPV commentators: Andy Raymond, Paul Briggs & Joe Bugner.

Article posted on 15.09.2008

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