Hopkins vs De La Hoya: The Obvious Is The Answer

13.09.04 - By Frank Lotierzo - - Over the last week, much has been made about what will determine the outcome of the Hopkins-De La Hoya Middleweight Championship fight. I've read and heard all type of scenarios as to what will decide this fight. In fact, it's been over analyzed. It's not like either fighter has an option on how to fight the opponent, because they don't.

The closer I look at this fight, the more it resembles Hagler-Leonard. Forget all the parallels between Leonard and De La Hoya along with Hagler and Hopkins. What these two fights share most is, what fighter can force their opponent to fight their fight. Which is exactly what decided the Hagler-Leonard Super-Fight.

In April of 1987, Sugar Ray Leonard upset Marvin Hagler and won 12 round split decision as a 4-1 underdog. I've heard it said that Leonard fought like a sissy running and throwing pitty-pat punches. An opinion that is devoid of any insightful Boxing logic. First of all, Leonard didn't run, he boxed and used the bigger ring that he insisted on. If his punches had nothing on them, why couldn't Hagler who had a cast iron chin go through him and force him to fight. It amazes me how Leonard is the target of some criticism for fighting a brilliant fight.

Did anyone prior to the fight really think Leonard was going to trade with Hagler? I can't imagine anyone who ever fought or who has been around Boxing in any legitimate manner even contemplating such a thought. Why did Leonard want a 20 foot ring, so he could go toe-to-toe and make it easy for Hagler? Leonard knew he needed room to move in order to keep the fight from turning into the war that Hagler promised it would be. Remember Hagler's often repeated quote leading up to the fight, "This Is War II."

Why Leonard has been admonished by some, not all, for fighting his fight I'll never understand. I blame Marvin Hagler for allowing Leonard to use the whole ring. Hagler knew exactly how Leonard was going to try and fight him, he just couldn't do anything about it. Hagler ridiculed Leonard for retiring in 1982 and not fighting him, claiming Leonard feared him. Since Hagler thought Leonard feared him, what did he expect when they got in the ring, a repeat of him and Hearns. Shame on him if he did. It was no secret that Leonard was going to try and use the ring making it hard for Hagler to corner and pin him against the ropes.

Hagler-Leonard came down to who could force the other into fighting their fight. Leonard exposed that Hagler wasn't great at cutting off the ring and playing the role of the aggressor for the whole fight. Hagler was a counter puncher who fought his best when his opponent's went to him. Leonard saw Roberto Duran take Hagler 15 rounds by stepping back and moving away from him. Only Leonard did it with more speed and lateral movement.

The single factor that cost Hagler the fight was he couldn't take Leonard out of his game. He knew he couldn't win against him unless he made it a street fight. The bottom line is Leonard didn't want to go to war and Hagler did. Leonard kept Hagler from fighting the fight he wanted, and Hagler couldn't turn it around on him, as much as he tried. That's why Leonard won 115-113 or 7-5.

Bernard Hopkins is in the exact same position that Marvin Hagler was 17 years ago against Sugar Ray Leonard. Could any serious Boxing observer question how De La Hoya is going to try and fight Hopkins, with the emphasis on try. De La Hoya like Leonard, is a very smart fighter and is no ones fool in or out of the ring,

Let me guess, De La Hoya probably doesn't want to engage Hopkins in any type of fight that plays to his strengths. Like standing in front of him and trying to make him miss with his Mayweather-esque type head and shoulder feints. Hopkins can only hope that De La Hoya chooses to fight him flat-footed and stationary. Think about it, De La Hoya is definitely nothing close to a puncher from 147 up, and Hopkins has a Hagler type chin. If De La Hoya tries to get Hopkins respect and trades with him, he has no shot.

In reality there is only one way De La Hoya can fight Hopkins, he has to emulate his idol Ray Leonard against Hagler. And it's real simple. He has to jab, move, and box trying to keep his back from touching the ropes. For two obvious reasons. One, De La Hoya can't try and meet Hopkins strength on strength, because that's where Hopkins can take advantage of his size and power. Despite being forced to come in at 158, Hopkins is the stronger fighter. Two, Hopkins like Hagler is least effective when he has to be the constant attacker. So by De La Hoya Boxing and moving, he negates Hopkins strength and draws him into fighting a style that he's the least effective.

The fight will be decided by the fighter who can PHYSICALLY force his opponent to fight the style he doesn't want to. Having a strategy and fight plan is great, but a fighter also needs the physical ability to carry the plan through. In the Hagler-Leonard fight, Hagler, at least on the night they fought, wasn't physically able to prevent Leonard from boxing and making him fight.

If De La Hoya is physically strong enough, and his jab has enough pop to keep Hopkins from walking him down with impunity, as long as he doesn't run out of gas he'll be in the absolute best position he could hope to be in to win. However, if Hopkins can cut the ring off and track De La Hoya down, making him trade and fight, than Hopkins will win.

We knew going in how Leonard was going to try and fight Hagler, and we also know how De La Hoya will try to fight Hopkins. It's not like either one of them had a choice. On September 19th, we'll know if De La Hoya was able to repeat what Leonard did, or if Hopkins was able to do what Hagler couldn't. In picking the winner of Hopkins-De La Hoya, you only have to decide the following. Can De La Hoya Box Hopkins and prevent him from turning the fight into a war, or will Hopkins overwhelm De La Hoya physically and make it a war. When you decide that, you'll have picked the winner.

Article posted on 13.09.2004

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