Logic Says Hopkins, But The Pick Here Is De La Hoya

16.09.04 - By Matthew Hurley: When it was announced the Oscar De La Hoya would move up to the middleweight division and challenge undisputed champion Bernard Hopkins boxing fans began rubbing their collective hands together in anticipation of this years one true super fight. The only problem was the vast majority of those very fans gave the “Golden Boy” little chance of unseating the long reigning title holder. In fact some even called Oscar foolhardy, albeit brave, in his challenge of perhaps the best fighter in the sport. Then, in what was supposed to be a rather pedestrian tune up fight, De La Hoya looked horrible against Felix Sturm in his first bout in the middleweight division. The Nay Sayers were now all shaking their heads and wondering, not if Oscar could beat Bernard, but if he could simply survive the twelve round distance. So what’s changed?

With the fight only days away it’s become obvious that Oscar is in a completely different mindset than he’s ever been in his boxing career. He’s been in countless big fights before but, arguably, only against Julio Caesar Chavez has he seemed so supremely focused on the task at hand. Certainly there is a bit of gamesmanship going on in all of Oscar’s uncharacteristic tough talk, but there also seems to be a genuine sense that he is peaking just at the right moment. Of course a great training camp will mean nothing if Bernard wobbles Oscar right from the outset, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Bernard Hopkins is a great fighter, but he is not the wrecking ball many people were making him out to be when this fight was signed. He is a patient, calculating boxer with a good, but not overwhelming punch. He has a Marvin Hagler level chin, but he doesn’t have Hagler’s ferocity. He’s also never been particularly fleet of foot and recent bouts have indicated that his foot speed continues to slow down. Oscar will take advantage of all of this by moving and giving the champion constant angles. De La Hoya would be foolish to engage the bigger champion in a trench battle but he will get inside, sling his shots and get out. The jab will also be a major factor. It doesn’t have to overpowering, and it won’t be, it simply has to be consistently constant.

Another factor that Teddy Atlas has brought up is that Bernard is not a particularly big middleweight. The size differential was initially thought to be too great for De La Hoya by his critics but Hopkins walks around at about 157 and will probably weigh no more than 158 when the opening bell rings. De La Hoya plans to come in at around 156. A couple of pounds can make a difference when one fighter is moving up in weight and it will dictate that Oscar keep his game on the outside but the size factor really isn’t as great as it once seemed.

Bernard Hopkins is also a fighter who prefers his opponents come to him. He wants them to get inside and stay there so he can counter punch and establish a body attack. However it took him nearly eight rounds to catch the woefully overmatched Morrade Hakkar only a few fights ago. That fight may have been Oscar’s green light to challenge Hopkins. It was that lack of foot speed and inability to cut off the ring against an opponent who was scared to death and had not one punch in his arsenal to keep Bernard off him that really showed the few weaknesses in Hopkins’ repertoire. It was an awful fight and Bernard looked worse in that bout than Oscar did in his struggle with Sturm.

Still one bad fight doesn’t necessarily point to a slippage in skills. It could simply be a bad night. The feeling here is that Oscar had a bad night against Sturm. He took his opponent lightly, didn’t train properly and escaped with a close decision. Hopkins however is a man who is always in supreme condition and looks at every opponent as someone who is attempting to steal from him. His focus is constant, but still he could not catch Hakkar. When a fighter like Felix Trinidad or William Joppy engage him you can almost see Bernard grinning because that’s where he wants the fight to be. Oscar won’t do that and unless Hopkins has suddenly become adept at cutting off the ring he may not catch Oscar.

The big “if” when it comes to Oscar is his recent penchant for fading down the stretch. If his legs aren’t in supreme condition and able to carry him strongly for twelve rounds Bernard will ultimately catch him. But Oscar has a terrific chin himself and his passion and heart, two things often forgotten about this fighter, are on par with anyone’s in the sport. It allowed him to survive Sugar Shane Mosley’s brutal body attack in the ninth round of their rematch and it will serve him well against the middleweight champion.

As this fight gets closer so too will the odds and so too will the predictions. At the outset this corner felt Bernard Hopkins just had a little too much for Oscar De La Hoya. Now, as we get ready for a great fight between two great fighters it’s the “Golden Boy” who I believe will prevail. It will be a closely contested fight and a fast moving bout and it’s that speed, that momentum that will carry Oscar to victory.

Oscar De La Hoya W12 Bernard Hopkins

Article posted on 16.09.2004

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