Sharkie's Machine - Hopkins vs De La Hoya: Oscar Shows Up But Goes Down

19.09.04 - By Frank Gonzalez Jr: Preconceived notions dominated many a mindset leading up to the Hopkins vs. De La Hoya fight for the Middleweight Crown.

After winning a questionable Unanimous Decision over Felix Sturm last June in his debut performance at 160-pounds, who expected Oscar to have a chance at beating Bernard Hopkins, the best fighter in the Middleweight division? Moving up to 160 after having mixed results at 154 makes it reasonable to assume that this would be more then Oscar could handle. I remember what happened when Tito Trinidad tried that. The result wasn't pretty.

Oscar De La Hoya surprised many fans Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins was on the menu and Oscar almost made Hopkins look old while winning three of the first four rounds on my card. But by the fifth round, Hopkins got comfortable and used his advantages in height and power to take over the momentum of the fight. In the eighth round, Hopkins landed a left hook to the liver that put Oscar down. He was out for the count. It was the first time Oscar was knocked out.

In a professional Boxing career spanning 12 years, Oscar De La Hoya has come a long way from winning a Championship at Featherweight to challenging the undisputed Middleweight Champion of the World. Oscar impressed a lot of doubters by just stepping into the ring with Bernard.

Controversy buzzed in the air at the MGM Grand before the fight. Supposedly, Oscar cut his hand Wednesday and was injected with Lydocaine (an illegal substance) to ease the pain in his left hand after having eleven stitches on his palm. That was followed by questions about the legitimacy of Oscar's hand wrap and ultimately, a 40-minute delay of his ring entrance.

Another controversy was that two of the Judges set to score this fight, Dave Morretti and Paul Smith, were part of the threesome that controversially scored DLH the winner over Felix Sturm fight last June. Nevada State Athletic Commissioner, Marc Ratner, sounding as sincere as today's politicians, said that many of his Judges have been involved in controversial decisions involving Oscar De La Hoya. He said, "If any of them had scored it ten rounds to two favoring Oscar, they wouldn't be here tonight." But what difference does the margin of their scores make when the result is the same? Felix Sturm was robbed last June. Using any of those three Judges raises eyebrows.

Hopkins was interviewed in his dressing room, where HBO's Larry Merchant informed him that Oscar had taken Lydocaine, an illegal painkiller by NSAC standards. Hopkins was at a loss for words upon hearing this. He has walked on eggshells to make this fight happen. For Hopkins, or ANY fighter-a fight with The Golden Boy is like hitting the Lottery jackpot. The look on Bernard's face conveyed uncertainty.

Oscar refused to be interviewed before the fight because he didn't want the hand issue to be a distraction.

Bernard Hopkins is arguably one of the best fighters in all of Boxing today. Though he has not fought the most exciting fights and has not fought the biggest names in the game, he has mastered the pugilistic science and been successful defending his title more times then legendary Carlos Monzon (who defended his title 17 times). But then, Middleweight is not what it used to be.

There are not a lot of big Stars at Middleweight and Hopkins has owned the division for a decade. For aging Welterweights, Middleweight is something of a last stop on the train, right before retirement. For Bernard, it's where he's been fighting for the last 16 years. That he's maintained his physique and actually improved his skills and tenacity over that span is quite impressive. The highlight of Bernard's career was back in September of 2001, when he knocked out former Welterweight King, Felix Trinidad in the 12th round. Trinidad had moved up to 160 and lost to The Executioner. It happens to the best of them.

The Fight

Round 1
Both do a lot of starring as they circled each other until midway into the round when Hopkins lands the first significant punch. There wasn't a lot of action in this round but Hopkins did score more then Oscar, who tried to steal the round after hearing that wood knocking sound that indicates 10-seconds remaining. While flurrying, DLH landed a nice jab, flush into Hopkins face. It was a good shot but not enough to win the round. 10-9 Hopkins.

Round 2
It was a slow pace as they continued to feel each other out. Hopkins landed a jab. They go through the motions but very little scoring happens. At the ten-second sound, DLH flurries and steals the round. Hopkins shook his head, knowing he had to watch out for that tactic. Oscar stole the round in classic DLH style. 10-9 DLH.

Round 3
Hopkins landed a nice shot over the top of Oscar's guard. DLH became aggressive, stood in front of Bernard and traded with him and scored well. Hopkins didn't jab-or do much of anything. He let Oscar take another round. What was Hopkins doing? He was letting Oscar walk him down and out score him. 10-9 DLH.

In the corner, Bouie Fisher told Hopkins to use his jab.

Round 4
Hopkins looked old suddenly. He wasn't jabbing, he was letting Oscar control the tempo and losing another round as DLH scored more and seemed to be the one making it a fight. You could hear Floyd Mayweather Sr. screaming throughout the fight, "Hit him on the shoulder and watch!" It was annoying and had to be distracting for both fighters. 10-9 DLH.

Round 5
DLH was still the aggressor and was taking the fight to Bernard. They both scored well to the body. Midway into the round, Hopkins finally started using his jab and was finding a home for it on Oscar's face. Using his length and his jab, Hopkins had turned the tide in his favor. When the sound for ten seconds sounded, Hopkins was careful not to allow Oscar to flurry and steal the round. 10-9 Hopkins.

Round 6
Hopkins was settling into the fight at this point and was taking control, using his jab and landing the cleaner, more effective shots. Every now and then there would be some aggressive clinching by Bernard and referee Kenny Bayless was always there to break them up and warn about any low punches. Hopkins was starting to look like the Hopkins I'm used to seeing. 10-9 Hopkins.

Round 7
Hopkins was imposing himself on Oscar, who was not backing down at all. Hopkins scored the harder, more telling blows as he fended off DLH's offense. Oscar showed amazing toughness but was outscored again by Hopkins, who landed more frequently with right hands. 10-9 Hopkins.

Round 8
DLH was starting to fade. Hopkins patiently took advantage with some good shots. Oscar tried to steal the round and landed a nice left hook as the bell rang but it was too little too late. 10-9 Hopkins.

Round 9
In close, Hopkins landed a nice shot to Oscar's chin. They brawled near the ropes and Hopkins landed a sneaky left hook to Oscar's liver. Oscar went down on his knees, his head on top of his gloves, crouching in agonizing pain. He was down longer then the count. It was over. Oscar banged his gloves into the canvas in anger. He was beaten. It was over. Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins wins by KO 9 over "The Golden Boy."

The Punch Stats:

Total Punches Power Punches
Hopkins DLH - Hopkins DLH
99 Landed 82 - 62 Landed 45
361 Thrown 315 - 147 Thrown 151
27% Percent 26% - 42% Percent 30%

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This fight ended the way many objective fans figured it would-by late stoppage, with Hopkins victorious. Thanks to the Knockout, there was no need for the services of Dave Morretti or Paul Smith. Who knows what they would have scored had the fight gone the distance? I doubt it would have been favorable to Bernard Hopkins. Congratulations to Hopkins for getting the job done without putting himself in a position of having Larry, Moe and Curly decide the outcome.

You got to have tons of respect for Oscar after seeing how game he was in this fight. I suspected that this fight wouldn't even happen. When it was mentioned that Oscar had stitches in his left hand, the hand wrapping issue and the possibility that he had an illegal substance in his body, I wondered if after laboriously watching Juan Manuel Marquez win a fairly boring 12 round decision over Orlando Solido that THAT was going to be it. Happily, it wasn't.

Bernard Hopkins is a rich man now. Ten million bucks can do that for you. It's a shame he had to wait so long for the payday of a lifetime-the kind that's standard fare for The Golden Boy.

As for Oscar, he's already richer then any fighter who ever lived and he hasn't wasted his money like lesser-minded, elite fighters have. With his company, Golden Boy Productions, he's a successful promoter already. Materially, Oscar has it all. During the post fight interview, he was uncommitted about future fights. He just said, "I love boxing." I expect he'll be back. He should go back to 154-pounds though. A fight with Winky Wright would be interesting. If he stays at Middleweight, a rematch with the returning Felix Trinidad (should he get past wild man Ricardo Mayorga next month) would be very exciting.

What's left for Hopkins? He says he's interested in either a rematch with Roy Jones Jr. who beat him in 1994 by UD. I've been waiting for a decade for that rematch. Somehow, I don't think Jones is really interested in doing more than talking about it.

Hopkins also expressed interest in fighting Antonio Tarver. That's a tall order considering that Tarver probably can't make the kind of catch-weight Bernard would bargain for. Well, there is Felix Sturm, who convincingly beat Robert Frazier earlier the same day as DLH vs. Hopkins. Sturm is a good boxer who could make for an entertaining match up with The Executioner. It's
doubtful that fight would pay enough to lure Hopkins to the table though. But it would be better than Hopkins vs. Allen IV.

What about Jermain Taylor? He is ranked absurdly high considering that he only fights fading, blown up Welterweights. I would love to see Jermain step up and take on Hopkins. Somehow, I doubt that's in the cards for Taylor since a fight with The Executioner would take him off the safest road to glory. But Bernard is bound to get old in the ring one of these days.

I hope that when Hopkins does retire, that he takes a role in the much-needed formation of a National Boxing Commission or a Boxing Union. Hopkins is a great spokesman for the causes of fighters. He is never afraid to say what needs to be said. I doubt he'd sell out fighters in favor of money. He'd be a great commissioner or Union leader for Boxers.

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Article posted on 20.09.2004

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