The Executioner cements his legacy

22.09.04 - By Nat Kerr - - Bernard Hopkins proved Saturday night that flash, good looks and mass appeal, at least in the squared circle, isn’t always the blueprint for success. He may have a shaved head, and, up until the De La Hoya fight, he entered the ring with an executioner’s hood, but he is “The Executioner” because he does just that – he executes his game plan to a tee.

Hopkins successfully defended his belt for the 19-th consecutive time against his antithesis – Oscar De La Hoya, knocking him out in the 9th round.

The fight was standard Hopkins. Just the way he has been scripting it for 11 years.

Hopkins looked almost ordinary for the first 4 rounds, seemingly letting De La Hoya be the aggressor. There weren’t many meaningful exchanges. De La Hoya attempted some combinations, using his superior speed. Very few of them landed. None served to faze Hopkins.

In between rounds, Hopkins looked calm and collected, as though he knew it was just a matter of time before he could find holes in De La Hoya’s armour.

From 5th round the fight was all Hopkins. Bernard was picking his spots; landing his jab and power punches whenever he so deemed necessary. He didn’t overtly dominate De La Hoya. He gradually broke him down, waiting to land the big blows late in the fight.

In the 7th round, Hopkins’ jab began to land with regularity; the big right hand often following. It was Hopkins now taking the fight squarely to De La Hoya.

In the 8th and 9th rounds, it became apparent that the fight had become the mismatch many had expected, as the bigger man - Hopkins, was landing at a higher pace. De La Hoya looked lost as to how to respond to Hopkins’ firepower.

The ending was anti-climactic, Hopkins landing a vicious left hook to the liver of De La Hoya. Oscar’s reaction to the punch was reminiscent of a fighter on the wrong end of a low blow. It was a devastating punch leaving De La Hoya crippled on the canvas for the first time in his illustrious career. De La Hoya had lost before, but never had he looked so ordinary.

There will be those suggesting that Hopkins defeated a smaller man, a blown up welterweight. The facts are that Hopkins out boxed De La Hoya. The fight was a chess game, with Hopkins clearly proving to be the more intelligent and calculating tactician.

De La Hoya never looked to be winning the war. He won 3 out of the first four rounds, but that was more because Hopkins appeared passive, as though he was examining the fight from afar.

Once he saw that De La Hoya couldn’t land combinations with regularity, and that the assumed speed advantage was marginal at best, Hopkins dictated the fight. It became a repeat of the Bernard Hopkins’ show, which is going strong into its 12-th season.

The fight never measured up to the Hagler-Leonard comparison. It never had the chance to become the spectacle of the big clash 17 years ago. Hopkins is no Hagler. Hopkins is a fantastic boxer, nothing more and nothing less. Hagler was a brawler. Hopkins is what the purists envision as a pugilist. Hagler never was. Neither deserved the pre-fight association.

Bernard’s ability to adapt, his chin, stamina and gamut of weapons make it a certainty that he could step into the ring with the very best the middleweight division has ever had to offer and hold his own. That’s not to say that he would be the favourite, but there are no more than three middleweights of any generation that would be favoured over a prime Bernard.

Hopkins has for 11 years been the consummate pro, remaining true to what got him to the very top of the pound-for-pound ratings. It’s this consistency that garners him a special place in middleweight history.

It’s also true that Bernard’s definitive legacy won’t be known until he hangs them up.

There’s a good chance there will be some re-evaluating of the opponents Bernard fought and defeated. Many appeared mediocre, which may be a direct result of just how special Bernard Hopkins is. Time will tell.

Not too many fighters can boast defeating two of the top 6-7 fighters of the their generation. Bernard Hopkins, with one-sided wins over Tito Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya, can.

No longer should anyone feel guilty when mentioning the name Hopkins alongside Monzon, Robinson and Hagler. Hopkins asserted Saturday that he is one of the greatest middleweights boxing has ever seen.

Article posted on 22.09.2004

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