Hopkins vs Jones: 'The Masters' Collide (Keys to Victory, 4 to Explore, Official Prediction)
By Vivek Wallace - During the month of March, boxing offered fight fans its own rendition of 'March Madness', as P4P contender Manny Pacquiao faced Joshua Clottey. Unfortunately, what was meant to be a clever play on words turned out to produce a literal effect, as a number of those who viewed the showdown in the end found themselves well on par with the term 'mad', resulting from a planned "Event" that in the end was quite un-EVENT-ful.
With that evening now a faded memory, the focus shifts to April, a month that many sports fans aim to see 'The Masters', which is a showcase featuring the best of the best in the world of Golf in an unprecedented spectacle. Returning to the game this year is a man (Tiger Woods) who remains at large, despite the many efforts to reduce his worth. Oddly enough, in yet another parallel to the world of sports, boxing will try to get it right again on Saturday night as it presents its own set of 'Masters' in the form of two legendary figures whose bitter history spans nearly two decades.. Similar to Tiger Woods, both of these men realize that despite a past filled with immeasurable success, the true measurement of their legacy will start and potentially end the next time they enter the field of play. As we inch closer to their pending showdown, we take a quick glimpse at what each man must do to cement their names in the book that counts.....the book of history:
ROY JONES JR. (KEYS TO VICTORY)
The keys to victory for Roy Jones jr. are pretty simple. Generally a fighter has to find a way to leverage his physical attributes versus that of the man across from him. In this case, Jones', the physical is only 1/3 of the matter, as stamina and his mindset will complete the sum. Where the mental conflict comes in is that Jones will enter the ring knowing that on one hand, he defeated Hopkins quite handily; yet the flipside of that coin is that he will also realize that he is no longer the man that defeated Hopkins, while Hopkins is arguably still in peak form. Jones will use his speed to set traps and try to create space. We know this. What we don't know is how well Jones will adapt when he starts to wear down and find himself in a dog fight. Contrary to popular belief, his speed is still existent. Trouble is, his stamina in recent years hasn't allowed him to maintain that once deal-breaking attribute. If Jones enters the ring thoroughly conditioned and mentally durable enough to stand up in the face of what you can expect to be a brutal adversity, 'whatever' he has left in the tank will allow him find success, as long as he presses the action and keeps Hopkins on the defensive.
BERNARD HOPKINS (KEYS TO VICTORY)
Similar to Roy Jones jr., but even more so, the greatest key to victory for Hopkins will all surround his mental mindset. Hopkins is arguably the best the sport has seen, as it relates to taking his somewhat limited attributes and effectively turning a drumstick into a turkey dinner. He's never been the fastest, the strongest, or the hardest punching, but what he does, he does extremely well and makes it work for him better than anyone else can. Hopkins has the proper blend of attributes to pass this test with flying colors, but the operative question here is how much does he want it, and how much is he willing to go through to TAKE IT. In track and field a runner is taught early not to run TO the finish line, but instead run THROUGH the finish line. Hopkins will have to adapt this mindset, forcing himself not to do just enough to win like he has so many times in the past. If Hopkins can press Jones and keep him on his back foot or retreating, those ever-fading legs of Roy Jones jr. will inevitably come to a screeching halt.
4 TO EXPLORE (Interesting Specs to Watch)
Perfect + Half Perfect = Full Jinx?: Roy Jones jr. is 3-0 over his career during the month of April, to include a 1st round KO on this very same night (April 3rd) back in '92. This bit of history sounds great, but a deeper reality shines light on a not so perfect record at the Mandalay Bay, which saw Jones suffer his most humbling career loss to date at the hands of Antonio Tarver, via 2nd round KO. Now that we know Jones is no April 'fool', it'll be interesting to see if he remains a 'Mandalay Mishap'.
A Cashback Flashback: Bernard Hopkins also has a rich and intriguing history in the month of April that also includes a victory on the night of April 3rd. Like his opponent Roy Jones jr., he also shares a split record in the Mandalay Bay, going 1-1, defeating 'Winky' Wright and losing to Jermain Taylor. Where the history of Hopkins' resume gets interesting is that in this same month, he once had to rematch another man who many thought would have his number after dropping him twice in their initial encounter (Segundo Mercado). The knockdowns suffered in their first fight are now a distant memory, but with a few extra dollars on the table for the fighter who can land a KO this coming Saturday, not only will he want to win this rematch as well, but I imagine he'll be looking to stop this opponent too!
Age Before Beauty?: Roy Jones jr. is 41 years old, while Hopkins is roughly 45. 86 years of life and better than 40 years of ring experience between them is unparalleled. You know what else is?......Despite the ups and downs, neither man seems ready to walk away, yet after Saturday night, one of them may have to. The oddsmakers say that unlucky man will be the older one (Hopkins) despite the fact that he has 'looked better' (in the ring) lately. Considering that he's the older and has 'looked better' recently, should this truth be enough to overcome the odds?
Go to Corner/Timeout: In any match of this caliber, the men in the corner can be just as important. In Jones' corner, you have a Father-figure, Alton Merkerson, who helped guide Jones since he and his own Father split many moons ago. In Hopkins' corner, you have Nazim Richardson, a hair-splitting strategist who aims to perform to perfection. Both of these fighters want this legacy affirming victory more than words could ever display. That being said, do you think either team would actually opt to stop the action, or would they simply let their wounded warrior use his very last weapon in what could turn out to be their very last fight? It'll be interesting to see how this plays out.
FINAL PREDICTION/UPSET BAROMETER (RATING 1-5)
In the end, there are two very possible ways this fight could go. Jones could use his speed to win over the distance, or Hopkins could impose his will and land enough shots at a safe distance to earn a points victory himself. Hopkins has never been good with speedy fighters, and Jones has never lost to a man whose workrate wasn't abundant aside from Tarver. In order for Jones to win, he would have to deal with what I think will be a very aggressive Bernard Hopkins.
Hopkins hasn't KO'd anyone since Oscar in '04, Jones hasn't KO'd anyone meaningful since Clinton Woods in '02. No knockouts, but lots of firework. I like Hopkins via close decision, with Jones' revving the upset barometer up to a solid 4 of 5 rating. If Jones finishes the fight standing, he has a great chance. I just am not sure he will, and how much he'll have left if he does.
HOPKINS SPLIT DECISION (UPSET BAROMETER: 4 of 5)
(Vivek Wallace can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 954-292-7346, Youtube (VIVEK1251), Twitter (VIVEK747), Facebook ,and Myspace).