Executioner Vs Battersea Bomber: Hopkins vs Eastman

09.02.05 - By Neil Goodman: Howard Eastmans date with the Executioners axe is now less than 2 weeks away, both bookmakers and boxing writes alike all must be tipping Hopkins to successfully defend his Middleweight title for a record breaking 20th time.

Hopkins has been quoted on numerous occasions as saying the end is near and that he will not be boxing on past his 40th Birthday. Well, words are one thing and money often makes fighters speak a different language!

Whilst the stats speak for themselves, Bernard is essentially the self-made Middleweight king. He fought hard to get his opportunity and once the holder of a portion of the Middleweight title has done his utmost to ensure that it is he who remains in control of his destiny..

As is the same in many other walks of life, it is easy to take shots at the guy on top. Bernard has stood astride of the Middleweight division for over 9 years and across such a period of time it would be unrealistic to expect him to have kept all the people happy all of the time. I do not want to dwell too much on the negatives, but such criticisms have been that he has not fought top opposition (all the time), his best wins have been against blown up Welterweights and he is at times not the most exciting fighter in the world.

Whilst I am probably not qualified to answer on behalf of Bernard, he would be likely to give one of three responses to his critics.

Response number one;

‘I don’t give a damn about anybody else; I just defend my titles and get paid’.

Response number two;

‘To me it’s all about ‘W’, I just keep winning and getting paid’.

Or, response number three;

‘I don’t give a damn about anybody else; I just defend my titles and get paid’.

You may note responses one and three are the same, but I think this emphasises exactly what is important to the man.

The bottom line is that Bernard is not in sport to please other people, he just wants to be paid his dues, defend his titles and secure his place in Middleweight history, everything else is secondary and of little consequence.

In ring Hopkins is the epitome of controlled aggression, whilst every move is calculated and efficient, he can at times be spiteful and menacing. Whilst it is fair to say that he will never appear in the Who’s Who of Knockout Artists, his accuracy, work rate and pressure all are exemplary.

And so to the strengths of Howard Eastman; he is a seasoned campaigner, who has primarily plied his trade against European and domestic opposition. At both European and domestic level he has demonstrated more than adequate boxing skills, including a sharp jab and above average power.

Eastman, much like Hopkins, is always in great shape and to date has never shown signs of any stamina or fitness problems.

Whilst Howard’s challenge is definitely warranted, with just the one defeat in his previous world title challenge (against William Joppy), he has still to answer all the nagging questions in respect of his potential. But should a fighter in his 33rd year still have these questions hanging over his head? To my mind this is real crux of the problem for Howard, as he nears his biggest challenge, no-one knows (including Howard himself), just how good he is or can be!

From my own observations I do not think I can honestly say I have ever seen Eastman going all out. Howard, in his calculating manner, ambles through fights in second or third gear, never overly exerting himself to knock out the opponent, make an impression and leave the fans wanting more. Howard has made pre-fight promises about going for an early KO, but can we really expect him to throw out his usual fighting style in favour of a more aggressive approach? Howard’s trainer (McCracken) had problems shedding his own tactical, boxing approach when the time came to challenge for Keith Holmes Middleweight title belt.

Regardless of Howard’s bold prediction, I do not believe for a second he will shoot out of the blocks in an attempt to KO the long serving champion. The Eastman camp strategy has to be to get to the halfway stage of the fight and still be in touch with Hopkins on the scorecards and I believe Eastman is more than capable of achieving this.

Then, and this is the hard part, Howard has to start forcing the fight. Howard has to try and stamp his size, strength and authority on Hopkins. Who is the stronger of these two fighters? The answer to this question may prove to be a key factor in determining the outcome of this fight. Eastman simply has to force Hopkins back to the ropes and more importantly outwork his man, this, as many opponents before him have found out is easy said than done.

To sum up; on the 19th February Hoppo will be meeting a genuine Middleweight and physically the two fighters are also identical. As the referee reads the riot act to the combatants for the final time, Eastman will be staring directly into the eyes of a truly great ring professional, one who has been down just about every dark alley that there is. Eastman can once again prove he belongs in world class and leave us wondering why he can not find 5th gear and also why he went AWOL for a year after losing to Joppy? But can he do enough to dethrone Hopkins away from home? I fear that in a close fight Hopkins has the ring acumen to come out of top for the twentieth time, thus setting up the grandstand finale to his career.

I will leave you though with one thought; this is boxing and anything can happen, at any time. Hopkins has been on the canvas before, but Eastman has not!

Article posted on 09.02.2005

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