Taylor vs Hopkins: Pre-Fight Analysis

09.07.05 - By Michael Amakor: On July 16th, Undisputed Middleweight Champion of the world Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins defends his WBA, WBC,WBO and IBF titles against WBC Continental Americas Middleweight Champion, Jermain “Bad Intentions” Taylor at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada on HBO.

I remember when I first saw Hopkins fight, it was a thrilling and brutal stoppage of skilled southpaw Joe "The Sledgehammer" Lipsky in the 4th round, back in 1996. It was a brutal display of punching power, as Hopkins suddenly stepped back and unleashed a blur of vicious uppercuts that stopped Lipsky dead in his tracks, prompting the experienced Referee - Mitch Halpern to wave off the fight even before Lipsky’s head had touched the canvas. On a side note, Joe Lipsky has not fought again since that knockout.

Another thing that endeared me to Hopkins was his ring entrance, which is quite tame now. However, back in 1996, it was a menacing spectacle to behold. Hopkins usually walked slowly into the ring, cloaked in an executioners mask with an entourage of burly masked bodyguards, who carried his swords, battle axes, and Championship belts right behind him like a funeral procession.

Back then, Hopkins let the world know that he was not getting the best fights because no one wanted to fight him at the time. After his loss to Jones, he wanted to a rematch and urged Don King to work with his then promoter, Butch Lewis, to get him career defining fights. He finally got the chance to showcase his skills, five years later, when he competed in the Don King sponsored Middleweight unification series by stopping legendary Felix Trinidad in the eleventh round to become the unified Middleweight King.

Three years later, on September 18, 2004, Hopkins went on to stop Oscar De la Hoya with a single devastating body shot to win the WBO version of the middleweight and claim absolute supremacy of the division. He has also surpassed Carlos Manzon's title defense record with 20 title defenses of his own, and has crushed the likes of Antwun Echols, and former champions Keith Holmes, Simon Brown, Segundo Mercado and recently dethroned Light Heavyweight King Glen Johnson. However, he is now on the north side of 40, and father time will have to catch up with him someday, the only question is when, and this is where Taylor comes into the picture.

For several years now boxing pundits have been unanimous about Taylor believing with each successive victory that he is the future of the Middleweight division, while at the same time, cautioning that he should be properly handled against progressively higher caliber opposition to prepare him to one day challenge Hopkins for the undisputed Middleweight crown. That Day will come on July 26. Yet the question that will be answered at the 13th round is whether Taylor is mounting his challenge too soon, as Hopkins is vastly more experienced and seemingly much more versatile.

This glaring fact has led normally reticent Bouie Fisher, Hopkins trainer, to conclude that Jermain Taylor will be champion one day, but probably not against Hopkins, as he has more schooling to do. An opinion seconded by Hopkins, who gives Taylor all the credit in the world for fighting him now, but who, nevertheless, comically donned some glasses and pretended to puff on a tobacco pipe to prove his point that he was a professor about to school a pupil about the finer points of the sweet science during a recent press conference.

But they may both be proven wrong as Bad Intentions has a ton of amateur experience including winning a couple of National Golden glove titles as well as winning the bronze medal at the 1998 Goodwill Games and at the 2000 Olympics in Sidney Australia.

Taylor now sports a professional record of 23 victories, including stopping 17 of his opponents inside the distance. He seized the WBC Continental Americas Middleweight Title from Alfredo Cuevas in 2003, and went on to crush former IBF Light Middleweight Champion Raul Marquez, former WBC Continental Americas Light Middleweight champion Alex Bunema and recently out pointed faded but competitive former WBA Middleweight champion William Joppy over twelve rounds to prepare himself for the Hopkins fight.

Taylor also has some advantages over Hopkins, the biggest of which is that he is fourteen years younger, and he is also physically bigger than Hopkins and works behind a stiff piston like jab with knockout power. These advantages could allow him to shock Hopkins, who may find out too late that he is currently ill unprepared to handle the furious frenetic pace that a younger fighter, at his peak, can bring to the table. Hopkins may be forced to quit under fire from punches thrown with bad intentions or the matter may be decided for him by a brutal stoppage.

Just last month, we saw veteran reigning champion Kostya Tszyu cave in to a ferocious Ricky Hatton, when he quit in the 11th round. So, yes, there is a real possibility that this could happen in this fight.

But in order to win, Taylor better be in the best shape of his life, because Hopkins is a mentally tough and physically a strong fighter who can box or brawl, as he creates numerous firing angles for himself, while releasing hard combinations and tying up opponents.

Both fighters share a common opponent in William Joppy, who they both beat decisively by twelve round decisions. The only difference was that while Taylor out pointed Joppy in a style-type fight, Hopkins inflicted a severe beating on Joppy, leaving him a hideous grotesque mess after twelve rounds in an ugly grudge match.

In his last fight in February 2005, Taylor scored a spectacular TKO victory over the previously unbeaten Daniel Edouard in the third round. Taylor has now scored eight knockouts in his last ten fights, while Hopkins has had only five knockouts in his last ten fights. In Hopkins last fight on February 19, 2005, he battled highly ranked Howard Eastman to a unanimous decision, which underscored the fact that Hopkins’ power may be slipping with age.

Needless to say, a victory by Taylor will blow a dose of fresh air back into the lackluster middleweight Division, which is now currently suppressed under the iron grip of Bernard Hopkins. At the same time, many boxing fans are angry by Hopkins refusing to step up in weight and take on the Super Middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe, or the other heavy hitters north of the middleweight division.

Going by Hopkins’ achievements, you cannot blame him for not wanting to move up in weight, as he is the King of the division, and will be most unwilling to give up his throne without a fight.

Article posted on 09.07.2005

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