Hopkins-Taylor: “Executioner” Confronts “Bad Intentions”

15.07.05 - By Derek Tang: I don’t know about you, but Hopkins vs. Taylor is the fight I have been waiting to see for the longest time. Undisputed Middleweight Champion, Bernard Hopkins (46-2), will be defending his belts for the 21st time when he faces undefeated Jermain Taylor (23-0) tonight on HBO PPV..

Surprisingly, Hopkins is in his best shape at 40 years old. He goes to bed at 9pm virtually every night of the week. He never walks around at any weight over 172 pounds and always comes in spectacular shape at the weigh-ins. Far from being a senior citizen in boxing, Hopkins can go twelve rounds easily without decreasing his punch output, while increasing the pressure he puts on his opponent. It’s most likely because of Hopkin’s clean post-prison lifestyle that has guided him to success in the professional world. As a boxer, B-hop is experienced, crafty, and very ring-intelligent.

Married to a WNBA superstar, the 26-year old Taylor has got his life and boxing career started. Taylor hopes to be the second US Olympian from the 2000 Olympics to have a championship belt. (Super-middleweight Jeff Lacy is the first.) Taylor is hungry, skilled, and has a dominating jab. He is trained by Pat Burns and Ozell Nelson, but it is the ambitious and sometimes protective Pat Burns that really guides Taylor on the right path. Pat Burns always meticulously studies Taylor’s next opponents and Taylor goes out and exposes the weaknesses. With a great corner, Taylor is confident that he will beat Hopkins tonight.

Hopkins is definitely favored to win (-170 betting odds), while Taylor is the underdog (+140). Despite the numbers, the boxing community actually seems to be very evenly split between Taylor and Hopkins. It’s just that the Taylor fans haven’t been betting!

The Breakdown:

Hopkins, who is 14 years older than Taylor, also enjoys an extra 13 years of professional boxing experience than Taylor. He has fought Oscar de la Hoya, Howard Eastman, and Roy Jones to name a few. Hopkins is a very patient fighter who starts off slow. Once the pace picks up, it’s because he has figured his opponent out and comes in at all these different angles that wouldn’t seem humanely possible. Hopkins is crafty because he is an awkward fighter who leads in with a body shot. To fight inside, Hopkins doesn’t throw a jab like many other orthodox fighters, but throws a right or possibly a left. When he comes out of the clinch, he comes out through the side at a different angle that caused the clinch. Hopkins’s punches don’t seem to have a lot of power, but his combinations of punches are well-placed, well-thought out, and again, are from unusual angles. Just ask Oscar de la Hoya, who went down for the first time in his career due to a shot to the body. Hopkins is in no race for a knockout. He comes into every fight expecting it to go 12 rounds; some people don’t like his style, but B-Hop is able to dominate via unanimous decision numerous times. Hopkins does everything well and many boxing experts believe that the champion will deliver tonight.

Taylor, on the other hand, is known for his dominant jab. He said in a post-interview once that his jab sets up everything—from hooks to body shots to combinations. Taylor usually starts off moderately fast and establishes a distance with a powerful jab. After he is able to frustrate and control his opponent with the jab, Taylor starts to really box and look for openings. His style and jab has led him to a lot of impressive showings and knockout victories. Nonetheless, he is still learning. In earlier fights, he used to drop the left hand when coming in with a right; hence, he was open for a left hook. Hopkins saw this while he was commentating and what do you know? Taylor corrected this from that fight on. Taylor also does everything well; he can box, has speed, agility, power, and a decent chin. I’ve personally seen Taylor in his past two fights and he is much faster than he seems on television. He’s young, so he will definitely be able to take Hopkins to a decision if necessary.

The Prediction:

By now, people should know that the key for Taylor’s victory is his powerful jab. If Taylor jabs Hopkins all night long, it will be Taylor by late KO or decision. But come on, you and me both know better than that! The night won’t be an early one. Hopkins is experienced and he KNOWS Taylor can jab. He is bringing Plans A, B, and C. Taylor’s trainer, Pat Nelson, KNOWS that Bernard will try to neutralize Taylor’s jab. Hence, Taylor will also bring a Plan B.

Taylor will definitely win the early rounds with that jab. People really underestimate that jab, especially those cynics right now reading this article that think Taylor’s jab is overrated. I know Taylor can jab because I have sat ringside and have seen Taylor’s jab bobble opponent’s head back and forth for rounds. Anyway, Taylor will start off fast and win the early rounds, trying to establish that jab. Hopkins, a slow and patient starter, will pick it up by round 4 and start smothering Taylor. Hopkins will be coming in close, trying to fight an inside fight. Ever watch Hatton – Tsyzu? It’ll be similar, only that Hopkins will be keeping it close to Taylor so that Taylor can’t throw that jab. Hopkins is especially great at getting inside in the most unusual ways.

The fight after round 4 or so will then be all about who is a better boxer or who can throw more punches. Neither Taylor nor Hopkins will get tired; Hopkins is too well-conditioned and Taylor is too young. This is where Hopkins experience will kick in and unfortunately, will outbox Taylor to a close decision (keep in mind that Taylor wins the early rounds).

So my expert analysis tells me that Hopkins will win by decision. But boxing is unpredictable. Anything can happen, like Kassim Ouma losing to Roman Karmazin two nights ago! Honestly, I favor and want Taylor to win, but my experience tells me that Hopkins will be victorious. Hopkins will end up successfully defending for the 21st time and go on to fight Antonia Tarver or Roy Jones Jr.

Article posted on 15.07.2005

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