Hopkins is His Own Worst Enemy

04.12.05 - By Joseph Carlo Russo: Amidst the recent Bernard Hopkins Jermain Taylor rematch validities have been in question. Many have come to challenge the validity of Bernard Hopkins as a former undisputed champion, the validity of Jermain Taylor as a polished young fighter, and even the validity of the Las Vegas judges. But, pointing fingers and drawing references that lead to disputable claims is not the way to define Hopkins and Taylor's two bouts.. They, simply, were what they were, exactly how the judges scored them.

Before the first Hopkins Taylor meeting on July 16th, having seen many a Hopkins fight I knew that his work rate simply wasn't there. As a true lover of boxing I am fully appreciative of all styles that fighters bring to the table and accept that Hopkins is not a work horse or a knockout artist. But, his style is like no other in that it is super conservative and doesn't offer much offense. This I knew would come back to haunt Hopkins eventually.

A fighter like Hopkins can take a lesson from Winky Wright. That's not to say that either is better than the other, but just that Wright, also being a defensive fighter, has more of a grasp on what it takes to win rounds and truly win a fight. Wright, too is a naturally defensive counter-puncher type. But he uses his jab as an offense and throws it often enough to win rounds undoubtedly and fully dictate fights. There was nobody on this planet that didn't think Wright won at least eleven rounds against Felix Trinidad. That is because Winky did the right thing in making damn sure he vacuum packed every last one of those rounds.

Now, in the Hopkins Taylor July 16th bout, Hopkins practically hadn't won a round until round number eight, or nine. And, even giving Hopkins those rounds could have been argued. Winning rounds eleven and twelve by two scores of 10-9 is exactly equivalent to winning rounds one and two by two scores of 10-9. Had Hopkins landed the better punches in the fight? Maybe, but fully debatable. Had Hopkins won his rounds more decisively than Taylor had won his? Maybe, but again debatable. Did Hopkins win the twelfth round? Without a doubt. But, if a supposed "great" undisputed middleweight champion wants to conclude his "legendary" reign with a draw against the only challenge he's faced in years. Then, I'm glad Taylor got that twelfth round because if he hadn't then there's a good chance the rematch wouldn't have happened.

Unlike, many other fans, I predicted the second fight to be boring. Bernard Hopkins fights should be prescribed by doctors as an alternative to sleeping pills.

Look, Hopkins is a good fighter, he is a good technician and is a good defensive fighter. But, the tedium that he presents in watching his fights is not what fans or judges want to see. I respect fighters of all types and styles a great deal. I know, first hand, of the work they put in and what it takes to even dream of getting to Hopkins' level. But, Hopkins must understand that he is not a well-liked champion, he is not a crowd pleasing fighter, he constantly knocks the Las Vegas judges, he comes in and fights a fight that can go either way and then expects to get the win.

Winky Wright, on the other hand forced the judges to give him the first eleven rounds. The minute Trinidad did anything even remotely close to what the fans expected out of him, which was in the twelfth round, he won the round. Now, I know that maybe the Trinidad that Winky fought was or wasn't the Taylor that Hopkins fought, but I hope you understand the point that I am trying to pose.

Boxing, along with being a sport, is a business. Fans pay money to see fights. Not every fight fan has been in a boxing gym and respects the art of boxing fully, which there is nothing wrong with. But, fans pay money to see punches thrown and punches landed. That is just how it is. And, whether it's right or wrong, a fighter like Hopkins must understand that, with respect to his style, he has to put in extra to win rounds. Judges will be judges, they often score solely on aggressiveness, as I would too in some cases if I were a judge.

Hopkins was doomed to dig his own grave eventually. Ironic, a man with Hopkins background turns into the most conservative champion in the history of the sport. In losing his two bouts with Jermain Taylor Hopkins has nobody to blame but himself. A true "legendary" undisputed champion like Hopkins wouldn't have even put himself in the position that he did where Taylor winning was fully plausible, and that's with all due respect to Jermain Taylor who knew what he had to do to win. Hopkins is a good fighter.

Great middleweight of all time? I think that his last two meetings with Taylor proved not. Even if he had beaten Taylor, I would have needed more proof because beating Robert Allen and Antwun Echols (whoever they are) twice each just isn't enough to define a "legendary middleweight champion" legacy.

Article posted on 05.12.2005

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