Bernard Hopkins vs. Antonio Tarver: Has Bernard Bit Off More Than He Can Chew?

02.06.06 - By Xaviar Steven: As the match between Bernard Hopkins and Antonio Tarver quickly approaches, my anticipation grows like yeast in an oven. Being a Hopkins fan I always become filled with excitement whenever I know he is fighting. Given the caliber of the opponent he is facing this time around, I have never been more eager to see one of his fights. While most of the people Iíve spoken to about the match are picking Tarver to be victorious, I feel it is best to do an evaluation of both fighters and articulate what each must do to steal the win..

First letís do a tale of the tape. Bernard is 41 years old, stands 6í1í tall, fights in the traditional stance, and has a 70Ē reach. Antonio is 37 years old, stands 6í2í tall, is a southpaw, and has a 75Ē reach. While The Executioner is considered the under dog in this fight, he still has many strengths which can be implemented to defeat Tarver. He has excellent skills, movement, and respectable punching power. Unfortunately that power might mean nothing to Tarver who is used to fighting heavier punchers. Nevertheless, Bernard is versatile in that he is capable of fighting aggressively or can do combat defensively by counterpunching for an entire fight. He is always poised and confident during a match, has good hand speed and punches in very accurate combinations when he chooses to commit. He is tough and durable due to his dedicated training and has superb defense.

In looking at Antonio one can see that he possesses many of the same strengths as Bernard. He has great hand speed and punching power, a fact to which Roy Jones Jr. can testify. His boxing skills are quite formidable in that he is very accurate when he commits to a punch, simultaneously throwing them in lethal combinations. Like Bernard he can be the aggressor but counterpunching is also an important part of his repertoire. In addition, Tarver has exceptional balance and movement with unshaken confidence during fights. Another strength he possesses is a 75Ē reach which can be used to keep opponents at bay as he displayed in the second Johnson fight. Consequently, all these attributes combined with the fact that he is a southpaw makes Tarver a dangerous foe to anyone he faces.

When stacked against one another, what advantages does each fighter have? Unfortunately for The Executioner, physically The Magic man has all of them in this fight. Tarver is younger and most likely faster. Without any doubt he is the stronger fighter since he is a natural light heavyweight. However, his strength might have diminished because he had to drop from the estimated 218lbs that he jumped to for his role in the new Rocky movie. Nevertheless, he should still pack enough firepower to stun a middleweight moving up to face him. His reach advantage is bound to give Bernard all sorts of problems on fight night as well. This is most certainly an uphill battle for the former middleweight kingpin.

However, what Hopkins does have on his side is superior skill and ring intelligence. I believe that Bernard is probably the craftiest fighter that Antonio has ever faced. From viewing his fights Iíve noticed him do things to set his opponent up for a wide open shot they did not expect. Conservative in his punch output, Bernard wastes no energy and tries to make every shot count. He will have to use every trick in his arsenal to be victorious in this outing.

I feel going into this bout both fighters will have completely opposite strategies. Tarver has boldly stated that the fight wonít make it pass the sixth round, thus making it known that he is looking for a knock out. To do this he must be aggressive from the onset of the match and not allow Bernard to warm up and get into his fighting rhythm. He should also hope that if he is able to crack Bernardís armor tight defense, that the old manís chin will not be able to stand up to his punches. If this is the case, Tarver is in for a long night. On the other hand, since Antonio has predicted a knockout stoppage, Hopkins can use this to his advantage. If Tarver exerts most of his energy and punches himself out in hopes of making his prediction come true, Bernard can then capitalize on that since his opponent is known to have stamina problems in the later rounds of a fight.

If Tarver comes out overly aggressive, this gives Hopkins many opportunities to counter punch his way to victory. In Antonio he is facing a foe that is bigger and stronger than Jermain Taylor. In addition to that, Tarver is going to give Hopkins less respect than Mr. Bad Intentions did. Come June 10th, I will be rooting for Hopkins but I highly doubt he will win. Regardless of the outcome, this is a fight that will be talked about years from now.

Article posted on 02.06.2006

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