Hopkins - Tarver: Tarver Still The Man, Hopkins Still A Hope

03.06.06 - By DAVID DOUSE: Despite history usually dictating that a good big guy will beat a good smaller guy, there is a lurking menace within the formidable persona of Bernard Hopkins that somehow still suggests the former middleweight king actually has a realistic possibility of taking Antonio Tarver’s crown away and adding another amazing chapter to his already outstanding record..

Looked at clinically it would seem too tall an order to ask even such a dominant fighter as Hopkins has been within his own division to step up not one, but two full weight classes, and defeat an excellent champion of Antonio Tarver’s quality. But, with that said, perhaps we should remind ourselves that Bernard Hopkins is one of those fighters who has been so truly outstanding in his own class that it should not be too hard to believe in the possibility that he can actually pull it off.

Certainly Hopkins cannot simply be lightly disregarded as an ageing warrior who has no chance at all, despite his obvious disadvantages going into this fight. Notwithstanding that age, size, and two consecutive losses say that he is probably taking on too much, let us not forget the factors of durability, tactical and defensive cleverness, the ability to manoeuvre opponents into leaving wide open angles, and an enormous will to win which have made The Executioner so supremely successful over the years.

In order for there to be absolutely no doubt about where I am coming from I will say right now that I have always been a big Hopkins fan and will happily admit that I would be thrilled to see him manage a feat that boxing logic says should not be possible. Not that I have anything against Antonio Tarver. He is clearly a very talented champion and rightly regarded as the best in the division. What I am talking about here is simply the tantalising prospect of what appears to be unlikely possibly coming true next weekend.

Despite age and that he would be stepping up to 175lbs to fight, I do not have the slightest doubt that Hopkins would fare very well indeed against other top lightheavyweights as, referring to what I mentioned above, he has been so dominant in his own division for so long I think there can be no doubt that he could safely be viewed as a man who has been in a class of his own. Thus, he can also legitimitely be regarded as well qualified to fight successfully outside his normal boundaries. At the very least his physical size and strength, coupled with the defensive craftiness which has served him so well, certainly makes it seem realistic that he would be more than competitive in a higher division, and this is of course precisely what the whole attraction of this fight is.

On the face of it Tarver is bigger and stronger, possibly now a tad faster, and clearly has very good power which he is well able to deliver in high quality combinations. Bernard will be slightly shorter, outreached by four or five inches if he chooses to fight tall on the outside, and has Father Time chewing away at all the qualities which kept him at the top of the tree in his own division for so long. Questions must indeed be asked about whether he can still cut it given that he now appears to need to fight more conservatively, even within the middleweight division, because of age catching up with him. Certainly it is not unreasonable to wonder why he should be able to beat a younger, bigger, high quality opponent such as Antonio Tarver if he could not dominate Jermain Taylor. As I put it in my article on ESB of 28th April, has his use-by date expired?

The most likely outcome that I see is that Tarver will emerge victorious from what could possibly eventuate into a highly tactical battle, one which might be in danger of fizzling out into a real snoozer if neither man will commit to real action. If Antonio cannot penetrate an ultra- conservative Hopkins defence a relatively unexciting fight with a points decision for Tarver seems likely. And yet…..

And yet I do still feel that there is a way for Bernard to come out a winner. If Antonio lives up to his pre fight promise of looking for a stoppage by the sixth then I see a real possibility of him actually playing into Hopkins’ hands with the risk of being stopped himself if he should gas out in the later rounds. A lack of stamina in later rounds is certainly something that Hopkins must see as a Tarver weakness, especially the way Antonio faded last time against Roy Jones Jnr. and perhaps Hopkins is hoping to show us that Antonio Tarver is actually a little more shopworn than the rest of us realize.

Of course, this would involve BHop in taking the kind of risks that he seemed unwilling to take against Jermain Taylor, but if Hopkins is willing to fully commit himself to an all out attack once he weathers an early Tarver onslaught, I feel that he could find a window of opportunity to show us his warrior pride for the last time and go out with what would be a truly remarkable victory. Perhaps too another ‘last fight,’ this time against Roy Jones Jnr, might then be a possibility? Who knows just what might happen in boxing?

Article posted on 03.06.2006

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