Taylor-Hopkins: Bernard Fritters It All Away

17.07.05 – By Wray Edwards: The old adage goes: “The challenger must take it away”. If that’s true, then the logical corollary would be: “The Champ must convincingly defend”. Both platitudes are, of course, patently ludicrous. The judgment outcome of a prize fight is not based on cleaver placement of dominant flurries in the final two or three so-called championship rounds. Each round of a boxing match is a closed compartment, the contents of which are isolated from the other rounds. Within a round it might be possible to coast for the first two and one-half minutes and then blaze away with showboat flurries, a la De La Hoya V Sturm in an attempt to “steal the round” as some put it.

Even that juvenile tactic will be neutralized if a good judge can discern that, at a more deliberate pace, the other fighter had accumulated superior contact points in the first 150 seconds than the end-of–the-round show-boater, and thereby has won the frame. Bernard Hopkins, rather than adapting and changing up on his previous ring strategies to confound this new challenge, elected to try his old wait for the right moment, so-called patient approach. It cost him his championships. He failed to recognize that Jermain Taylor’s ability to counter his plan past the sixth round had painted him into a corner from which it was too late for him to escape unless he could engineer a KO.

For purposes of accuracy, each and every dynamic before, during and after a fight should be considered relevant to our acceptance or rejection of the judges’ final decision and the boxer’s performance. As stated in the previous article, “The Good the Bad and the Ugly”, Hopkins’ image
was crucial to his title defense effort. His disgusting insults to Dibella (who he already owes 700k for lack of mouth control) in reference to a suicide in Lou’s family, sadly exposed Bernard’s proclivity for dirty fighting in and out of the ring. The significant number of boos which arose as he made his throat-cutting motions, were evidence of his naiveté regarding his dark image, and a current, underlying public aversion to such methods due to recent events in the middle-east.

Many professional fighters in Boxing and other forms of one-on-one physical combat take on an alias to appear more formidable purely from a showbiz perspective. Elder’s “Extreme Machine”, Taylor’s “Bad Intentions”, Morales’ “El Terrible”, Corley’s “Chop Chop” and Hatton’s “Hitman” are just some examples. For the most part, these nicknames are a bit cartoonish and pretty much part of the entertainment atmosphere of the sport. With Hopkins one gets the impression that his alter ego is a bit too real. Referring to his opponents as “victims” is an especially poor choice of words considering his background.

These factors fall decidedly in the “Bad” and “Ugly” categories. One cannot discount the insipient effect these postures might have on the fighter’s mentality, as well as the impartiality of boxing officials. The benefit of the doubt works both ways. In contrast to a relatively clean, pleasantly spoken, young and fairly talented challenger, such a negative approach might sully the boxer’s self-respect which, in turn, detracts from total access to his righteous energies and inspiration. Dark, selfish or destructive motives cloud professional judgment and
performance. It is this writer’s opinion that Bernard’s motivations and approach to this fight derailed his effort just enough to make the difference.

Let’s take a quick look at the fight. It was, because of the caution shown by both fighters, very tactical. This led to very low punch counts which made the quality (accuracy, power, target) aspect of each hit all the more important. Looking busy is of little use unless it results in productivity. One thing the author looked for was consistency of personal attitude during the fight:

ROUND ONE was the usual feeling out process which was commenced by a false “rush to action” charge across the ring by Hopkins. It meant nothing. He was bluffing and immediately backed off. 2:40 Nady gets on Taylor for hitting after a stop order. 2:14 Nady could have used the jaws of life at this point to break up a particularly intense clinch: 10/9 Taylor.

ROUND TWO: Jermain gets his jab going and seriously outworks and out-contacts Hopkins: 10/9 (20/18) Taylor.

ROUND THREE: 2:19 Bernard is caught holding and hitting as well as hitting below the belt. Nady warns, but does not deduct as he told Bernard he would in the locker room. Roy Jones noted that Bernard was infracting at such a rate that Nady was hard pressed to verbalize it all: 10/9 (30/27) Taylor.

ROUND FOUR: Bernard warned for low blow. Taylor works on: 10/9 (40/36) Taylor.

ROUND FIVE: 2:09 Heads clash as Taylor sustains a two inch gash to his upper, left scalp. 2:02 Nady spots the cut and the blood and has it checked out. Bernard is warned twice in this round for holding and hitting and/or low blows. 0:50 Bernard does a leering, smiling taunt. 0:05 Hopkins does a shoulder shimmy and vamps at Jermain. Taylor remains focused and professional. Bernard’s sarcastic inner juvenile is interrupting his work, but he just does carry the round: 9/10 (49/46) Taylor.

ROUND SIX: Taylor increases body punches and combinations: 10/9 (59/55) Taylor.

ROUND SEVEN: 1:57 Hopkins absolutely nails Taylor with a big right. Jermain pretty much walks through it. 1:06 Hopkins hits and holds again and is warned by Nady who again fails to keep his word to deduct without warning. Is he afraid of Hopkins? Like to see Bernard try that with Smoger. Hopkins is now head-hunting in earnest prompting Roy to note it, to which Larry asks, “He’s trying to knock him out?” Roy answers, “That’s what he’s doing.” It is now becoming clear to Bernard that his “plan” isn’t working: 10/9 (69/64) Taylor.

ROUND EIGHT: At the start of this round Taylor enjoys a 37 to 18 advantage in average punches per round and a 24 to 9 jab advantage. This is the last round which clearly went to Taylor. He really powered up and went after Hopkins. 0:22 In frustration Bernard grabs Taylor behind the head with his left glove and drives two rights into Jermain’s face. Jay gets “furious” and warns Bernard for the fourth or fifth time. Still no deduction. So much for Nady’s credibility: 10/9 (79/73) Taylor.

ROUNDS NINE, TEN, ELEVEN and TWELVE were clearly won by Hopkins who was obviously operating with the desperate realization that he might have waited too long to start his patented late rounds dominance. At the end of Eleven he looked pretty exhausted ambling back to his corner. Meanwhile Taylor’s corner implores him to let his hands go. He agrees to do so, but during Round Twelve he doesn’t seem to have much left in the tank and gets poked around in a bit of trouble a couple of times. 2:02 Hopkins hits Jermain so hard that a chunk of Vaseline flies off of his head: 9/10, 9/10, 9/10, 9/10 (88/83, 97/93,106/103, 115/113) Taylor.

Considering the four or five warnings Hopkins got for illegal punching, it could easily be argued that had Nady been true to his word, he would have deducted at least one point from Hopkins: 115/112 Taylor. This assumes Bernard would have been able to control himself after the penalty.

Post-fight De La Hoya is seen making goo-goo eyes at Hopkins…so sure was he; that is until Mr. Buffer rained on Golden Boy’s emotional parade. It was a major reality check for Hopkins who wasn’t vamping and leering with a sarcastic smile now.

Post-fight interviews were true to form. Jermain was respectful and lauded his opponent, showing enthusiasm for a rematch. Hopkins was in rank denial and refused to show any respect for Taylor even though Larry practically begged him to show just a little sportsmanship. You would think that a truly great “Champion” would be able to find at least a tiny modicum of professional respect. That was sad to see.

What did Hopkins learn? He better get busy a lot sooner if the re-match comes off. He found that he could get to Jermain with great effect. If he had notched up even in round eight he would have won. One round too late. What did Taylor learn? He said it himself. He needs more conditioning for a full twelve-rounder. He promised to be in better shape for the re-match.

Just once, it would be nice to see Hopkins let down and admit he’s human in the face of his victorious opponent. He needs to learn that humility, such as that shown by Kostya, Corrales and others in moments of defeat is not a sign of weakness. He is now rich enough and successful enough to put behind him the aggressive bravado which he needed to survive on the mean streets. He has a great deal to offer if he would just speak from the heart. Hey Bernie! Just give your fans and foes a little break. You have accomplished so much. There’s nothing wrong with a warm fuzzy from time-to-time.

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