18.07.05 – By Frank Gonzalez Jr.: Middleweight King, Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins lost a Split Decision and his Titles to young Prospect, Jermain “Bad Intentions” Taylor, who put enough rounds in the bank early Saturday night at the MGM in Las Vegas for Hopkins to overcome by the time he decided to make it a fight. It was a classic case of too little, too late. I expected Hopkins to win a decision by exploiting Taylor’s mistakes and inexperience but that’s not how it went down.
Taylor (24-0-17 KO’s) started fast and took the fight to Hopkins 46-3-1-32 KO’s), who was content to do next to nothing for the first four rounds, while Taylor made the most of a majority of the rounds. In the end, Hopkins landed at a higher percentage, but he focused too much on defense and not enough on offensive to beat the man who effectively outworked him most of the night..
They boxed cautiously for a while, feeling each other out. Taylor landed the first meaningful shot and pressed Hopkins, who rarely threw a punch. Whenever Hopkins did throw anything, Taylor held him and forced the referee, Jay Nady, to separate them. Hopkins managed to slip many of Taylor’s shots and make faces in the process, but defense alone does not win rounds. 10-9 Taylor.
Taylor pressed and landed a left, right combo that pushed Hopkins into the ropes. Taylor held in close. Hopkins landed a clean left hook and whacks Taylor, who grabbed onto him. Taylor was busier. Hopkins doesn’t produce enough offense to win the round. 10-9 Taylor.
They boxed outside, Taylor threw jabs and Hopkins’ slipped under them. Hopkins landed a left hook during a clinch. It was sort of dirty but effective. Taylor got busy and landed a pair of jabs followed by a left, right combination that scored. Hopkins was mostly defensive until landing a lead right flush onto Taylor but otherwise showed little offense, while Taylor threw plenty and took the fight to him. 10-9 Taylor.
Taylor landed a left hook, then a combination off the ropes as Hopkins held and tried to score inside of the clinch. Taylor was leading with offense, while Hopkins was quite gun-shy. Hopkins’ mistake was waiting too long for Taylor to make a mistake. Taylor’s left cheek was swollen from a clean Hopkins punch but he was outscoring and outworking the Champion. At this point, Hopkins had lost every round on my card. 10-9 Taylor.
Hopkins landed the first meaningful punch, another left hook, which seemed to be his money-punch at that point. Taylor rushed into Hopkins during an exchange and they clashed heads. Taylor suffered a gash on the left side of his head. Blood flowed down his face. Taylor was quick to hold and they wrestled onto the ropes. Feeling blood stream down his face, Taylor appeared angry and got a little careless as Hopkins landed another left hook cleanly followed by a straight right that found the mark. Hopkins was getting into a rhythm and finally won a round. 10-9 Hopkins.
Taylor boxed cautiously as Hopkins circled round him, feinting and slipping Jermain’s jabs. Suddenly, Taylor looked confused and restrained as Hopkins was in a groove and landed the more accurate punches, while Taylor missed frequently. Though Taylor was busier, Hopkins was more effective and landed at a higher percentage, though at a lower output. 10-9 Hopkins.
Taylor pressed the action but Hopkins landed a lead right to Jermain’s jaw. They clinched and Hopkins hit while holding. Jay Nady warned Hopkins again. Hopkins fought lazy and was looking to score in clinches.and in a dirty manner. Taylor kept coming forward, throwing punches and often times landing. Hopkins let the momentum shift back to Taylor’s as he allowed him to produce the more voluminous offense. Though Taylor didn’t hurt Hopkins, he was outworking Bernard. 10-9 Taylor.
Taylor pressed the action and they exchanged shots a few times, with Taylor always throwing more and often landing. Hopkins did land another nice left hook but had slowed his output and again was outworked by the 26 year old. Hopkins didn’t throw any combinations. It was all just one punch at a time. Referee Jay Nady again warned Hopkins (this time more seriously) for hitting and holding. It was a strategically ineffective round for Hopkins. 10-9 Taylor.
Hopkins showed no urgency and allowed Taylor to get bolder and continue to out hustle him. Hopkins scored when he wanted to but he didn’t seem to want to do much besides move out of harm’s way and throw one punch at a time. A few times Taylor was open but Hopkins did nothing. Maybe he was tired from being chased by Taylor but I couldn’t believe how Hopkins was squandering opportunities when they presented themselves. Taylor’s jabbing and overall activity won him the ninth round. 10-9 Taylor.
Realizing his situation, Hopkins suddenly pressed the action and landed a few jabs, while slipping some of Taylor’s shots. As was consistent throughout the fight, Hopkins only fought about a minute of the round, but this time he was making it count. He rocked Taylor with a right hand then pushed Taylor to the canvas. It was ruled a slip. For the first time in the fight, Hopkins was showing some urgency and won the round with cleaner punching. 10-9 Hopkins. In Taylor’s corner, his trainer urged him to step up, telling him it was a close fight-as if he were losing the fight. He was losing the round, but he had the fight in the bag so long as he didn’t get knocked out.
Hopkins landed a lead right. He was looking for a knockout considering the hole he put himself into. He cracked Taylor with combinations (finally) and after they clinched and were broken up, Hopkins mocked Taylor by stamping his feet backward, imitating Taylor’s trademark Bull impersonation. Hopkins was inside Taylor’s head and landed a flush jab to his face. Taylor came on strong but Hopkins had him under control. 10-9 Hopkins.
Taylor scored with a combination to the head and body. Hopkins showed no urgency-and it was the final round. Clearly, Bernard was looking for the knockout. Taylor took a big right from Hopkins that had to hurt him but he kept busy and forced the action. Hopkins scored the better punches but wasted too much time and ran out of rounds. In the final ten seconds, Hopkins didn’t throw a single punch. He won the round for cleaner punching but definitely lost the fight. 10-9 Hopkins.
Michael Buffer announced that they had a Split Decision and read the scores. Duane Ford had it 115-113 for Taylor. Jerry Roth scored-116-112 for Hopkins. Paul Smith scored-115-113 for Taylor. Sharkie’s Machine also scored it 115-113 for Taylor.
Hopkins acted surprised upon hearing the final tally. I don’t know how Bernard, who’s been around so long could surmise that after clearly losing the first four rounds then being outworked most of the fight could win? Hopkins never knocked Taylor down and I had him generously winning five of twelve rounds. I am a huge fan of Bernard Hopkins, but there’s no way he won this fight. It got close late but the truth is; Hopkins put himself in a
position where he needed a knockout to win. The knockout never came. The rest is boxing history.
Congratulations to Jermain Taylor, who gave a good account of himself and proved he COULD beat Bernard Hopkins. Thought Taylor didn’t act too confident about his victory, he definitely won the most rounds. Losing the last few rounds may have left him disappointed to some degree but because he put lots of the early rounds in the bank, he was able to overcome Hopkins’ late surge, which Hopkins waited far too long to initiate.
I don’t know about all this ‘heir apparent’ stuff since there are still plenty of fish left to fry in the Middleweight division. Hopkins has been a great Champion but perhaps his 40-year-old body just didn’t have enough steam left to produce the kind of effort he needed to beat the much bigger but far less experienced Jermain Taylor.
There is a rematch clause in the contract, so expect Hopkins and Taylor to do it again. Hopkins showed that he could win the fight-if he would just be busier and not employ the same lazy strategy he used Saturday night. He will have to fight more than one minute of each round if he’s to beat Taylor, who now holds all of Hopkins Title Belts.
It’s been a grand ride for Bernard Hopkins. But like all good things that come to an end, so is the case for Hopkins string of 20 Title defenses. He can complain and argue that he won all he wants but the fact is, he lost. It had to feel strange for a man who hadn’t lost in 12 years but that’s the way it goes.
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