31.07.05 – By Justin Hackman: Jermain took some abuse in the media about his demeanor after the fight, before the decision: he looked defeated. Pro-Hopkins’ writers also made sure that everyone in the country read at least a few times that Duane Ford gave the final round to Taylor, a round which Hopkins clearly won. These are the same people that argue that a challenger must “take away the champion’s belt,” and that it is not right for Hopkins to lose in a close fight. These are the same people who argue that Hopkins giving Jermain the fight that he did at 40 is pretty darn good, thus earning him a win. In fact, not one of these arguments holds any validity.
First, looking at Jermain’s demeanor pre-decision: did he look defeated? Absolutely. Does his confidence or lack thereof play a role in scoring? Of course not—debate over. But let’s dig deeper still and recognize that the only reason Jermain looked defeated was because up until this match he had arguably never lost a single round in his 23 fight career.
Jermain was getting battered in the late rounds and was bleeding from a nasty gash as the result of a headbutt…all for the first time in his career, not to mention that it all happened on one night against the best in the business. This was a lot to handle for young Jermain.
The kid has such high expectations of himself that he could not help but feel defeated: to him, this was defeat! This is thesame boxer that was disappointed in his dominating performance against former world champion Raul Marquez. In the post fight interview, Jermain rated his performance with Marquez a 4! Yet he won every round on every Judge’s scorecard and ultimately stopped Marquez in 9. Jermain has never known defeat on any scale in the boxing ring. He experienced it for the first time on July 16, yet still won the fight. So instead of receiving criticism, Jermain should be praised for his high performance standards—it is the stuff champs are made of.
Defense against this next argument needs little evidence; it barely has the legitimacy to be an argument in the first place. Did Hopkins win round 12? No doubt. If Duane Ford had made the right call would the fight have been called a draw and would Hopkins have kept his titles? You bet. But no pro-Hopkins writers want to acknowledge the fact that Jerry Roth, who scored
116-112 for Hopkins, scored round 3 for Hopkins…a round in which both other judges ruled in favor of Taylor, a round which Jermain had CLEARLY won. He also scored round 5 for Hopkins, a round which again, both other judges ruled for Taylor. So let’s play, “Blame The Judges.” Roth should have scored rounds 3 and 5 for Taylor, and Ford should have ruled round 12 to Hopkins. Game over, do the math.
Is the only way for a champion to lose if the challenger takes his belts away with authority? And does, “A great job for a 40 year old” give him a handicap in the scoring? Answer to both is no. After twelve rounds if no one is knocked out, the decision is in the hands of the judges (I cannot believe I am explaining these rules with a straight face). If the judges have ruled that the challenger has won, by one round or twelve, the challenger is the winner and takes the belts.
Even still, those who admit that Taylor won the fight, do so behind the excuse, “Well, only because Hopkins started so late. It was more a case of Hopkins beating himself than Jermain Taylor beating him.” Bernard has been mastering the fight game for quite a while now, and he is formerly the pound for pound king because he knows exactly when to turn on the burners and
cruise to victory. Did Hopkins just flake out in this fight, or forget how many rounds there were in a championship bout? I don’t think so—this was a case of Bernard’s opponent making it too difficult for him to get started at will; that is the only explanation. Bernard has been mastering the sport for too long to simply have a mental lapse.
Hopkins did not start slow, in fact he was, as Larry Merchant pointed out, more aggressive early than he’s been in years. The first power shot thrown in the fight was a left hook by Hopkins, in fact he threw two left hooks in the first minute of the bout. Bernard was fighting more in the first half of the fight than he has done in a long time, and Jermain still easily
won those rounds. No, this was not a case of Bernard starting too late for two reasons: #1 He tried to be more aggressive in the early rounds, but could not get to the young opponent. And #2 as I will focus on in the next paragraph, it only appeared as though Bernard was more aggressive later due to the fact that Jermain was already hurt…mostly from illegal shots.
Yes, Hopkins did clearly win rounds 9-12, but that does not mean that he automatically could have done the same thing in rounds 1-8 if he wanted to…boxing does not work in that fashion. Everything done in rounds 1-8 has an affect on what happens in the subsequent rounds. Through the first 8 rounds, the hardest shots that Jermain sustained were nearly all illegal! Sure Bernard landed two or three hard right hand leads and a left hook, but those shots were not nearly as damaging as the ones landed that could, and should have resulted in a deduction of a point. These illegal shots included two heads (one
that gave Taylor a concussion before the halfway point, and the other being a head thrown by Hopkins in round 8 that looked as though it could have broken Taylor’s jaw), one low blow, and about six hits either while Hopkins was holding, or when the fighters got tangled up and Jermain’s back was turned. These shots are very much illegal and did more damage to Jermain than
any legal shot Bernard landed in the first 8 rounds. So had Bernard not landed so many illegal shots, would he have won rounds 9-12 as easily as he did? No one knows the answer, but one could make a serious case against that claim with relative
ease—after all, as a result of the two heads that Bernard threw, Jermain suffered a concussion, profuse bleeding, and possibly a broken jaw. So who is to say that without those injuries sustained by Taylor as a result of two heads thrown, he would not have won at least a few of the championship rounds, therefore giving him an easy win.
Those of you who thought the fight was boring are probably the same people that go to the movies to see explosions. I have seen this fight five times now, and each time it gets more and more interesting. Also, the more I see it, the more I realize how much Jermain truly won that fight; and those belts around Taylor’s waist can only build his confidence thus making him even stronger in the rematch (providing Hopkins doesn’t hide horseshoes in his gloves…hey, I wouldn’t put it past him).