25.11.05 – By Justin Hackman: Though the 12 round middleweight boxing match between Jermain Taylor and Bernard Hopkins will take place on the night of December 3rd in Las Vegas, the fight for true champion has been going on since the post-fight presser for their first match on the night of July 16, 2005. Taylor has handled victory with grace, dignity, and humility. Hopkins lost for the first time since obtaining his titles which he defended an unprecedented 20 times. Uncharacteristic of how he handled himself while king of the division, he has handled his loss like a child, blaming everyone for the defeat except himself. Hopkins will carry these losing ways with him as he climbs into the ring this Saturday. Here’s why.
Since their first meeting this past July, Hopkins has not had the actions of a true champion.
At the first press conference for their upcoming fight, Hopkins proudly boasted it was not he, Bernard Hopkins, who was responsible for defeat, but rather Duane Ford, the judge from the first match who awarded the 12th round to Taylor. Hopkins has recently parted ways with his trainer, Bouie Fischer. Hopkins first claimed it was because of Fischer’s health.
Since then, a more accurate story has surfaced which claimed their separation had little to do with Fischer’s health, but more to do with Hopkins’ selfish nature. As Hopkins is now in a position where he is chasing the belts he once called his own, his true character in difficult times is showing. Instead of focusing on the young, hungry opponent in front of him, he has been expending his energy by blaming others for his razor-thin defeat.
Jermain Taylor has accepted the fact that his performance in the first fight fell short of his potential considering he ran out of energy in the late rounds allowing for Hopkins to counter him easily with right hands to the jaw. Taylor has promised to train harder for their rematch, and correct the flaws which were exposed for the first time in his still undefeated career. These flaws which resulted in a closer decision than it should have been can easily be identified. First, Taylor got away from jabbing Hopkins in the second half of the fight. Taylor’s laser jab is one of the main tools which got him in the position for a title shot in the first place. Taylor’s entire offensive arsenal comes off his jab. While Taylor may not have been exactly stinging Hopkins with the jab while in use, it was enough of a weapon to keep Hopkins at bay long enough to win a decision. Taylor knows this, and has vowed to use his jab more consistently throughout fight #2. The second flaw from their first meeting: Taylor head-hunted entirely too much against a very ring-savvy, illusive opponent, which drained Taylor’s energy consequently allowing for Hopkins’ offense to ignite. Taylor can stay away from Hopkins’ hard shots with ease, so long as he can hang on to his stamina which can be easily accomplished by picking his power shots with discretion and by targeting the body more than he did the first time around. Taylor has publicly stated he will employ this strategy as well.
A true champion blames only himself for a lackluster performance. A true champion identifies his own flaws in order to constantly improve. Along with losing his belts, since July 16th Bernard Hopkins has also lost his true champion persona. If he could not take advantage of Taylor’s rookie mistakes this past summer, he will certainly not conquer the more complete fighter that is Jermain Taylor on the night of December 3rd.