29.11.05 – By Scoop Malinowski / Boxinginsider.com: Various boxing insiders were asked who they think will win the return engagement of future Hall of Fame all-time Middleweight great Bernard Hopkins and the young up & coming heir apparent Jermain Taylor..
Bobby Joe Young (the only man to defeat Aaron Pryor as a professional): “I like Bernard Hopkins. He’s a very smooth fighter. He has a lot of knowledge. He has good ring generalship. So, in the late rounds I see him prevailing.”
Junior Jones (former Bantamweight champion): “Hopkins. I think he’s going to look at the tape and be like, Damn, I almost had this guy at the end, and I didn’t press too much. I think he’s going to come back and knock him out.”
Johnny Bos (matchmaker/adviser): “I like Hopkins. I thought Taylor won the first fight. Because 95% of the time, I’ll go with the guy that finished the fight stronger the first time.”
Omar Sheika: “It’s going to be tough. I believe the first fight was very close. I think Hopkins had him out the last three or four rounds. I believe Taylor’s going to have a lot more confidence coming around the second time. It’s going to be interesting. I believe they’re both going to let their hands go more. The first fight wasn’t what we expected. They both held back. They both respected each other. This time I think they’re both gonna let it hang out more. And not show any respect for each other. But it’s a hard fight to pick because I think the first fight could have gone either way, Hopkins won the later rounds, Taylor won the early rounds. It depends. Hopkins is a fighter with a lot of experience. Taylor is a young fighter, but he showed a lot of wildness in the first fight, a lot more immaturity. It’s tough with Hopkins, he’s a very experienced fighter.”
Iran Barkley (former supermiddleweight, light heavyweight and cruiserweight champion): “I like Hopkins. He’s the more experienced fighter.”
Ice John Scully (former world title challenger and current trainer): “I think Bernard realizes the huge mistake he made last time by letting Jermain jump out to that big early lead. Motivation is a powerful tool and after going unbeaten for twelve years I think Bernard realizes that losing is not something he finds easy to live with again. He always talks about history and his legacy and if there was ever a time to do something truly Hall of Fame worthy it is now. Maybe it’s a certain amount of wishful thinking on my part but I could see Bernard allowing this fight to be more of a dogfight than he did last time and his superior conditioning can come into play more than it did last time – he started to get to Jermain late in the first fight but didn’t do enough damage early on to dent Taylor enough when it counted. I think this one could end up being an exciting fight that Bernard wills his way to victory in over 12 full rounds.”
Shelly Finkel (manager): “I think it’s a really hard fight to call. But if I analyze everything that happened in the first fight, I would go with Taylor. The reason is, Taylor I think was nervous in the first fight. And that pressure built up. And that’s what made him tired in the later rounds. Hopefully, in his mind, he’s overcome that and the question on Hopkins, at the age he is now, is he gonna be able to start earlier? And that’s the question mark to me. So I’ll go with Taylor in a very close fight.”
Frank Warren (promoter): “Taylor. I fancied Taylor the first time. I just think he’s the young guy. I think Bernard had his day. And Hopkins is a great professional, but is Hopkins gonna get any better? I don’t think so. Taylor will though. Taylor is a young kid who knows what he’s got in front of him.”
LeRoy Neiman (artist): “I think Taylor will. I’m looking forward to talking to Hopkins and seeing him. Taylor’s all right but he does not strike me as being a great fighter…Hopkins may (win) because he’s so well conditioned, he just won’t let that guy win. It’s going to be a head fight. The smartest guy who wants to win the most will win the fight. This is not Pernell Whitaker. Pernell Whitaker never really went in to win, but he didn’t have to win that much.”
Jeff Lacy: “I’m gonna go with Taylor. I think in the first fight he was still skeptical about getting in with a guy that he really didn’t too much know about yet, being in the ring and dancing with the man they call pound for pound, it takes…Hopkins got to Taylor a little bit in the first fight. I think Taylor is going to go out and really explore his strengths and win a real good fight this time.”
Joe Calzaghe: “Because Taylor won the fight once – though I didn’t see it -and he’s the upcoming fighter, you have to maybe just slightly give him the favorite. Too difficult to say. Hopkins, he’s always training, always fit, I respect him a lot for his age to be fighting. It’s probably still a 50-50 fight. If I have to bet on one maybe just through youth with maybe the confidence he’ll have from the first fight. And he’s only going to improve. I think Hopkins will not improve. Taylor’s going to improve. Maybe just edge it to Taylor. Hopkins has shown in the past that he’s a great fighter and anything can happen.”
My two cents: Conventional wisdom would say Taylor is the correct pick. But this is Bernard Hopkins we’re talking about. One of the most unconventional and extraordinary, most dedicated, most hard-working and intelligent champions boxing fans have ever had the pleasure of witnessing. If anyone is capable of adding new tricks to his arsenal at the age of 40, it’s the unpredictable Bernard Hopkins. I think he’s going to stun people with a few surprises on Saturday night. Taylor will be better and more comfortable for this fight, but I believe Hopkins will too. Ex may have lost the first half of the horse race last time, but he won when it counted most – in the home stretch. I believe Hopkins learned some things about Taylor and will show his superiority again on Saturday night.
Scoop Malinowski is a contributor at boxinginsider.com