Cooking with Old Grease: Jones-Hopkins II


29.12.05 – By Kevin Kincade: I am a boxing fan, like you, and have been for a long time. Over the years I’ve seen several dream bouts come to fruition, such as Chavez-Whitaker and Carbajal-Gonzalez and Hagler-Leonard; but there have been even more fights I wish had happened that never did: Hagler-Leonard II, Tyson-Douglas II, Lewis-Bowe, Paez-Fenech, Foreman-Holmes, Hearns-McCallum, Leonard-Pryor, and a few others. Oh, in retrospect, some of those match-ups don’t seem quite so superb; but, at the time, I really wanted to see them happen. I’m sure you’ve got your list of “what-ifs” as well. We all do. We’re fight fans. We want to see how styles mesh, who’s the better man, and can he beat him again. That, my friends, is the backbone of the boxing business. Find a fight the people want to see, make it happen, and make people pay through the nose to see it….’cause you know they will. Capitalism….you gotta love it.

Now, all of that being said, a time does come when one has to say, “Yeah, that would have been a great fight; but it’s too late, now.” Ladies and Gentleman….now is one of those times and Jones-Hopkins II is one of those fights.

There was a time when Hopkins-Jones II would have been THEEE Super-Fight. That time was right after Hopkins kayoed Trinidad. B-Hop was the undisputed Middleweight Champion of the World and Jones was the undisputed Light-Heavyweight Champion of the World. The match was a natural….but that was then and this is now. Now, we have Bernard Hopkins, who is on the cusp of 41 years old and Jones, who is not much younger and has soundly lost 3 of his last 4 fights. Now, if these two want to get it on, fine….that’s their business; but don’t be so gullible as to believe this contest actually means anything….because it doesn’t. And because this fight means absolutely NOTHING, it doesn’t belong on Pay-Per-View; but, then again, neither did Tyson-McBride or Briggs-Mercer or way too many other fight cards these days.

Think about it. Wright-Trinidad was a much anticipated showdown; but there was no title involved. It was a former middleweight champion taking on the Jr. Middleweight Champion north of 154…..essentially, a contest to establish a challenger for B-Hop’s belt. Did I pay for it? Sure I did! Why not, it was worth it! Wright had just beaten Mosley twice and I knew he was going to school Trinidad; but, at the same time, I knew Tito’s power could change things just like THAT! That’s something to get excited about. And you knew (or thought we knew) the winner was going to get a shot at the title. See? PPV should be reserved for the most important of matches; but I guess as long as promoters keep getting sucker money, their going to keep giving us sucker fights. So, ultimately, it’s our fault for being so damn desperate for boxing matches of any kind. We can’t get them on free TV every weekend anymore. What? You didn’t know they used to show championship bouts on free-TV? Yup….ahh, those were the good old days. (THANK YOU NETWORK EXECUTIVES!!!) None the less, if you’re a boxing fan, you know once it’s in your blood, you have to keep up with it, no matter where you have to go to get it or how mad you get about what you put yourself through. So, like smack-addicts (in our case, “whack-addicts) we pay more and more for any little fix we can get. Sucks being a sucker doesn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong. I understand its economics. Fighters have to be paid, there are expenses to be covered, you can’t get something for nothing, blah, blah, blah. But, is it too much to ask to get my money’s worth? Why would I want to shell out Fifty Clams to watch a couple of old guys play “bet cha can’t hit me” for twelve rounds? Maybe it’s because I’m po or maybe it’s the current economic situation of the country or maybe I’m just a tightwad; but I want some bang for my buck and these two are all banged out. Did you see Jones last fight? How about Hopkins? Roy looked like he was trying out for a track meet and Hopkins….well, Hopkins was Hopkins. That brilliant slow-paced style of his was fine when he had a title to defend; but as an over the hill contender…uh, uh. When he had the belt, you wanted to see if the challenger could figure him out; but now that he doesn’t have the belt anymore, well…


Of course, this isn’t the first time promoters have tried to capitalize on remembrances of once-great fighters for one last hurrah. Don King cleaned up on Ali’s shot at Holmes in 1980. I imagine Leonard-Duran III pulled in a pretty penny; and we all wanted to see Foreman-Holmes, even though both were nearly ten years past their peaks. But just because a fighter’s got a name and legendary credentials doesn’t mean they’re going to be great forever. Boxers are only given a certain amount of time to shine as any athlete. There are a few that beat off Father Time for a few years; but they are few and far between. Hopkins is one of those few and held onto his status as best middleweight in the world for over a decade; but Jones…..Jones hasn’t shown any of his once prominent ring skills since he defeated John Ruiz for the WBA Heavyweight Belt. In fact, having been knocked cold in two of his last three fights would lead one to believe that he should be hanging his gloves up instead of lacing them up. And Hopkins has lost two of his last three as well, though not as dramatically as Jones and some would say he didn’t lose at all; but that’s not what the record book says. The fact is Hopkins’ last great performance came over four years ago when he thoroughly dominated the younger, more powerful Felix Trinidad and unified the Middleweight Crown. Since then, old B-Hop has looked just that…..old.

Question: If Muhammad Ali had beaten Berbick in 1981 and Joe Frazier had gotten a win over Jumbo Cummings that same year, would you have paid to see Ali-Frazier IV in 1982? That fight would have had about as much significance as Jones-Hopkins II. Okay, maybe that’s a bit extreme; but you get the idea. In 1982 both Ali and Frazier were irrelevant. Hopkins and Jones aren’t quite that removed from the picture, yet. However, how much longer do you think it will be before they are? Jones and Hopkins are doing what George Foreman did between 1987 and 1991, capitalizing off of the names they’ve made for themselves; and there’s nothing wrong with that. But that doesn’t mean I have to get suckered in to all of this nostalgia. The time has come to move on and look to the future of the sport. Hopkins and Jones are its past.

When these two first climbed into the ring with each other thirteen years ago on the under card of Bowe-Ferguson, I was hyped. I’d seen both fight against different journeymen and trial horses and was eager to see how they would do against each other. Damn, what a bore of a fight. Both were nervous in their first title bout and had much respect for their opponents and it showed, believe me. Naively, I kept waiting for Leonard-Hearns I to break out; but it never did. Jones soundly outboxed Hopkins, showing way too much quickness and unorthodoxy for the young Executioner to deal with. HBO had to pull out the industrial sized heaters to thaw the crowd out before the main event. Now, here we are, 5 years or more after the rematch should have happened, awaiting two once-great fighters to put on one last great show. Don’t hold your breath. I have a strange feeling Jones-Hopkins II is going to make Jones-Hopkins I look like Ali-Frazier III.

First of all, both have reached their mountain-tops and have nothing left to prove. They know they’re going to the Hall of Fame. A win or a loss makes no difference in the great scheme of things….it won’t harm nor help neither one’s credentials. Secondly, there’s no title on the line. Jones just “fought” to regain his old title and Hopkins did the same; and neither were particularly inspiring. So, if they can’t light the canvas on fire trying to regain what was once so precious to them, what makes you think they’re going to ignite a fistic flame when there’s absolutely NOTHING on the line. Which, brings me to point number three…..styles making fights. While both Bernard and Roy have evolved as all fighters do, they are still, essentially, the same….meaning, they fight the same way. There has been no drastic “Rocky III” type of changes with either one. Hopkins has perfected his meticulous style and Jones, well….he sure isn’t the fireball of offense he was at 23 and seems far more transfixed on not kissing canvas for the third time in his career. Translation: This is going to be the counter punching equivalent of dueling banjos. Now, if you’re into that….if you love watching too old fighters trying to out-feint each other over the course of twelve rounds….Go ahead! Have at it! I’ll read about the outcome on ESB and watch the replay one week later.

At one time, Roy Jones was the hottest thing in the division and B-Hop surely re-ignited his career with his dramatic knock-out over Felix Trinidad; but over time fire cools and smolders until all that is left is ash. Five years ago, when both were undisputed divisional champions, Jones-Hopkins II would have been the hottest ticket since Hagler-Leonard……but that was five years ago. This is 2006 and the embers of that show-down have long-since been extinguished by Jones’s two knock-out loses and a sad attempt to regain his belt; and by a couple of Luke-warm performances by the once-feared Executioner. The match-up is still intriguing; but the price of admission leaves me cold. It would be nice to turn back the hands of time and see these two prove who the best pound-4-pound fighter was in 2001; but that was then and this is now…..and you just can’t cook with old grease.

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