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Articles of 2005

The Ultimate Bernard Hopkins



Training for his fights was his life, defending his IBF middleweight championship his vocation. His mature mission in life was to prove himself to the world, by recasting his body, regimentally disciplining his mind, incrementally mastering his ring technique, all to dominate his peers, intimidate the brave, befuddle the talented and thus to cash in on his version of the American Dream of individual redemption honed to stamp his pugilistic exceptionalism, his trademark and legacy. Continually frustrated was Bernard Hopkins in the summer of 1997; he stewed in Philadelphia trying to learn the rudiments of self-management all the while burning to unify the three middleweight championships. “The Executioner” felt that slick and lightening-quick though WBA champion William Joppy was, and awkward and consistent with the right jab though WBC titleholder Keith Holmes was, neither man was at his level. How could Hopkins get through to Don King’s men? Public challenges went unheeded. What leverage could Hopkins exert to coerce a middleweight unification, especially when he would not become a kept man in King’s stable?

Perhaps, waiting for the laws of inevitability would have to do. The pattering voice of veteran trainer Bouie Fisher hummed in his ear, challenging the ex-con, ex-light-heavyweight to bring all the elements of body, mind and heart down to their base elements of ultra-readiness and maximum adaptability. Somehow they would force the issue, find the right cord of humiliation or challenge. Hopkins decided all he could do was pursue his own agenda, make his money, learn the business of doing business and keep winning. Time itself might be unyielding, but if a man were to keep winning, keep putting him nearer the nexus of probability, someday, sometime, all relevant things would converge.

Teaming up with promoter Joe Goossen and coming off his slick styled win over John David Jackson, Hopkins and Goossen managed to get air time for his next title defense against the undefeated and stoically menacing Glen Johnson. Still, in essence, Hopkins saw himself as a lone wolf, a graduate of personal self-immolation and negativity who – having found his passion in life – was driving himself toward greatness on his own terms.

Beyond trainer Bouie Fisher and an inside coterie of behind the scenes associates, Hopkins trusted no one in boxing. He learned to conditionally partner with promoters, learning what he could about the business of boxing, intent upon dealing his own futures some day in the not too distant future, perhaps in the new century looming. But in the summer of 1997 he knew taking a fight on CBS, for inconsequential money, was a bitter pill worth swallowing, since he could showcase his skills and personality to a nationwide audience in the US. At 32, Hopkins felt he had just arrived at his prime fighting years, at the very summit of his technical ability, physical strength and mental readiness. If he was ever to reach the level of a Roy Jones Jr. he intuitively understood he had to start making his mark ASAP; only by keeping to the endless rigors of training would he fashion an ever ready solitude, an at source essence of championship depth.

“I am more than ready; there’s no question I am the top middleweight out there. If Joppy and Holmes think they can face up to me, then let’s do it, let’s get down to business and make it happen. What are they afraid of? They got Don King to protect them… I know I can take them; thing is they know it too.”

Always ready to prove the distinctiveness of his middleweight reign, Hopkins went after undefeated challenger Glen Johnson, 32-0 (22), at the Fantasy Springs Casino, Indio, California. Just below at welterweight, Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad and Ike Quartey battled on HBO, while Joe Calzaghe, Roy Jones, Dariusz Michalczewski and James Toney above him all fought on greater stages, enriching their bank accounts and international reputations. Methodically, in workmanlike fashion, “The Executioner” was extinguishing the viable rivals in ‘his’ division. Hopkins hoped to bleed the division dry of top contenders and force a box-off of champions. But it was Hopkins the independent agent – and a confrontational one at that – who openly challenged the conventions of boxing’s conventional model of the management-promotion-fighter interrelationship that had alienated him from the fast-tracking to stardom within championship boxing.

In keeping with his character, Hopkins was fighting mad, his patience worn thin at having been overlooked, circumvented and kept out of the pay-per-view loop. In his corner, going through his final checklist with Fisher, Hopkins glared across the ring at his challenger Glen Johnson. An air of imperious defiance cloaked the IBF champion. At the bell Hopkins sprang out of his corner with everything to prove to the fans and everyone who was anyone in boxing circles.

The champion launched a sucker right hand to open the action. He wanted Johnson – and the almost intrusively close gamblers crowd leered at them – to know he really was as mean and defiantly desperate as reputed. The small dimensions of the ring gave Johnson nowhere to hide, his defensive alertness not spontaneous enough to cover or parry the torrent of combination hitting coming from a champion on a mission. The pattern of the fight was set in the first minute of the first round. Though there would be variations on his dominating theme, Hopkins worked the left lead and right cross, stuffed in left hooks to the body and generally worked at a tempo he sensed, correctly, that was going to strain, and eventually drain, the very fit to skirmish Johnson.

Live on CBS’s national feed, Hopkins wanted to show the entire range of his technique, the menace of his manhood and the undeniably daunting fitness he could bring to his championship defenses. Opening up and producing a hail of combinations to the head and body, Hopkins forced Johnson to fight defensively, even as the resident of Miami tried to take the initiative. The champion produced reflex counters and his signature left hook either to the head or body with absolute precision. Though Johnson’s trainer Pat Burns implored his fighter to match up more on the exchanges, the futility of such council was made crystal clear in the second round when Hopkins unleashed a savaging fifteen punch combination. Hopkins threw jabs with right hands in behind and hooks angled to the body in clusters punctuated by inside uppercuts that made Johnson look statuesque at times. And this pattern happened round after round. So confident of his punching stamina was Hopkins that he did not feel the need to preen or box capriciously; no amusements or bluster were necessary.

The sheer tenacity and concentration of the champion’s applied mastery was spellbinding. Blow by blow, be they nanosecond tactical assaults, computationally primed or instantaneously fired as meaningful scattershot, Hopkins leveled punishment with near impunity. The best Johnson could do was to attempt to target the body of Hopkins; the price he paid for his efforts was to absorb wave after wave of head blows. Hopkins didn’t need to make openings; he was finding the fissures in Johnson’s high guard, alternating his attack instantaneously up and down, down and up. Hopkins boxed with savagery and clinical acumen, those terms in no way contradictory, as Hopkins surged to inflict a raw beating upon the gallant Jamaican.

Longtime boxing observers were interested to see that against Johnson, in the full stream of total concentration, Bernard Hopkins didn’t feel the need or the impulse to resort to holding or fouling or any of the marginal tactics he’d been accused of employing in the proceeding years. Even after being decked by a flagrantly low left hook to the cup by Johnson, Hopkins’ concentration on technical repetition held. There was also a surgical efficiency especially to his unorthodox combinations: in a one minute span in the tenth round – the next to last round – Hopkins threw and landed, a classic one-two, a right cross lead, followed by a right cross lead-left jab, a left hook-right hook, and a left jab lead, only to finish with a right hook-left jab-right to the body, followed by a left hook combination. His versatility defined his offensive flourishes as certainly as his ability to set and collapse defensive distance into attack routes.

Then curiously at the moment of Hopkins’ total ascendancy he choose to turn, circle away from a puffy eyed and battered Johnson, jabbing and back-peddle just to engineer a mock defensiveness, right as the brave-to-a-fault Glen Johnson was ready to be stopped. If it were anyone but Hopkins, compassionate consideration might have been suspected. So the one-sided contest went briefly onward, Hopkins picking, poking, punishing until the curiously diffident referee Pat Russell had had his fill.

Those who had born witness to Hopkins’ performance knew they had witnessed something special. Such was the completeness of Bernard Hopkins’ victory, the measured manner and definitive method produced a signature victory, a small masterpiece beyond what he had ever achieved as a professional fighter. Those who saw the fight knew that everything was on display, that Hopkins’ range and prowess was formidable, no matter the level of opposition. He’d assiduously and viciously proven he was a towering talent, more than just a guy with one of the middleweight belts.

And he’d proven his larger point. He, Bernard Hopkins, truly was a fighter in need of a serious challenge, something against which his range and rage could be tested. What the man from Philadelphia needed was a big name. Desperately he called out to the rest of his generation to give him his chance to prove himself on the big stage for the kind of money and glory he’d been dreaming about interminably, one aching day after another.

In the summer of 1997, Bernard Hopkins, IBF middleweight champion, tried every day to get over the empty feeling that all his victories were leaving with him. He knew he was more than ready and that there was no man anywhere near his weight he could not take to the limit or take apart. Unfortunately, for the rest of the century, his off off-Broadway brilliance couldn’t push past Tyson’s bite, Holyfield’s heroism, De La Hoya’s glamour or Roy Jones’ cosmic singularity.

Of course, waiting and winning, as we know, did pay off for Mr. Hopkins and in New York or all places. For a long, long time, it seemed Bernard Hopkins, the physical specimen, the fighter, the primed punisher never left that summer of 1997.

Articles of 2005

In Boxing News: Floyd Mayweather An All-Time Great, Valuev & More



A Shot of Boxing on the Last Day of the Year

The Guardian reports that talks have already taken place between Nicolay Valuev‘s co-promoters – Don King and Wilfried Sauerland – and Danny Williams‘ promoter Frank Warren for Nicolay Valuev to face Danny Williams. I’d suggest Danny Williams needs to worry about Matt Skelton (who Williams is reportedly scheduled to fight in February) before he entertains notions of facing the Beast From The East.

The Mirror in the UK looks forward to a big year in boxing for 2006. The Mirror considers what the future might bring for Joe Calzaghe, Amir Khan and Ricky Hatton, among others.

The Parksville Qualicum News has an interesting column on the travails of former Canadian Super Middleweight title holder Mark Woolnough. Woolnough’s career turned controversial – as widely reported in the Canadian press – at the beginning of this year when Woolnough and four other men were charged with manslaughter and assault after a fight outside a Parksville nightclub. The case returns to court next month. It’s an interesting read, as Woolnough is still looking to the future with hope.

Our own Marc Lichtenfeld provides plenty of food for thought with his Top Ten Wish List for boxing in the New Year. There’s plenty of good stuff here, but what really jumped out for me is Lichtenfeld’s opinion that a win over Zab Judah could have Floyd Mayweather knocking on the door of all-time great status. Seems to me this might be jumping the gun a little. Or is Marc right? Will it soon be time to call Floyd Mayweather Jr. an all-time great?

(More Boxing News Links at

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Articles of 2005

ShoBox Friday Night Fights




Hot bantamweight prospect Raul “The Cobra” Martinez heads back to Chicago next Friday night as he is featured in the co-main event of SHOBOX “THE NEW GENERATION,” an action packed evening of professional boxing presented by Dominic Pesoli’s 8 Count Productions,’ HOME OF THE BEST IN CHICAGO BOXING, Kathy Duva’s Main Events Inc., along with Miller Lite and TCF Bank.

The two-time national amateur champion sporting a perfect 12-0 record with 9 knockouts, six of which have come in the first round,  will take on Colombian Andres “Andy Boy” Ledesma, 13-1 (8 KOs) in a scheduled eight round bout.

Speaking after a training session at his home gym in Georgetown, Texas, Martinez said, “I’m truly looking forward to returning to Chicago. The fans were terrific in September, they were very supportive from the start of the fight,” an internationally televised first round knockout of Miguel Martinez on September 16th at the Aragon Ballroom.

Regarding his upcoming fight with Ledesma, “The Cobra” said, “I haven’t seen him fight, although I understand he’s fought at higher weights and will be naturally bigger than me. I’ve had great training for this fight and feel very confident. I really haven’t left the gym in months, just taking off Sunday’s and even then I get my running in. My thinking is that fights are won in the gym and complete preparation is the key.”

When asked about his being mentioned by Dan Rafael, ESPN’s boxing writer as one of the top prospect’s in the boxing world the 23-year-old San Antonio native said, ‘It’s a great compliment, but I still have much work to do. I want to be a champion for Main Events like Fernando Vargas and Arturo Gatti. But like Fernando said while he was in town, ‘be patient, work hard and your time will come.’”

Finishing the conversation, Martinez said, “I’m looking forward to starting out this year with a bang. I might have a couple less fights than the seven I had in 2005, but I’m looking to stepping up the competition, move up to ten-rounders and climb in the rankings.”

Headlining the evening is a ten-round welterweight showdown between boxing’s hottest prospect, unbeaten Joel Julio of Monteria, Columbia, and Ugandan native Roberto “The Doctor” Kamya. Julio, turning 21 years old the day before the fight, is 25-0 with 22 knockouts, twelve of which have come in the first two rounds. Kamya, now fighting out of West Palm Beach, Florida is 15-5 with four knockouts.

Tickets, starting at $30, are on sale in advance by calling 312-226-5800. Cicero Stadium is located at 1909 S. Laramie, at the corner of 19th and Laramie, just ten minutes south of the Eisenhower Expressway and ten minutes north of the Stevenson Expressway. Doors for this evening will open at 6pm with the first bell at 7pm.

The full bout lineup for the evening is:

Joel Julio vs. Roberto Kamya, ten rounds, welterweights

Raul Martinez vs. Andres Ledesma, eight rounds, bantamweights

Miguel Hernandez vs. Butch Hajicek, eight rounds, middleweights

David Pareja vs. Derek Andrews, eight rounds, light heavyweights

Mike Gonzales vs. Tony Kinney, four rounds, lightweights

Omar Reyes vs. Luis Navarro, five rounds, featherweights

Reynaldo Reyes vs. Ricardo Swift, four rounds, middleweights

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Articles of 2005

Pick ‘Em: Plenty of Big Upcoming Fights in ’06



Here’s the early call on many top matches scheduled for the first half of 2006: Happy New Year!

As the new calendar dawns, there are already a considerable amount of premium bouts on the horizon. Things don’t look to be bogged down by undetermined championships next year. In many cases the scheduled face-offs involve the best fighters in the division, or at least close enough for general bragging rights. If anybody else with proper qualifications signs up to force the issue, all the better.

It can be argued that some pairings could have taken place within a more optimal timeframe, or that some headliners carry distracting baggage, but there are certainly enough heavy hitters on deck. That nobody can deny.

It doesn’t matter whether one considers the proverbial glass half empty or half full; there’s still the same amount of juice in the vessel. It’s nice to know that even with a high number of cancellations, there will still be plenty of important contenders on tap.

With elite fighters in weight divisions from top to bottom on the agenda, it’s an equivalent to what fans in more mainstream sports expect in a consistent championship format.

Baseball fans can almost always count on a World Series. Some hoops fanatics say too much attention to playoffs distracts unmotivated NBA teams during their regular season. In college, they project Sweet Sixteens. Football fans know there’s always a Super Bowl ahead to raise advertising dollars and test the USA’s halftime morals.

So too, there is method in boxing’s current madness.

The midnight crystal ball hasn’t even been unveiled in Times Square and there are already a number of potential thrillers scheduled. Most feature contrasting personalities that almost guarantee going along for the ride will be worthwhile. Any subsequent drops will probably be cheered.

Don King jumps right out of the auld lang gate with a January 7th Showtime card featuring Zab Judah against Carlos Baldomir and Jean-Marc Mormeck in a cruiserweight unification against O’Neil Bell.

It will be the upset of the year, bar none, if Baldomir can tip the applecart before Judah gets to his scheduled super-showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr. Meanwhile, Mormeck is emerging and should keep on rolling against Bell, who can expose him if he’s not for real.

The proverbial Big Bang starts with a January 21st rematch of one of the finest fights of ‘05, when Erik Morales goes against Manny Pacquaio for the second time on HBO pay per view. The fact that Morales was upset by Zahir Raheem after beating Pacquaio was no real loss in box-office luster. Artful Raheem will get a spot on the undercard and hope his patience is rewarded.

Everyone figures Morales and Pacquaio will pick up where they left off. Like the first time, the rematch is a pick’em contest. Management distractions and glove restrictions cited as Pacquaio’s previous problems won’t matter this time. The two are very evenly matched and their styles will make for another whapathon. It could come down to corners, where Freddie Roach gets the edge since Morales will have a new trainer for the first time since replacing his father after the Raheem lesson.

February features four of the game’s most enduring attractions, in a pair of crucial matchups.

First up, Showtime presents the Jose Luis Castillo – Diego Corrales tiebreaker from El Paso on Feb 4th. This is another pick ‘em pair, barring any sideshow. In boxing that disclaimer may be a stretch, since the sideshow is part of the act and the charm.

As far as action inside the strands goes, every round these guys have fought has been great. There’s no reason to think that pattern won’t continue. Regarding the result, Castillo keeps the pressure on as he did in the second fight, but he’ll walk into trouble from a more reserved Corrales. We still don’t know which coin to flip.

February also holds a better late than never affair between two perennial favorites as Shane Mosley collides with Fernando Vargas on the 25th.  This fight could lead to a winning ticket in the Golden Boy sweepstakes for a fall bonanza against Oscar De La Hoya.

Vargas has been in tougher recently, based on comparable strength of opposition stats, but he’s seen little action. What weight they enter the ring at may have a lot to do with the result. If Vargas has to struggle at the scale, Mosley might have the battle in the bag after round nine.

It’s hard to imagine Mosley getting stopped early, but Vargas doesn’t have to hurt him, he just has to knock him down three times. With natural size, he may be able to do just that, but Mosley would have to box uncharacteristically flat.

Unless Mosley decides to heed the crowd, the most likely scenario is that Shane plays it safe, picks a few shots, and stays away enough to capture a comfortable, dull decision. An unbowed Vargas maintains his fan base but not his bettors.

March both comes in and goes out as a lion.

On March 4th Joe Calzaghe welcomes Jeff Lacy to Manchester UK for what may be the biggest blowout of the headlining bunch. Calzaghe gets the chance to prove his considerable home-based reputation once and for all, but if Lacy creams him as we expect, that glossy record will be severely tarnished.

All Calzaghe has to do is make a respectable stand, but that’s no small task against the rising Lacy. A motivated Calzaghe, songs of England ringing in his ears, could pull a big surprise if he can exploit Lacy’s relatively limited technical development, but that’s a longshot indeed.

It looks like Lacy can get by on power alone. He could soon emerge as a pound-for-pound leader. Old Joe’s hometown advantage will last about two left hooks.

March 11th has the Ides of history to beware for at least one old lion, with farewell (we’ll see) fireworks featuring Roy Jones Jr. against Bernard Hopkins. Less than two years ago they were considered untouchable all time greats. Now between them they’ve lost five in a row.

This goodbye fight is contracted at light heavyweight, for what seems like an oldies night. Hopkins is the senior at age 41 to Jones’s 37, but Roy seems more the grandpa figure, last seen hanging on against Antonio Tarver. Youth, as it were here, will prevail.

This bout was signed quickly as each principal, usually sticklers for favorable contract clauses, agreed to parity in a demonstration of businessman first and fighter second. They may both expect easy marks. How much the boys have left by the time they get down to business remains to be seen. The history books will show this as a climactic career bout between Hall of Famers.

At 175 pounds, Hopkins may be in for rude awakening. Jones may have been more thoroughly outfought recently, but he was rumbling with bigger, tougher men than Jermain Taylor or Howard Eastman. Respectable as he is, Taylor still falls short of the level of Tarver, at least for now. The difference is still fifteen pounds less pop.

It will be quite a feat if Hopkins can stay in the fight, even at Jones’s advanced age. Our stars point to Jones winning in overwhelming fashion.

On March 18th, James Toney meets Hasim Rahman in another pairing of seasoned war-horses.

Toney and Rahman already had their introductions, when they brawled in Mexico during a WBC gathering to bestow Rahman’s new belt. Between formalities, Toney got married, which could bring up the old questions about carnal training.

Let’s hope when they meet in the ring, they restore some of the fire missing from the heavyweights in ‘05.  Toney might have an edge in recent form, but Rahman shows fine tuning he previously lacked. The winner might get newly “crowned’ Nicolai Valuev, an easy payday outside Germany.

Rahman could be the heavyweight that finally makes Toney look like a blown up middleweight. But anything less than a top effort will probably lead to embarrassing night for the Rock and give Toney solid claim to being the true heavyweight champ.

This might not be the most artful fight of the new season, but it could well be the most grueling, and the closest. He who’s faced the better big boys gets the nod. Advantage Rahman.

March 25 features Marco Antonio Barrera, probably the strongest overall claimant to 130 pound honors. The likely opponent is said to be always tough Jesus Chavez.

Chavez seemed rejuvenated when he met Leavander Johnson, but Johnson’s tragic death may have taken some of the steam out of thoughtful Chavez, said to have received Johnson’s family blessing to continue in Leavander’s name. That could mean a lot of inspiration. Either way, if he does meet Chavez, who hung tough with one arm against Erik Morales, Barrera won’t get any slack. The Fates say Chavez, whose wife recently served in Iraq, is a live, live underdog.

Another clash to be King of the Hill finds Floyd Mayweather Jr, arguably the game’s finest practitioner, bumping heads with Zab Judah, one of very few boxers who rivals Mayweather in speed, skills, and brashness.

Their hoedown, scheduled for April 8th, is one of the top pound-for-pound pairings in recent years. Judah will need a career best performance to have a chance of victory. That’s not to say he can’t pull it off, but currently Mayweather is in a different galaxy in terms of punching power. Slow-motion replays may be the only way to follow the flying fists once these two whirlwinds unload.

Mayweather should be around a 4-1 favorite. Judah is good enough to make taking the odds an attractive proposition, since that’s probably as good of odds as one is likely to see on Floyd for a while. Mayweather will stop Judah in his tracks.

The first half of next year is set to conclude with the star power of Oscar De La Hoya, probably against noteworthy foil Ricardo Mayorga on May 6. There could be some snags before a contract is finalized, but if it comes off count on Mayorga for promotional sound bite nastiness. One of the questions is whether or not he’ll be able to get under Oscar’s skin, and it might actually be entertaining to see the classy, model perfect De La Hoya show he’s human and freak out against the Nicaraguan maniac.

Mayorga may have burnt his best bridges already. De La Hoya has not only the boxing skill to negate Mayorga’s offense, but enough power to end it early. If Mayorga rushes in and causes a cut, De La Hoya might get ruffled enough to duck into defense and Mayorga could get a decision that goes to the cards after six rounds or so. It will be wild for as long as it lasts.

Pro boxing, like many sports, had its share of problems during 2005, but there were also many positives. Most notably, as usual, was superior and inspiring action inside the strands. Unless there’s a mass freeze-up at the top, early 2006 figures to see decisive interaction among many well-known fighters.

If even fifty per cent of the aforementioned pairings come to fruition, it’s a strong likelihood the upcoming year has at least one very positive half. Arturo Gatti, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Brian Viloria, and Shannon Briggs, to name a few, are also on deck. No matter how you chose to look at or measure mass qualities, there’s still just as much good to be seen.

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