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How It Will Look: Hopkins-Dawson II

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THE SETTING:

There is no disputing who some of the greatest fighters of all time are. Men like Harry Greb, Henry Armstrong, Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali often find themselves at or near the top of most peoples' lists of fistic gods. Their careers, each one unique in its own way,  have many differences that set them apart. An upset, a winning streak, a comeback, a fight of the century or even a thriller, different peaks stand out for each man.

And yet, they all share the same thing. The one commodity that nearly every great fighter has succumbed  is defeat at the hands of Father Time. Some greats managed to elude the inevitable. Men like Rocky Marciano, Ricardo Lopez and Joe Calzaghe got out at just the right time, sensing his presence. But for  the rest, they all face him and feel his wrath. He shows no remorse. He doesn't care for reputations. Physical gifts, speed and athleticism he renders useless. All, really, are helpless against the clock. He catches up with other athletes, in other sports too, but boxing is where he is most unforgiving, leaving champions motionless in the ring's centre, gazing up at the lights. Joe Louis and Roy Jones Jr. can testify to that. He is the one sure thing in boxing.

It is a surely a measure of Bernard Hopkins' brilliance then, that at 47-years old, he has almost turned Father Time into an after-thought, heading into his April 25th light heavyweight title rematch with challenger Chad Dawson.

As of late, Bernard Hopkins has found himself to be the victim of severe criticism regarding the bizarre ending which occurred in his first fight with Dawson. Barely into the second round, Bernard threw a straight right hand that was slipped by Dawson. With Hopkins on top of Dawson's back, the challenger thought fit to throw the champion to the ground. With Hopkins unable to continue, due to what was later discovered to be a dislocated shoulder, Dawson was awarded the TKO victory, despite the fact a punch did not end the fight, and he was declared the new champion. Many people, fans and critics alike, thought Hopkins made the most of his tumble and was faking it.

Fast forward a few months. With his shoulder mended and the undisputed light-heavyweight title returned, Bernard Hopkins finds himself preparing to face Chad Dawson and Father Time once again. Because of Hopkins' rare success at such an advanced age, here are some of the facts we seem to have deemed unimportant when evaluating Bernard's recent status.

Bernard Hopkins is 47 years old! Let's try and put that into perspective.

 – Bernard is fourteen years older than Joe Louis was when he was rendered unconscious by Rocky Marciano.
 – Bernard is thirteen years older than Sugar Ray Leonard was when he was easily outpointed by Terry Norris.
 – Bernard is eleven years older than Muhammad Ali was when he was upset by Leon Spinks.

These fighters, all great, were considered way past their primes when they lost said fights – which have all but been forgotten about when looking back on their careers. Even more astonishing is the fact that Bernard knocked out a fighter who at the time was perceived to be the best fighter in the world in Felix Trinidad, whilst being one full year older than Erik Morales is right now. Bernard Hopkins is 12 years Morales' senior by the way. What should NOT be deemed unimportant though, is Chad Dawson's stylistic problems that are a tough nights work for any fighter at any age. Bernard Hopkins included.

 THE SCIENCE:

Dawson, a rangy southpaw, is arguably the best blend of athlete and technician Hopkins has ever faced. Dawson is very versatile with his offense, equally comfortable at range, boxing behind his jab, or in close where he can get off short combinations to the body. He is able to throw every punch in the book with relative ease. While his straight left is decent enough, it's his lead right power shots that are most eye-catching. Dawson can double them, even triple them up to head and body, without really having to bring his right arm back for leverage. Dawson also possesses a potentially fight ending  rear hand uppercut, as was evident when he almost stopped Jean Pascal dead in his tracks during their bout. His footwork is also very good, allowing him to throw his combinations and pivot out of the way in an instant.

Defensively, Dawson is one of boxing's best. Employing a tight defensive guard, he is capable of rolling with punches and countering straight back. Despite his height, Dawson also likes to bend at the waist and drop low when evading punches, making him very tough to hit clean. The second Glen Johnson fight is a great indication as to just how good Chad Dawson can be. Talent alone however, is not always enough and there have been occasions in the past when Dawson has looked disinterested and lethargic.

Certain food for thought for his next opponent.
             
Bernard Hopkins is one of the best ring strategists of this or any era. A master tactician, reminiscent of old school fighters like Ezzard Charles and Jersey Joe Walcott. A knock out artist he is not. Instead he prefers to take away an opponent's main threat  using his superior knowledge along with his subtle shifts and feints that  sometimes go unnoticed to the untrained eye. Hopkins is able to systematically outpoint his opponents over 12 rounds. Bernard is also one of the best ring generals you will ever see. He circles the perimeter of the ring and slows down  the pace of the fight by utilizing his brilliant understanding of timing and distance. He makes every fight a Bernard Hopkins fight. Even in defeat, you will seldom see an opponent  able to take Bernard away from his game plan.

Despite having no amateur background, Bernard's fundamentals are flawless. Hopkins may not be as  slick as Dawson, but he is still considered a defensive master. Bernard is rarely hit with a clean shot, such is his dedication to “protecting himself at all times”. Bernard's right hand is perfectly poised near his chin, which in turn is tucked into the top of his chest. It is no coincidence then, that Bernard Hopkins has never been in trouble or hurt inside the ring.
               
However…Like every fighter, Hopkins is far from perfect.
              
Bernard's' Kryptonite over the years,seems to have been speed and workrate, common attributes among all of Bernards most notable conquerors. Roy Jones, Jermain Taylor and Joe Calzaghe all had a superior advantage in handspeed. They were able to outwork  him too.

In his last full outing, Bernard probably put in his most aesthetically pleasing performance to date, fighting a young man's fight to outwork the younger, more athletically gifted Jean Pascal on way to becoming the oldest man in boxing history to ever win a word title. The problem with Pascal is he is a one dimensional fighter, he needs time and distance in order to explode in with his combinations. Bernard did not offer Pascal the same luxury Dawson did. Dawson gave Pascal  too much distance between them.  Although Dawson, a smart fighter, looked like he had made an adjustment late in the fight, it was too late as a cut sent the fight to the scorecards where Pascal's earlier work gave him the decision win.
           
Bernard is not as explosive or as fast as Pascal. As a result, Hopkins cannot replicate what Pascal was able to do to Dawson, which was to maintain a distance, then explode in with fast, unpredictable combinations. I don't think Bernard can afford to jab with Dawson. Dawson's superior height and reach will keep Bernard on the outside. Because Dawson has the superior footspeed, Hopkins will have a hard time keeping the distance, as Dawson, moving foward, is adept at cutting off the ring. There could be long periods where there are no punches being thrown. This is the area in which Dawson could react first, pumping out the jab, even if it is not always landing. Dawson MUST keep the pressure on the 47 year-old fighter if he is to have success.  Bernard can try to make it an ugly fight and get Dawson out of his comfort zone, early. He must try and  land his trademark sneaky right hand, which is always a good weapon against the southpaw, as is his lead left hook to the body, that Bernard likes to dig in. He has to attempt to use rough tactics in close, not allowing Dawson to use his lead hand. Dawson is a confidence fighter. If Bernard is able to smother Dawson's early work and make him second guess himself, who knows? He may take Dawson away from his game and pull out the win.

Just one problem.
                
THE SCENARIO:
              
Unlike some of Bernard's past opponents, Chad Dawson is NOT one dimensional. If you take away Kelly Pavlik's jab, you take HIM out of the fight. If you take away Jean Pascal's distance, you take HIM out of the fight. There appears to be no primary weapon or weakness of Dawson that can be taken away or exploited. Dawson is more than competent no matter where the fight takes place, whether it is on the inside, at mid range or at distance.
                
In my mind, the fight will end up looking a lot like the Hopkins/Taylor fights, with Chad Dawson winning a decision.  Hopkins will be out of range, moving backwards, trying to land his sneaky, straight right hand. Dawson will be the sharper and livelier fighter. Dawson will use his quicker jab and neutralise Bernard's lunges with upper body movement and footwork. Dawson will also be the fighter trying to cut off the ring, moving foward, thus giving the perception that he is the aggressor, very important in a fight of little action that is probably going to the scorecards.
             
But what then of a defeated Hopkins?

If indeed Chad Dawson is victorious, we must remind ourselves of a 47-year old fighter, who has just fought the best fighter in his division. We must remind ourselves of a man who was winning world titles whilst his recent opponents were barely toilet trained. We must remind ourselves of Bernard Hopkins, Father Time's toughest opponent to date.

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2015 Fight of the Year – Francisco Vargas vs Takashi Miura

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The WBC World Super Featherweight title bout between Francisco Vargas and Takashi Miura came on one of the biggest boxing stages of 2015, as the bout served as the HBO pay-per-view’s co-main event on November 21st, in support of Miguel Cotto vs Saul Alvarez.

Miura entered the fight with a (29-2-2) record and he was making the fifth defense of his world title, while Vargas entered the fight with an undefeated mark of (22-0-1) in what was his first world title fight. Both men had a reputation for all-out fighting, with Miura especially earning high praise for his title defense in Mexico where he defeated Sergio Thompson in a fiercely contested battle.

The fight started out hotly contested, and the intensity never let up. Vargas seemed to win the first two rounds, but by the fourth round, Miura seemed to pull ahead, scoring a knock-down and fighting with a lot of confidence. After brawling the first four rounds, Miura appeared to settle into a more technical approach. Rounds 5 and 6 saw the pendulum swing back towards Vargas, as he withstood Miura’s rush to open the fifth round and the sixth round saw both men exchanging hard punches.

The big swinging continued, and though Vargas likely edged Miura in rounds 5 and 6, Vargas’ face was cut in at least two spots and Miura started to assert himself again in rounds 7 and 8. Miura was beginning to grow in confidence while it appeared that Vargas was beginning to slow down, and Miura appeared to hurt Vargas at the end of the 8th round.

Vargas turned the tide again at the start of the ninth round, scoring a knock down with an uppercut and a straight right hand that took Miura’s legs and sent him to the canvas. Purely on instinct, Miura got back up and continued to fight, but Vargas was landing frequently and with force. Referee Tony Weeks stepped in to stop the fight at the halfway point of round 9 as Miura was sustaining a barrage of punches.

Miura still had a minute and a half to survive if he was going to get out of the round, and it was clear that he was not going to stop fighting.

A back and forth battle of wills between two world championship level fighters, Takashi Miura versus “El Bandido” Vargas wins the 2015 Fight of the Year.

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Jan 9 in Germany – Feigenbutz and De Carolis To Settle Score

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This coming Saturday, January 9th, the stage is set at the Baden Arena in Offenburg, Germany for a re-match between Vincent Feigenbutz and Giovanni De Carolis. The highly anticipated re-match is set to air on SAT.1 in Germany, and Feigenbutz will once again be defending his GBU and interim WBA World titles at Super Middleweight.

The first meeting between the two was less than three months ago, on October 17th and that meeting saw Feigenbutz controversially edge De Carolis on the judge’s cards by scores of (115-113, 114-113 and 115-113). De Carolis scored a flash knock down in the opening round, and he appeared to outbox Feigenbutz in the early going, but the 20 year old German champion came on in the later rounds.

The first bout is described as one of the most crowd-pleasing bouts of the year in Germany, and De Carolis and many observers felt that the Italian had done enough to win.

De Carolis told German language website RAN.DE that he was more prepared for the re-match, and that due to the arrogance Feigenbutz displayed in the aftermath of the first fight, he was confident that he had won over some of the audience. Though De Carolis fell short of predicting victory, he promised a re-vamped strategy tailored to what he has learned about Feigenbutz, whom he termed immature and inexperienced.

The stage is set for Feigenbutz vs De Carolis 2, this Saturday January 9th in Offenburg, Germany. If you can get to the live event do it, if not you have SAT.1 in Germany airing the fights, and The Boxing Channel right back here for full results.

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2015 Knock Out of the Year – Saul Alvarez KO’s James Kirkland

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On May 9th of 2015, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez delivered a resonant knock-out of James Kirkland on HBO that wins the 2015 KO of the Year.

The knock-out itself came in the third round, after slightly more than two minutes of action. The end came when Alvarez delivered a single, big right hand that caught Kirkland on the jaw and left him flat on his back after spinning to the canvas.Alvarez was clearly the big star heading into the fight. The fight was telecast by HBO for free just one week after the controversial and disappointing Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao fight, and Alvarez was under pressure to deliver the type of finish that people were going to talk about. Kirkland was happy to oblige Alvarez, taking it right to Alvarez from the start. Kirkland’s aggression saw him appear to land blows that troubled the young Mexican in the early going. Alvarez played good defense, and he floored Kirkland in the first round, displaying his power and his technique in knocking down an aggressive opponent.

However, Kirkland kept coming at Alvarez and the fight entered the third round with both men working hard and the feeling that the fight would not go the distance. Kirkland continued to move forward, keeping “Canelo” against the ropes and scoring points with a barrage of punches while looking for an opening.

At around the two minute mark, Alvarez landed an uppercut that sent Kirkland to the canvas again. Kirkland got up, but it was clear that he did not have his legs under him. Kirkland was going to try to survive the round, but Alvarez had an opportunity to close out the fight. The question was would he take it?

Alvarez closed in on Kirkland, putting his opponent’s back to the ropes. Kirkland was hurt, but he was still dangerous, pawing with punches and loading up for one big shot.

But it was the big shot “Canelo” threw that ended the night. Kirkland never saw it coming, as he was loading up with a huge right hand of his own. The right Alvarez threw cracked Kirkland in the jaw, and his eyes went blank. His big right hand whizzed harmlessly over the head of a ducking Alvarez, providing the momentum for the spin that left Kirkland prone on the canvas.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez went on to defeat Miguel Cotto in his second fight of 2015 and he is clearly one of boxing’s biggest stars heading into 2016. On May 9th Alvarez added another reel to his highlight film when he knocked out James Kirkland with the 2015 “Knock Out of the Year”.

Photo by naoki fukuda

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