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A CLASSIC REPLAY Tangled Web

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HopkinsTaylor3July 16, 2005…going in to this fight, we talked about Bernard Hopkins being “old.” (Hogan)

Fights aren’t settled in the gutter when you’re the center of a growing financial empire. One’s cut to ribbons without blood being spilled. It’s done with invective and innuendo – not bricks – but skewered as surely as the end of a Cyrano couplet.

So, a press conference at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel, facing “The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” on Rodeo Drive, couldn’t have been a more appropriate setting for Golden Boy Promotions to trumpet it’s July 16 HBO Pay-Per-View showcase for company-partner, and jewel-in-the-crown, Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins, defending his undisputed middleweight championship for the 21st time against Jermain “Bad Intentions” Taylor at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

The marketing angle seemed a natural: aging veteran gives undefeated deserving kid a shot at the crown…Promising…but not surefire like Vargas against De La Hoya, when the faithful counted the hours.

But, seething beneath the surface, Hopkins has 610,000 reasons to not only want to beat Taylor but to destroy his promoter. That’s exactly how many dollars Lou DiBella was awarded in a libel judgment against him.

So in this Theatre-of-the-Absurd, Hopkins doesn’t exact street justice, he shares the stage civilly with DiBella to make the PPV a bonanza and his revenge all the sweeter. “What a tangled web we weave.”  

The ultimate oxymoron was a line in the press release: Golden Boy Promotions in association with DiBella Entertainment . . . There couldn’t be anyone Hopkins would less like to associate with.

With that as subtext, just before noon I padded up the red-carpeted spiral staircase to the Champagne Room.

The ballroom had hints of the Palace of Versailles: chandeliers — mirrors all ‘round – more a place for a duel of words than a brawl. The empty stage at the front was set for GBP on one side and DiBella’s team on the other.

Oscar De La Hoya, conferring with an associate, waited down the hall, his back to the media spilling into the ballroom. This wasn’t prizefighter De La Hoya; it was magnate DLH in a tailored pinstripe suit. His tousled black hair tumbled over his collar. He looked like an obscenely paid motivational speaker revving-up for an hour’s pep talk before jetting away.

There was a clear caste system among the media. The beat writers for the dailies were well groomed. The digerati was represented by bloused shirts, sneakers and baseball caps askew. They looked pleased to be grazing at the buffet table; eating better than they normally would and getting validated parking.

De La Hoya joined the group, beaming, and shook hands and autographed whatever was put in front of him, and posed for pictures with press who wouldn’t let it color their stories.

Before De La Hoya spoke, a hush descended. One expected footlights to come up. Both fighters’ teams took seats at the dais like actors waiting for the curtain to rise.

The surroundings stifled the usual din. De La Hoya surveyed the room and welcomed all from the podium. If Oscar’s fists were as slow as his opening remarks, he’d never have won eight titles.
The tension was building, like hearing Don Corleone say, “I didn’t know until this day that it was Barzini all along.”

DiBella stood and glanced at Hopkins, “Remember, Bernard, this side of the table is undefeated against you,” rubbing salt in the wound. “Hopkins,” DiBella went on, “is probably one of the five greatest middleweights ever, but on July 16 we’re going to stay undefeated against you. The Executioner is going to get executed.”

Hopkins stared straight ahead.

It was smash and volley at Wimbledon; the audience craned from one to the other. Pat Burns, Taylor’s trainer since he turned pro, reflected on Hopkins’s age: “I’m not fooled by that age. ‘Many a good tune in an old fiddle,’ I tell my wife. I’m not as good as I once was, but I’m as good as I was once. The laughter exploded and built. “I’m gonna use that,” Hopkins grinned at Burns.
Burns continued: “Hopkins doesn’t have a Masters Degree; he has a PHD. We could call him Dr. Hopkins. Jermain Taylor may be the student, but he’s about to graduate. All good things come to an end. July 16, there’s a new sheriff in town.”

Taylor looked more like 160-pound Herschel Walker and spoke as humbly as Joe Louis. “You’ll never hear me sayin’ nothing negative about an opponent of mine, because it takes a man to step in that ring – I don’t care if you get knocked out. If you ever been between those ropes, you look at your opponent . . . It’s a helluva feeling. So I’ll never take shots at an opponent.” He lowered his voice “especially an opponent who’s world champion, who accomplished things I can only hope to accomplish in boxing, and in his lifetime, period.”

“I’ll make you all two promises: When I win – and I will – I will not jump all around the ring, whooping and hollerin’, talkin’ about, ‘I told you so!’ ‘I shocked the world,’ and all this hoopla. I’ll still give this man the respect he deserves. He’s a true champion. When I’m a world champion, I hope to be half the champion he is.”

Hopkins stood and braced both hands firmly on the podium. He sported a diamond-crusted Big Ben on his left wrist – just at DiBella’s eye line – that would have drained the treasury of an oil sheikdom. It’s a wonder everyone wasn’t struck blind.

Hopkins paused for dramatic affect and launched into a rant. Every word meant to twist the knife. “I just got three back-to-back PPV fights, at 40-years-old. I don’t think Time-Warner and HBO thought they were being foolish signing an old man.

“The record tells you who I am. I’m always in shape,” yanking-up his shirt with both hands, revealing a mid-section that could only look that tight with airbrushing. I’m a 40-year-old guy. If there was a scale right here now, I’d weigh 166 pounds. Can Jermain Taylor say that?

“40-years-old ain’t a death sentence, for all people that’s lookin’ on their shoulder in corporate America, thinkin’ that that young Turk gonna take their job. Slow down! Take your Geritol, like I do.”

A room full of over-40s cheered.

“Being old ain’t always bad,” Hopkins said. “Everybody in this room had to be young before they became old. “What can I sell you all? I can’t sell you anything but the fight. I can’t sell you me; you know me.

“Every person has a motivational experience . . . It goes all the way back before I was an athlete – 18 plus years ago, at a young 22-years-old. I said, ‘What’ya wanna do with your life? What’re the options?’

“You heard Jermain Taylor’s story . . . It’s touching – and I’m not saying something to be smart, or boastin’…Man had to be a man before he became a man.

“But my biggest goal was not being champion when I got out of the penitentiary — with nine years of parole to walk off, with a GED — with nine felonies. The odds was against me! – Totally against me. I just wanted to stay out of prison. Look where I wound up at.

His voicing rising like an evangelist, “Being considered as one of the five greatest middleweights, looking at DiBella, “from one of my enemies …Don’t have to like me; Respect me.” DiBella acknowledged with a one-finger salute.

Hopkins ignored it. “Interviewers have said: ‘Bernard, you could’ve took Joe blow, here, Willy Lump-Lump, there, who-the-hell–is-this-guy, here. You took on Jermain Taylor; why?’
“I said I fear no man. I don’t believe any fighter can reach the magnitude of mentality in my heart and my spirit – which kept me through this – courtrooms, in the ring, and in my life, personally. You can’t reach that level unless you experienced it. Jermain can’t reach that. He has no experience in that – thank God. That’s my edge.”

Hopkins paused. “I got an incentive now.” “It’s a little personal with me. You all know what that is – or at least the writers do – You all wrote a lot about it.” DiBella’s salute remained in the air. “See, I’m the judge and the jury in that ring,” he continued. The judge won’t have to use no scorecards. I have an incentive to win. I knockout two situations: I knockout a company and I knockout a fighter. That’s my incentive not to become old July 16.

“Ain’t nobody can deny the stats – the consistency…”

“In the ring,” DiBella interrupted. And before Hopkins could continue, he repeated, louder, “IN THE RING…”

“I don’t have no Harvard degree,” Hopkins thrust home. “I never cut the man off when he was speaking. Goes to tell you, even with education, you could be a fool.”

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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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