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Hopkins Gearing Up For One Last Battle With Father Time And, Oh Yeah, James DeGale

Bernard Fernandez



He is 50 years old and lost virtually every round in his most recent bout, a light heavyweight unification matchup with Sergey Kovalev on Nov. 8. Not only that, but his normally superb defense, while still effective, is not exactly fan-friendly and calls to mind the displeasure many fight fans voiced after another hard-to-hit technician, Floyd Mayweather Jr., turned his recent “Fight of the Century” against Manny Pacquiao into a 12-round tutorial on the pugilistic equivalent of dodgeball. He might set records every time he laces up the gloves, but even Bernard “The Alien” Hopkins isn’t apt to brag on this statistic: he hasn’t knocked anyone out since he floored Oscar De La Hoya with a body shot for the full count in the ninth round on Sept. 18, 2004. That’s a KO-less streak of 17 bouts spread over nearly 11 years, during which time he posted a good but hardly invincible 10-5-1 mark with one no-decision.

Then again, the normal standards for assessing a fighter haven’t applied to Hopkins since he moved past Archie Moore and George Foreman to become the oldest individual not only to win a widely recognized world championship, but to perform at a level at or near his long-ago entrance into a prime that, like the Energizer bunny, has kept going and going and going.

Now, as he eyes what he insists will (likely) be his final appearance as an active fighter, a highly motivated Hopkins seems primed to again confound and defeat Father Time, the one opponent that no one can indefinitely outlast. There are a couple more indelible entries he expects to add to a legacy unlike any his sport has seen, and even now, after the worst defeat of his 27-year professional ring career, it would be foolish to assume that the most age-defying fighter of all time doesn’t have another miracle somewhere in his bag of tricks.

Although contracts have not been signed and nothing is definite until they are, Hopkins (55-7-2, 32 KOs) is pushing for a challenge of newly crowned IBF super middleweight champion James DeGale (21-1, 14 KOs), a fight that would be televised by HBO and likely would be staged in October in DeGale’s hometown of London.

“This probably will be my last fight, win, lose or draw,” said Hopkins, who has periodically hinted at retirement in the past but always returned to the one thing he knows and loves best. “I’m interested in beating a guy up – the same guy that beat up (Andre) Dirrell.” That would be the 29-year-old DeGale, who scored two second-round knockdowns of Dirrell en route to a unanimous-decision victory when they squared off for the vacant IBF 168-pound title on May 23 in Boston.

“They (HBO officials) love the idea,” Hopkins continued. “It would be another feather in my historic cap. I jumped over a division (from middleweight to light heavyweight) to do something that even the great Sugar Ray Robinson couldn’t do because of heat exhaustion (when middleweight king Robinson, leading on points, had to retire on his stool after the 13th round against light heavy champ Joey Maxim in a sweltering (104 degrees!) Yankee Stadium on June 25, 1952). I can make 168 pounds, no problem. I never considered myself a full-fledged light heavyweight until I got together with (strength-and-conditioning guru) Mackie Shilstone. But that doesn’t mean I was a natural light heavyweight. Now I want the chance to backtrack to the division I jumped over. It’s something I’m really excited about doing if the fight can be made, and I think it can.”

Hopkins refers to history often, which shouldn’t come as a surprise since he is a native of Philadelphia, a city where the Declaration of Independence was signed, the U.S. Constitution ratified and Benjamin Franklin remains the most cherished civic icon. Make no mistake, it would mean plenty to B-Hop to go out by winning a world championship in a third weight class and to do it against a very capable opponent who is 21 years, 19 days younger than himself – the widest age differential ever for Hopkins, who has burnished his reputation by knocking off several men young enough to be his son.

Then again, DeGale figures to also be keen on the historic aspects of the proposed fight. He is the first British fighter to win an Olympic gold medal in boxing (in Beijing, China, in 2008) and also win a professional world title. That is something 16 previous gold medalists from across the pond failed to accomplish. And, while Hopkins seeks to defeat the tag team of DeGale and the calendar, the younger man no doubt would relish the notoriety of being the fighter to usher boxing’s most elder statesman off the sideline for keeps and on a losing note.

Strangely enough – or maybe not so strangely – Kovalev’s promoter, Kathy Duva, thinks Hopkins can and will rebound from his wide points loss to her fighter should the DeGale bout be made.

“Bernard is like a freak of nature,” Duva said. “I can’t explain it. I think he’d be very competitive with DeGale. Honestly, I’d pick him to win.

“If it was anybody other than Bernard Hopkins, I’d say a fight like this was crazy. But Bernard is amazing. Even though he lost to Sergey, he didn’t take a real beating. One thing’s for sure. It would be a huge fight in England. In Europe, when they bring these legendary American fighters over, regardless of their age, they’re warmly received. It’s a big, big deal. So I understand why they’re talking. I know HBO’s deal with Hopkins for the Sergey fight was for him to have the option of fighting one more time, if he so chose.”

Hopkins has history against him – wouldn’t that be a change? – should a pairing with DeGale be arranged. Even though he insists he can make 168 pounds without putting an undue strain on a body that should be preserved for scientific research, fighters who have to come down in weight seem to fare less well than those who go up. Three cases in point: After easily outboxing WBA heavyweight champ John Ruiz to claim that title, Roy Jones Jr., who had bulked up from light heavyweight, depleted himself in taking off the extra pounds of muscle he had added for his brief and successful foray; he lost three of his next four bouts, two by knockout. Two-time former heavyweight titlist Chris Byrd also tried to drop two weight classes and was clearly drained in being stopped in nine rounds by Shaun George, and heavyweight contender “Fast” Eddie Chambers appeared to lose the advantage in quickness he previously held against larger foes when he was easily outpointed by cruiserweight Thabiso Mchunu.

“I want to energize the 50-and-up club around the world that ain’t boxing or playing football or basketball,” pronounced Hopkins, ever the optimist. “You don’t have to curl up and die once you reach a certain age.

“I’m getting ready to invade and take over the 168-pound division, and do it by taking out one of the top guys (DeGale) in that division.”

Longtime HBO blow-by-blow announcer Jim Lampley understands the hunger that fuels Hopkins’ desire to do things that no boxer has ever done and, in fact, no late-40s athlete has achieved with the possible exception of baseball Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan and hockey legend Gordie Howe.

“In spending time with him, I know that he wakes up with a curious mind every day,” Lampley said. “He’s energized by his own natural drive. Among the things he’s curious about is, `Could I do this? Could I do that? Could I beat James DeGale?’ That’s not easily going to go way in him. He’s not finished learning about the horizons that Bernard Hopkins can conquer. It’s just that we’re getting to the point where those horizons no longer will be carved out in the ring, but at ringside (as a new addition to the HBO broadcast team as a color commentator).”

So, what does Lampley – who isn’t inclined to blow smoke up anyone’s backside, even those belonging to the fighter/analysts working alongside him – think of a possible Hopkins-DeGale bout?

“I think it would add something to Bernard’s legacy, in terms of the statistical anomaly of winning a title bout past his 50th birthday,” Lampley said. “That’s probably the main reason why he’s considering it. He wants to put that on his resume.

“DeGale is a real talent, with a legitimate pedigree as an Olympic gold medalist. He scored a terrific win (over Dirrell). It’s be youth against antiquity. There’s a lot of appeal there.”

And if the fight doesn’t happen?

“I don’t think the world tilts on its axis one way or another,” Lampley said with his trademark honesty.

More so than other elite fighters who are obliged by time or circumstances to take their leave from the arena, often the worse for wear, Hopkins has been transitioning himself for the next phase of a career that figures to keep him close to the action. He scored high marks for his commentating during HBO’s telecast of the Kovalev-Jean Pascal fight on March 14 in Montreal, and he spent the entire week leading up to Mayweather-Pacquiao offering insight into that super-hyped matchup for ESPN.

“I’m still at a relatively young age in the business of boxing, maybe not in a physical sense,” said Hopkins, who remains an executive with Golden Boy Promotions. “The physical part ends for everybody, at some point. But the business side can continue, as long as you keep your health and keep your mind sharp. You can make that transition from athlete to the next phase of your life, as Michael Strahan (the former New York Giants defense end-turned-“Live! With Kelly and Michael” co-host) has. Michael is a good friend of mine. We talk or get together nearly every month.

“Really, it’s not that big a change. You got to smile and have fun, and I’ve been doing that.”

Lampley, for one, wasn’t certain Hopkins, as boxing-savvy as he is, could pare down the 10-minute, stream-of-consciousness soliloquys he delivered upon being asked even the simplest of questions into the easily digestible 10-second sound bites required in his new role.

“He has extraordinary expertise and understanding of how to fight,” Lampley said. “I had been concerned, based on past experience, that there might be a problem in his editing himself as to how long it takes to make a point for TV. But, bottom line, he was more disciplined (during the Kovalev-Pascal fight) than he needed to be in terms of keeping his comments short and concise.

“Really, the sky’s the limit for him. Very much like Roy (Jones Jr.), he sees the fight in his uniquely knowledgable way. And very much like Roy, he’s not political and not fearful of offending another fighter. He’s secure enough to say what he thinks, and that’s what you’re looking for in a commentator.”

If there is anything that’s absolutely certain, it’s that Hopkins the color analyst won’t eat his way out of the tailored wardrobe that showcases that sculpted physique that has less body fat than skim milk. Don’t expect him to show up any time soon doing commercials for NutriSystem.

“That whole week (leading up to Mayweather-Pacquiao) I had people coming up to me and saying, `You dress so well. Who dresses you?’” said Hopkins, as proud of his 30-inch waistline as he is of some of his signature victories inside the ropes. “I’d tell them `GQ’ magazine and a men’s fashion app that I have on my smartphone. Man, technology is beautiful.”


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Pulev Wins Heavyweight Clash and Magdaleno Bests Rico Ramos in Costa Mesa

David A. Avila




COSTA MESA, Calif.-Eastern European heavyweights slugged it out in Orange County with Kubrat Pulev scoring a knockout win over Bogdan Dinu on Saturday evening. The win keeps him in line for a possible showdown with Top Rank’s newly signed Tyson Fury.

After a slow start the Bulgarian heavyweight Pulev (27-1, 14 KOs) scored the knockout win over Romania’s Dinu (18-2, 14 KOs) before a large supportive audience who arrived with Bulgarian flags and hats at the OC Hangar in Costa Mesa.

Until the fifth round the action lacked with both heavyweights not eager to fire. But an angry exchange of blows by Dinu saw Pulev emerge with a cut over his left eye. It also opened up the action between the European heavyweights.

Pulev increased the pressure and caught Dinu in the neutral corner where he unloaded right after right on the ducking Romanian fighter who dropped to a knee and was hit behind the head with a blow. The knockdown was ruled down by an illegal punch and a point was deducted from Pulev.

It didn’t matter. The Bulgarian heavyweight proceeded to unleash some more heavy rights and down went Dinu again. The Romanian fighter beat the count and was met with more right hand bombs and down he went for good this time at 2:40 of the eighth round. Referee Raul Caiz ruled it a knockout win for Pulev.

“Sometimes its good and sometimes it’s bad,” said Pulev about his actions in a heavyweight fight. “Sometimes blood makes me very angry.”

Dinu felt that illegal blows led to his downfall. But the winner Pulev was satisfied.

“It doesn’t matter, I was prepared and really good in this moment. I think I was very good boxing today and showed good punching today,” Pulev said.

Former champions

An expected battle between flashy ex-super bantamweight world champions didn’t deliver the goods as Jessie Magdaleno (26-1, 18 KOs) defeated Rico Ramos (30-6, 14 KOs) by unanimous decision after 10 rounds in a featherweight contest for a vacant WBC regional title.

A tentative Magdaleno was cautious and deliberate against Ramos who seemed to be stuck in slow motion for the first half of the fight. Behind some lefts to the body and snappy combinations Magdaleno mounted up points for six rounds.

Ramos stepped up the action in the seventh round and began stepping into the danger zone while delivering some threatening combos inside. Magdaleno resorted to holding and moving as the action shifted in Ramos’s direction.

But it was never enough as Ramos seemed to lack pep. The last two rounds saw Ramos engage with Magdaleno but neither landed the killing blows. After 10 rounds all three judges saw the fight in favor of Magdaleno 97-93, 98-92, 99-91 who now holds the WBC USNBC featherweight title.

“It was a long layoff and I took a fight against a tough, tough veteran and former world champion,” said Magdaleno, whose last fight was the loss of the WBO super bantamweight title to Isaac Dogboe last May. “Got to go back to the drawing board. I boxed as good as I could, he’s just a tough fighter.”

Other Bouts

Max Dadashev (13-0, 11 KOs) was dropped in the second round by muscular Filipino southpaw Ricky Sismundo (35-13-3, 17 KOs) and had a look of surprise. He turned it up in the third round and caught Sismundo rushing in with a slick counter left-right combination on the button. Sismundo was counted out by referee Tom Taylor at 2:30 of the third round of the super lightweight clash.

Former Olympian Javier Molina (19-2, 8 KOs) had a rough customer in Mexico’s Abdiel Ramirez (24-4-1, 22 KOs) who never allowed him space to maneuver in their super lightweight match. After eight close turbulent rounds Molina was given the decision by scores 78-74 twice and 79-73.

South Africa’s Chris Van Heerden (27-2-1, 12 KOs) thoroughly out-boxed Mexico’s Mahonry Montes (35-9-1, 24 KOs) until a clash of heads erupted a cut over his right eye. The fight was stopped in the sixth round and Van Heerden was given a technical decision by scores 60-54 on all three cards.

Welterweights Bobirzhan Mominov (10-0, 8 KOs) and Jonathan Steele (9-3-1, 6 KOs) slugged it out for six back and forth rounds at high intensity. There were no knockdowns but plenty of high level stuff going on. The bigger Mominov had the advantage and tried to take out Mitchell, but the smaller welter from Texas was just too tough and skilled to be overrun. Judges scored it 59-54 three times. Good stuff.

Detroit’s Erick De Leon (19-0-1, 11 KOs) survived a knockdown in the fifth and rallied to win by technical knockout over Mexico’s Jose Luis Gallegos (16-6, 12 KOs) in the seventh round of a lightweight clash. A barrage of unanswered blows by De Leon forced referee Ray Corona to halt the fight at 1:55 of the seventh round.

L.A.’s David Kaminsky (4-0, 2 KOs) out-pointed rugged Arizona’s Estevan Payan (1-7-1) to win by unanimous decision after four round in a middleweight contest.

Tyler McCreary (15-0-1, 7 KOs) fought to a draw with Mexico’s Roberto Castaneda (23-11-2) after six rounds. He got all he could handle from the Mexicali featherweight as both traded blow for blow throughout the contest. It was good experience for the young McCreary who looked good but tried too hard to take out the hard headed Castaneda.

Eric Puente (2-0) beat Alejandro Lopez (1-4) by decision after four rounds in a lightweight match by 39-37 scores all three cards. It was a very close match with little separation between the two.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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U.K. Boxing Update: Gorman, Bowen, Edwards, Quigley, and More

Arne K. Lang




For the second time in the last three months, Great Britain’s top promoters Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren went head-to-head with dueling fight cards in England. When this last happened, back on Dec. 22, Warren had the stronger card from top to bottom, but Hearn’s show had the more compelling main event, namely the rematch between Dillian Whyte and Dereck Chisora. Today the roles were somewhat reversed. Hearn’s show had the stronger undercard, but the fighter attracting the most eyeballs, undefeated heavyweight Nathan Gorman, is promoted by Warren.

Leicester / Queensberry (Frank Warren) Promotion

In a predictably desultory affair, Nathan Gorman (16-0, 11 KOs) outpointed Kevin Johnson (34-13-1). This being a 10-rounder, the referee was the sole arbiter and he gave every round to Gorman, a distant cousin of Tyson Fury.

Kevin Johnson, a pro since 2003, took Vitali Klitschko the distance in 2009 and Tyson Fury the distance in 2012 and more recently went the full route with Daniel Dubois and Filip Hrogivic, but he won scarcely a round in those fights and in recent years has degenerated from a journeyman into a trial horse. He came into the fight 20 pounds heavier than in his last start 13 weeks ago and fought to survive, allowing Gorman to initiate what action there was.

Frank Warren can’t be blamed for promoting this snoozer. Johnson was a late replacement for Fabio Maldonado, a Brazilian who, although something of a mystery, was expected to provide Gorman with a sterner test. But Maldonado reneged after getting a better offer and will now fight Oleksandr Teslenko in Toronto next week.

The 22-year-old Gorman, who carried 253 pounds on his six-foot-three frame, is very light on his feet and some expect him to out-box his harder punching countryman Daniel Dubois when they eventually meet.

In the featured bout, Sam Bowen, a Leicestershire man, retained his British 130-pound title with a ninth round stoppage of Scotland’s Jordan McCorry. Bowen improved to 15-0 with his 10th stoppage.

London / Copper Box / Matchroom (Eddie Hearn) Promotion

In the main event of Hearn’s card, baby-faced Charlie Edwards (pictured on the left) put on a clinic in the first defense of the WBC world flyweight title he won with an upset of Cristofer Rosales. Edwards (15-1, 6 KOs) won every round over determined but outclassed Angel Moreno (19-3-2), a 35-year-old Spaniard and former sparring partner. Edwards scored a flash knockdown with a counter right hand in round six. All three judges had it 120-107.

Irish middleweight Jason Quigley, who signed with Golden Boy coming out of the amateur ranks and had fought exclusively in the United States, improved to 16-0 (12) with a second round stoppage of Mathias Eklund (10-2-2). Eklund was on his feet, but the ref thought it wise to keep the overmatched Finn from taking more punishment after Quigley blistered him with a series of unanswered punches. Quigley’s dream fight would be a match in Ireland with stablemate Canelo Alvarez.

Joshua Buatsi, an emerging star in the light heavyweight division, chopped down Liam Conroy to win the vacant BBBofC 175-pound title. Buatsi had taken out his last three opponents in the opening round but Conroy, who came into the match riding a nine-fight winning streak, lasted into the third. Buatsi, a Londoner born in Ghana and a bronze medalist at the Rio Olympics, improved to 10-0 (8). Conroy, who was on the deck twice, fell to 16-4-1.

Conroy’s promoter Eddie Hearn confirms that Buatsi’s next fight is likely to take place at Madison Square Garden on June 1 underneath Joshua-Miller.

In a cruiserweight fight with British and Commonwealth titles at stake, Lawrence Okolie improved to 12-0 (9) with a fourth round stoppage of Wadi Camacho (21-8). Okolie knocked Camacho to his knees with a hard combination and finished him off with a big right hand.

The most inexperienced British boxer to ever compete in the Olympics, the rangy six-foot-five Okolie has sparred with Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury and will almost assuredly compete as a heavyweight when he grows into his body.

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Meet Tom Schwarz, Tyson Fury’s Next Opponent

Arne K. Lang



Fury vs Schwarz

Someone can’t keep a secret.

Top Rank honcho Bob Arum said he would not reveal Tyson Fury’s next opponent until tomorrow (Saturday, March 23) when he would “unseal the envelope” during the ESPN telecast of his show from the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, CA. But, as the saying goes, the cat is out of the bag. Multiple sources, including ESPN’s Dan Rafael, are reporting that Fury will fight Tom Schwarz in Las Vegas on June 15, likely at the MGM Grand although other Las Vegas venues are in the running.

The reaction has been overwhelmingly negative. By choosing Schwarz over a rematch with Deontay Wilder, Tyson Fury’s reputation in the court of public opinion has taken a big tumble. “Tyson Fury fight with bum Tom Schwarz makes mockery of Gypsy King’s big claims and is bad news for fans,” reads the headline in the online edition of the infamous (but widely read) London Sun. “It’s yet another blow for boxing fans; the paying public is being shortchanged due to a current TV bidding war,” reads the article by the un-bylined author.

Bob Arum and his comrades at ESPN are facing a lot of damage control. We’ll give them a booster shot by saying that Tom Schwarz, a 24-year-old German who customarily carries 240 pounds on a six-foot-five-and-a-half frame, isn’t too shabby.

Here’s the negatives; let’s get them out of the way.

Although undefeated in 24 fights with 16 knockouts, Schwarz has defeated no one of note. The folks at BoxRec are so unimpressed with his strength of schedule that they rate him 41st among heavyweights which, for reference purposes, is 35 slots below Anthony Joshua’s next opponent Jarrell Miller and 31 places below Deontay Wilder’s next opponent, Dominic Breazeale.

Schwarz has had the home field advantage in most of his fights. He’s fought only twice outside Germany and he didn’t venture very far. Six of his fights, including his match with Kristijan Krstacic earlier this month, were in Magdeburg, his hometown.

But there are some plusses that a PR man can seize upon. Although records in professional boxing are notoriously deceiving, it seems relevant that Schwarz’s last six opponents are a combined 84-5-1. He hasn’t fought a real tomato can since October of 2014 when he met Tomas Mrazek, a fellow whose current record shows only 10 wins in 86 fights.

Schwarz’s fight with Krstacic can be found on YouTube. One can’t learn much from it as Krystacic, a 38-year-old Croatian, was outweighed by 31 pounds, but one could see that Schwarz has good fundamentals. He landed some good body shots in the opening round and then clubbed his man into submission in the next stanza, scoring three knockdowns.

German heavyweights, in the main, have performed poorly on American soil although it’s worth noting that many ringsiders thought Axel Schulz deserved the nod when he fought George Foreman at the MGM Grand in April of 1995. Foreman won a majority decision and then relinquished his IBF belt rather than give Schulz a rematch.

If Tom Schwarz is looking for inspiration, he should summon the 1936 ghost of Max Schmeling who was a big underdog when he knocked out the seemingly indestructible Joe Louis. That was a non-title fight, by the way, as will be true of Schwarz’s fight with Tyson Fury unless one of the four major sanctioning bodies creates a hole for it by declaring their title vacant. And as for that possibility, don’t bet against it.

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