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Hopkins Aims To Get Satisfaction One More Time

Bernard Fernandez

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It was a seemingly innocuous question about musical preferences, but with Bernard “The Alien” Hopkins, every question he asks or answers in response to someone else’s question probably has a hidden meaning.

“What’s your favorite rock band?” he inquired in the most recent of the several hundred conversations we’ve had over the 27 years we’ve known each other.

“The Rolling Stones, I guess,” I replied, after momentarily weighing the merits of Mick and Keith against those of John, Paul, George and Ringo.

“Well, I’m the Rolling Stones of boxing,” said Hopkins, the former middleweight and light heavyweight champion who turns 51 on Jan. 15 but is not quite ready to exit stage right. “How many people would want to see the Rolling Stones in concert one more time before they shut it down?

“HBO holds an option on me to do one more fight. I didn’t get a `Dear John’ letter after the one with Sergey (Kovalev). That tells me they want to showcase Bernard Hopkins again, in his farewell fight. And it is going to be big. It’s going to be a real event, a celebration.”

If all goes according to plan – and, in boxing, that is always an iffy proposition – Hopkins’ departure from the ring, as least as an active boxer, will be a challenge of WBO super middleweight champion Arthur Abraham (43-4, 29 KOs) in late January, and probably somewhere in Abraham’s home country of Germany. If he can pull this off, and win, it would be another milestone in a Hall of Fame career for Hopkins (55-7-2, 32 KOs), who moved up from middleweight to light heavyweight without a stopover in the 168-pound weight class.

“I want it (his last fight) to be at 168, the division I skipped over,” Hopkins explained. “The idea of becoming a champion in three divisions excites me. And fighting me is good for Abraham, too. He sees this as a chance to boost his own legacy, and what’s wrong with that?

“I have a very important meeting next week in New York City with Ken Hershman (president of HBO Sports) and Peter Nelson (vice president of programming for the premium-cable giant) when I go there for the `Triple G’ (Gennady Golovkin) fight. We’re going to hash out what needs to be hashed out and get it done.”

There are those – hey, you know who you are – who were ready to stick a fork in Hopkins and declare him done after his most recent attempt to add another layer to his legend, last Nov. 8 in a light heavyweight unification showdown with Sergey Kovalev in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall. Kovalev knocked Hopkins down in the first round and dominated throughout in winning a one-sided unanimous decision, but neither did B-Hop embarrass himself. At 49, the seemingly ageless wonder from Philadelphia had gone the distance with maybe the most devastating puncher in the light heavyweight division since Michael Moorer still could make 175, a Russian wrecking machine who had won 13 of his previous 14 bouts by knockout or TKO (there was one technical draw in there) and has since starched two more opponents. It says much about Hopkins’ unflinching belief in himself, and his willingness to keep testing himself at the highest levels, that he even considered swapping shots with the likes of Kovalev.

“I took the Sergey fight because I thought I could win,” Hopkins said. “He proved me wrong. But that’s the kind of guy I am, and will continue to be.”

Not wanting to take his leave on such a note, Hopkins figured he’d go after a super middle belt, making the procurement of such his swan song. For a time he thought he had something cooking with IBF champ James DeGale of England, but that didn’t work out. DeGale (21-1, 14 KOs) instead will defend his title against former IBF super middle champ Lucian Bute (32-2, 25 KOs) on Nov. 28 in Quebec City, a fight which will be televised by Showtime.

“You know how it goes,” Hopkins said of the failed negotiations with DeGale. “When people drop my name, they know I’m going to respond. And then things change quick when you call their bluff.”

It is Hopkins’ belief – well, at least his hope – that the Abraham camp is more intent on reaching a binding accord. If Hopkins must board a plane and go to Deutschland, where the 35-year-old Abraham, who was born in Armenia, moved to Germany when he was 15 and eventually become a naturalized citizen, is something of a national hero, he’s amenable to surrendering home-country advantage.

“Whatever makes sense,” he said of the selection of a venue. “I don’t mind eating at somebody else’s table if they give me enough food to satisfy me and it’s fair. I can go to Germany, no problem. It makes me even more motivated to beat a guy on his own turf.”

Hopkins has done the retirement cha-cha before. His unanimous-decision dethronement, as a 3-1 underdog, of IBO light heavyweight ruler Antonio Tarver on June 10, 2006, was supposed to be his finale. He was 41 then, a year past the deadline his mom, Shirley, had set for her son to walk away from his brutal sport. HBO executives even threw him a party to celebrate the occasion. But, 13 months later, Hopkins was back at his old stand and scoring another points nod over the crafty Winky Wright.

“I’m glad I came back,” he said. “Mama Shirley (now deceased) blessed me to go ahead and get 10 more years. I didn’t want to break my promise, but I had to satisfy myself. Can you imagine all that would have been missed if I really had quit at 40 or 41?

“Mama Shirley has been looking out for me these last 10 years, man. But now it’s time (to step away), or almost time. I’m ready. Age is age. This will be the last one, for sure. I know I’m not 35 or even 40 anymore. But I’m not like your normal 50-year-old, either.”

The trick is whether Hopkins, who treats his body as a sacred shrine and has never had a problem keeping his physique lean and chiseled, can get down to 168 without sacrificing strength and stamina. He’s convinced it won’t be a problem.

“I have to go to work, but then I always do in training,” he said. “I’d go down to Miami Beach, where I haven’t trained in years. I’m already near the light heavyweight limit. At 168, I’ll be as sharp and quick as I need to be.

“I was never the biggest light heavyweight anyway. I don’t have that kind of frame. My metabolism works different because of my clean lifestyle and my genetics. If I got to scratch and dig to take off another pound or two, it won’t take that much, if anything, out of me.

“The most I ever got up to since I’ve been boxing, not doing nothin’ for two or three weeks, probably was around 185. I might have been 190 after I got out of Graterford (a Pennsylvania prison), stopped eating that prison food and blowed up on starches. But then I started disciplining myself. The knowledge I have now, I didn’t have then.”

Regardless of what happens against Abraham, or even if nothing happens, Hopkins won’t regard the end of his long run as a fighter to be, well, the end of him as a person of substance. He says he is “at halftime” of his life, which must mean he expects to live to 100 or more. And however many years he has left, he does not intend to waste them staying home and reminiscing about past glories.

“I got a lot of things going on, with Golden Boy (his promotional company, with which he is an executive), with color commentating,” Hopkins noted. “You ain’t seen nothing yet, so buckle up.”

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

David A. Avila

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Pulev

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

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Gorman

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

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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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