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The Controversy Surrounding Hopkins-Dawson…HAUSER

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There are times when it seems as though Bernard Hopkins views the past twenty years in boxing as The Bernard Hopkins Story, with all of the promoters, television executives, and other fighters playing bit roles in the drama of his life.

Patrick Kehoe has referenced Bernard’s “idealistic glorification of himself as the American Dream” and noted “time itself seems to collapse into the black hole of his insatiable yearning for self-definition.”

Hopkins told Tom Gerbasi, “I wanted to be the Bill Russell of my time. I wanted to be the Muhammad Ali, the Jim Brown, the Satchel Paige. I wanted to be a guy known in history.”

“Hopkins,” Gerbasi wrote afterward, “is an idiot, but he’s a smart idiot.”

He’s also a superbly-talented fighter, who has built a hall-of-fame career on a will of iron, extraordinary conditioning, and remarkable technical skills. Bernard doesn’t get hit solidly often. When he does, he’s protected by one of the great chins in boxing.

But if one discounts Jean Pascal as a quality opponent (“Pascal is an ordinary fighter, who’s lucky he lives in Canada,” matchmaker Russell Peltz says), the Hopkins resume has been thin over the past three years. He has beaten Pascal, Enrique Ornelas, and Roy Jones Jr.

Thus, it has been suggested that two things distinguish Bernard from other fighters: (1) his remarkable performance at an advanced age; and (2) he’s one of the few quality fighters in boxing who can’t knock Jones out.

The October 15th match-up between Hopkins and Chad Dawson was marketed as the next building block in the Hopkins legend. Bernard thrives against fighters who are mentally weak. At the August 9th kick-off press conference in New York, he declared, “In boxing, either you fight or you quit. What happens in the ring when things don’t go [Dawson’s] way? Any adversity, he bails out. I just have to give him some problems. We know what will happen. I already diagnosed him.”

At the close of the press conference, when the fighters faced off for the ritual staredown, Bernard stood with his hands at his side. Chad’s hands were clasped behind his backside.

Ticket sales for the fight were poor. Steve Kim reported that the Staples Center was cold-calling and sending emails to past customers, offering significant discounts. Two days before the fight, Gary Shaw (Dawson’s promoter) tweeted, “1st 50 people to email me: gary@garyshawproductions.com, wish Dawson good luck, I’ll leave 2 tix @ will call to fight. Must submit full name.”

Then the hour of reckoning arrived.

To say that round one of Hopkins-Dawson was “slow” overstates the drama. In round two, Chad picked up the pace, with Bernard trying to blunt the action. One minute 45 seconds into the stanza, HBO analyst Max Kellerman opined, “So far, the fight is a stinker.”

Then, with twenty-two seconds left in round two, Hopkins missed with a right hand, leveraged himself onto Dawson’s upper back, and appeared to deliberately push his right forearm down on the back of Chad’s neck. At the same time, he wrapped his left arm around Dawson’s torso to steady himself and apply additional pressure to Chad’s neck.

“Bernard was on his back and was more physical than he should have been,” HBO commentator Emanuel Steward noted later.

Consider for a moment what it feels like to have Bernard Hopkins climb onto your back and jam his forearm into your neck. The intelligent response is to throw him off as fast as possible, which is what Dawson did. Chad rose up and, using his shoulder, shoved Bernard up and off. At one point, Dawson’s left arm was around Hopkins’s right thigh. But Chad let it go before shoving Bernard off.

Hopkins fell backward to the canvas, landed hard on his left elbow and shoulder, and lay there in pain. In response to questioning from a ring physician and referee Pat Russell, he said that he couldn’t continue unless it was “with one hand.”

Russell then ruled that Bernard’s trip to the canvas was not caused by a foul and declared Dawson the winner by knockout at 2 minutes and 48 seconds of the second round.

“I do not have a foul,” Russell said. “I’m not calling that a foul. He was pushing down on top of [Dawson], and [Dawson] lifted him off. It was not a foul. It’s a TKO.”

“He ran from me for three years,” Dawson declared in a post-fight interview. “I knew he didn’t want the fight. He keeps talking about Philly and about being a gangster. He’s no gangster. Gangsters don’t quit. He’s weak physically and mentally. He has no power. I was going to get on him, and he knew it.”

If the decision stands, it will be the first “KO by” on Bernard’s record.

As for what comes next; there are two threshold issues. The first is whether Hopkins was really injured. The general consensus is that he has employed his thespian talents in the past to feign injury and buy time when he found himself in trouble (for example, against Joe Calzaghe). Dawson, for his part, said flatly after the fight, “He was faking.”

According to a spokesperson for the Hopkins camp, Bernard was taken to California Hospital Medical Center after the fight and diagnosed as having a dislocation of the joint that connects the collarbone to the shoulder blade. Presumably, he will waive the confidentiality that attaches to his medical records and allow the examining physician to speak freely with the California State Athletic Commission and the media. That will lay one issue to rest.

The thornier question is whether referee Pat Russell acted correctly.

Section 33 of the Referee Rules and Guidelines adopted by the Association of Boxing Commissions states, “The referee must consult with the ringside physician in all accidental injury cases. The referee, in conjunction with the ringside physician, will determine the length of time needed to evaluate the affected boxer and his or her suitability to continue. If the injured boxer is not adversely affected and their chance of winning has not been seriously jeopardized because of the injury, the bout may be allowed to continue.”

Here, Hopkins told Russell and the ring physician that he couldn’t continue unless it was “with one hand.” Thus, the fight was properly stopped.

After the stoppage, Max Kellerman muddied the waters when he told the HBO-PPV audience, “It should be something like a no decision or no contest because clearly it was an injury [caused] by a non-boxing move. He was thrown to the ground even if he was on top of Chad Dawson.”

But Dawson only did what he had to do to keep Hopkins (who was fouling) from damaging the back of his neck.

Before the fight, Hopkins proclaimed, “Chad Dawson said I’m dirty. All fights are dirty to me. Some are dirtier than others. The referee is in the ring that will oversee anything that he does or I do. When you’re in the fight, things happen he might say is an accident. Things happen I might say is an accident. It’s up to the referee. I don’t have to be dirty to win a fight, but I’m in a fight.”

Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

It has been argued that a title shouldn’t change hands on a ruling of this nature. But it would be wrong to have rules relating to the conduct of a fight that favor a champion over the challenger. Yes, it’s hard on Hopkins for him to lose his title in this manner. But it would be just as unfair to allow him to keep his title and consign Dawson to the wilderness of boxing because of an unfortunate situation that Bernard himself created.

Hopkins will file an appeal of Russell’s decision with the California State Athletic Commission, where his promoter (Golden Boy) has considerable influence. If the outcome is changed to “no contest,” he will retain his WBC and Ring magazine titles. Either way, the WBC can be expected to order a rematch “for the good of boxing” and the lucrative sanctioning fee involved. It will be interesting to see how The Ring (which is owned by Golden Boy) handles the matter.

In sum; there can be no completely satisfactory resolution of the situation that arose in Hopkins-Dawson. But Pat Russell made a reasonable decision. And the view from here is that it was the right one.

Bernard Hopkins was primarily responsible for the injury that he suffered. Is a rematch appropriate? Yes; but with Chad Dawson as the defending champion.


Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His most recent book (Winks and Daggers: An Inside Look at Another Year in Boxing) was published recently by the University of Arkansas Press.

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Fast Results From London: Joshua Takes Out Povetkin in the 7th

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UK sporting

It was a very wet night at Wembley Stadium, but the dampness didn’t diminish the enthusiasm of the crowd which welcomed UK sporting hero Anthony Joshua into the ring with a thunderous ovation. And Joshua didn’t disappoint. After six relatively even rounds, he found his range in the seventh and became the first man to stop Alexander Povetkin. A three punch combo that began with an overhand right sent Povetkin sprawling into the ropes. The Russian beat the count, but Joshua smelled blood and as soon as the ref allowed the proceedings to continue he moved in for the kill. The official time was 1:59.

Povetkin started fast and in the eyes of many observers won the first three rounds. A sharp right hand in the waning seconds of round one reddened Joshua’s nose which leaked blood in the next round. The tide began to turn in round four when Povetkin suffered a cut above his left eye.

Povetkin (now 34-2), was the lighter man by 23 pounds. Joshua had a four inch height advantage and a seven inch reach advantage. And it mattered greatly that AJ was the younger man by 10-plus years. Povetkin wasn’t intimidated by Joshua and had several good moments but, at age 39, his reflexes betrayed him once the fight had crossed the midpoint.

Joshua, who owns three of the four meaningful heavyweight title belts, improved to 22-0 with his 21st stoppage. His next fight is penciled in for April 13 of next year against an opponent to be determined. His promoter Eddie Hearn has reserved that date at Wembley Stadium.

Other Bouts

In a 12-round lightweight bout, Joshua’s Olympic Games teammate and fellow gold medalist Luke Campbell (19-2) avenged the first loss of his career with a unanimous decision (119-109, 118-111,116-112) over France’s Yvan Mendy (40-5-1). This was Campbell’s second start since coming up short in a bid for Jorge Linares’s lightweight title and his first fight under his new trainer Shane McGuigan.

In their first meeting in December of 2015 at London’s O2 Arena, Mendy won a split decision that should have been unanimous. Campbell insisted that he had improved greatly in the interim and tonight’s fight bore witness. However, he needs to develop a harder punch to rank among the top lightweights in the world, a list headed by Mikey Garcia. As this fight was framed as a WBC title eliminator, Campbell is next in line to meet Garcia, but Mikey has indicated that he will pursue bigger game.

Lawrence Okolie, a 2016 Olympian who trains with Anthony Joshua, won a Lonsdale belt in only his 10th pro start with a 12-round decision over defending BBBofC cruiserweight champion Matty Askin in a messy fight. The undefeated Okolie had a point deducted in round five for leading with his head and had two more points deducted for holding, but banked enough rounds to get the nod on all three cards: 116-110, 114-112, and 114-113. Askin, who declined to 23-4-1, had won five straight heading in.

A 10-round heavyweight match between Sergey Kuzmin (13-0, 1 NC) and David Price (22-6) ended suddenly when Price retired on his stool after four relatively even rounds. The six-foot-eight, china-chinned Price claimed to have aggravated a biceps tear.

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Michael Dutchover Remains Undefeated in Ontario, Calif.

Transplanted Texan Michael Dutchover needed a little time to figure out Costa Rican Bergman Aguilar but when he did it was over quickly on Friday.

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Michael Dutchover

ONTARIO-Calif.-Transplanted Texan Michael Dutchover needed a little time to figure out Costa Rican Bergman Aguilar but when he did it was over quickly on Friday.

Lightweight prospect Dutchover (11-0, 8 KOs) knocked out southpaw Aguilera (14-4-1, 4 KOs) in the fifth round with a barrage of body blows that left the Costa Rican limp at the Doubletree Hotel.

For two rounds Aguilar used an awkward counter-punching style that had Dutchover a little tentative. But once he figured out that combination punching was the key, he opened up with barrages and floored Aguilar with body shots at the end of round four.

That signaled doom for Aguilar.

The fifth round saw Dutchover target the body with impunity as Aguilar tried holding, running and covering up with no success. Referee Wayne Hedgepeth signaled the fight over at 2:31 of the fifth round giving Dutchover the win by knockout.

In a bantamweight clash Santa Ana’s Mario Hernandez (7-0-1, 3 KOs) and Mexico City’s Ivan Gonzalez (4-1-2, 1 KO) fought to a majority draw after six back and forth rounds.

Hernandez targeted the body against the taller Gonzalez who relied on long range counters. Both found success but neither could prove superiority after six turbulent rounds.

After six rounds one judge saw it 58-56 for Gonzalez but the two other judges saw it 57-57 for a majority draw.

Other bouts

South Central L.A.’s Ruben Torres (7-0, 6 KOs) extended his undefeated streak with a knockout over Mexico’s Eder “El Koreano” Amaro (6-6, 2 KOs) in a lightweight fight. But it wasn’t easy.

Amaro switched from southpaw to orthodox and was matching Torres for two rounds until the taller local fighter began blasting away to the body and head with precision. Many in the crowd cheered “Koreano” in unison but it couldn’t help once Torres zeroed in.

At the end of the fourth round Amaro could not continue and the fight was stopped giving a knockout for Torres.

Richard Brewart Jr. (2-0) mowed through Edward Aceves (0-5) flooring him with body shots in the first round then overwhelming him in the second. After seven unanswered blows referee Eddie Hernandez stopped the fight at 1:32 of round two giving Rancho Cucamonga’s Brewart the win by knockout in the super welterweight bout.

Southpaw David Ortiz (1-0) won his pro debut by unanimous decision after four rounds in a welterweight match against San Diego’s Mario Angeles (2-11-2). Ortiz lives in Bloomington, Calif. and is trained by Henry Ramirez. No knockdowns were scored.

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Charr-Oquendo Scuttled When Charr Tests Positive; the Odious WBA Saves Face

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Manuel Charr

Manuel Charr and Fres Oquendo were scheduled to fight in Cologne, Germany, later this month (Sept. 29). Charr would be defending his WBA world heavyweight title, the “regular” version of it, not the “super” version which rests in the hands of Anthony Joshua.

The bout was quickly cancelled when it was revealed that Charr had tested positive for two banned anabolic steroids. The test was performed by VADA, the anti-doping agency identified with Las Vegas neurologist Dr. Margaret Goodman.

The 33-year-old Charr, born in Lebanon but a resident of Germany since the age of three, won the belt in his last start with a unanimous decision over 281-pound Russian behemoth Alexander Ustinov in Oberhausen, Germany. The title was vacant. Charr won the right to fight for it with a 10-round decision over Albanian slug Sefer Seferi. The victory over Ustinov elevated his record to 31-4. He has been stopped three times, by Vitali Klitschko, Alexander Povetkin, and Mairis Briedis.

If it wasn’t for bad luck, as the old saying goes, Fres Oquendo wouldn’t have any luck at all. For various reasons, his fights keep falling out. Before long he’ll be drawing social security. Well, not exactly, but he turned 45 in April and hasn’t fought in more than four years.

Oquendo has competed for this belt before. In his last ring appearance in July of 2014, he lost a majority decision to Russia’s Ruslan Chagaev in Grozny, Russia. As a concession for taking the fight on short notice, Team Oquendo negotiated a rematch clause in the contract, but a shoulder injury prevented Fres from activating it. When the injury healed, he had to go to court to compel Chagaev to fulfill his obligation. But then the Russian retired, muddling the water.

The WBA was legally bound to find Oquendo a title fight and in desperation turned to ancient Shannon Briggs. But the Oquendo-Briggs fight, scheduled for June 3 of last year in Hollywood, Florida, fell out when Briggs’ urine specimen showed an abnormally high level of testosterone.

Fres Oquendo was dogged by bad luck even before these recent developments. His professional record, 37-8, is somewhat misleading as six of his eight defeats were razor-thin including his 2003 setback to Chris Byrd and his 2006 setback to Evander Holyfield. However, Oquendo, something of a cutie, was never a crowd-pleaser and in none of his narrow defeats was there a public clamor for a rematch.

The cancellation of Charr-Oquendo cuts the World Boxing Association out of a sanctioning fee, but one would think that the WBA honchos are actually rather pleased by this turn of events. The fight, more precisely the WBA’s world title imprimatur, would have brought more unwanted publicity to the Panama-based organization.

ESPN’s Dan Rafael, who has the largest platform of any boxing writer, has been a persistent critic of the organization which once recognized 41 “champions” in 17 weight classes. In 2009, Rafael wrote, “(The WBA) has become such an absolute farce that even somebody like me, who follows boxing closely, sometimes has a hard time keeping track of all the nonsensical so-called world title belts the WBA has been doling out at an alarming rate. It almost reminds me of the ladies at Costco who hand out various samples on a busy Saturday afternoon.”

Rafael took note when WBA president Gilberto Mendoza promised to cull the herd by eliminating “regular” titles, and then became more caustic when Mendoza didn’t follow through. Recently, in one short, punchy diatribe, Rafael blistered the WBA as wretched, vile, and rancid.

Regardless of your opinion, it’s hard not to feel sorry for Fres Oquendo who keeps getting stranded at the altar. No, he’s not fun to watch and a man of his age shouldn’t be taking any more punches, but he has always been an honest workman and by all accounts he’s a very decent man. Born in Puerto Rico but raised in Chicago, Oquendo pitched right in when the island nation of his birth was ravaged by Hurricane Maria. He was personally responsible for relocating Puerto Rican boxing legend Wilfred Benitez and Benitez’s sister, his caregiver, to Chicago where their lives wouldn’t be as hard.

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