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Semi-Silent Hopkins Saying Less, Meaning More

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HopkinsDawsonIINYPC Fusco18The April 28 do-over with Chad Dawson might or might not be one of the more difficult fights for Bernard “The Executioner” to prepare for, but there is little doubt it has placed certain restrictions on Kelly Swanson, Hopkins’ usually harried personal publicist.

In the 47-year-old Hopkins, Swanson and her assistant, Lisa Milner, have boxing’s ultimate Chatty Cathy, a nonstop quote machine that spews opinions and anecdotes like no fighter since Muhammad Ali was filling reporters’ notebooks and tape recorders nearly four decades ago. Hopkins has always responded to even the most innocuous questions with rambling responses that are alternately entertaining and outrageous. Maybe even more so than he busts up opponents in the ring, he filibusters the media during press gatherings.

But in the wake of the Oct. 15 no-decision in his first matchup with Dawson (30-1, 17 KOs) in Los Angeles’ Staples Center — a fight that initially ruled by referee Pat Russell to be a second-round technical-knockout victory for Dawson when Hopkins (52-5-2, 32 KOs) was unable (or unwilling) to continue after injuring his left shoulder upon being picked up and hurled to the canvas — the WBC and (ital)The Ring(end ital) magazine light heavyweight champion has withdrawn into a self-imposed cocoon of isolation, declining virtually every interview request. He participated in a teleconference yesterday afternoon (Dawson was on earlier) only because his contract obligated him to do so, and his curt demeanor suggested two things. One, B-Hop wasn’t enjoying this question-and-answer session even a little, and two, he might not available too often or too long for similar grillings up to and including the night of the HBO-televised fight in Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall.

Make of that what you will. You can be sure that Gary Shaw, Dawson’s promoter, does. He regards Hopkins’ vow of semi-silence to be an admission of fear, that he faked the shoulder injury to wiggle out of a bout he knew he was destined to lose.

“I just want to say I never thought Hopkins was hurt,” Shaw reiterated during the teleconference. “We never heard anything about his rehabbing or anything else. My only fear is that Hopkins will not go through with the entire fight (on April 28), that at some point, when he’s taking a beating from Chad, he’ll find another way to get out.

“Chad is a much superior fighter. He’s younger, stronger, more aggressive and eager, once and for all, to put the legend where he belongs – retired and into the (International) Boxing Hall of Fame.”

And what of Hopkins’ unusual reticence, or his refusal to go on one of those obligatory press tours with his 29-year-old opponent?

“Hopkins won’t even do a real press conference with Chad,” Shaw said. “That tells you all you need to know about this fight.”

Shaw also suggested that Hopkins and Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer did everything in their power to avoid Hopkins having to again share a ring with Dawson, and that the only reason he is doing so is because the WBC required that he do so as a condition of retaining his green, bejeweled WBC championship belt.

“They didn’t want the (rematch),” Shaw said. “They lobbied against it. The (second) fight was mandated on the floor of the WBC convention. That’s why Hopkins is taking it. Without that belt, Hopkins is just an old fighter. He needs that belt to be someone.”

An indignant Schaefer reacted to that charge as expected, pointing out that Hopkins “has more belts than people have to hold up their pants. Bernard at 47 doesn’t need belts. He could have fought (Beibut) Shumenov for the WBA belt, (Nathan) Cleverly for the WBO belt. This is the fight that Bernard wanted. He never turns down a challenge.”

So the war of words continues, with Dawson, Shaw and Dawson’s trainer, John Scully, depicting Hopkins as a once-great champion who knows his time has passed and is hesitant, if not exactly afraid, of the beatdown he can expect from “Bad” Chad, and Schaefer offering strong counterpoints in the debate.

“He’s beaten pretty much everyone who is anyone in and around his weight class over the last 20 years, from (Oscar) De La Hoya to (Antonio) Tarver to (Felix) Trinidad to Winky (Wright) to (Kelly) Pavlik to (Roy) Jones, and on and on and on,” Schaefer said of Hopkins. “Yet there are those are still doubting him! It’s amazing. I guess some people never learn.”

It was, of course, left to Hopkins to get in the last sound bite. And the words he uttered – defiant, proud, hinting at a dark conspiracy against him by the fight game’s powers-that-be – did not sound like something a fearful old man would have hurled at skeptics who, let’s face it, too often have made the mistake of writing him off.

If B-Hop is to disappear for a time into another self-imposed media blackout, he made sure his parting comments repudiated the Dawson/Shaw allegations in the strongest possible terms. He has been written off before against fighters he insists are as good or better than Dawson – Trinidad, Tarver, Pavlik, Wright and others – and exposed them as comparative neophytes unable to cope with his ring genius.

“I will continue to kick the naysayers’ ass,” Hopkins said. “But when I win this fight, they’ll find some excuse to say what Chad Dawson wasn’t.

“When you see me reenact what I did in Oct. 2008 (when he pitched a virtual 12-round shutout at Pavlik, who went off as a 6-1 favorite), but even better, then I’ll think about what I want to do – not what they want me to do.”

The “they” Hopkins refers to are those who want to see him drift away into retirement, either by his choice or in the wake of the type of one-sided drubbing he never has sustained in a 22-year professional career. Of his five defeats, only one – the first pairing with Jones, in 1993 – was on a decision clear enough to be considered controversy-free.

“They want to see me on the ground, like Mike Tyson (vs. Buster Douglas), looking for my mouthpiece,” Hopkins said. “It’s no secret they want to get rid of me. But I ain’t that easy to be gotten rid of.

“People are always going to say something bad about me. `Oh, he only fought small guys.’ I heard that. You hear a lot of stuff. I hear more of it than other guys because I’m still here and still succeeding at 47. (Jean) Pascal tried saying I was on steroids.

“I’m only around because I’m special. I worked hard to be special. So why don’t I get the credit that I deserve? I’m the most underrated fighter to achieve what I have that ever walked on the planet Earth.”

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Tanaka vs. Kimora: A Monday Morning Treat For Serious Fight Fans

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Kosei Tanaka was just 4-0 the first time he was appraised on The Sweet Science back in 2015; the question then was, is Tanaka the world’s brightest boxing prospect? The question now is whether or not Tanaka is about to add a strap at a third weight to an already glittering career that has seen him annex belts at 105 and 108lbs in just his first eight fights.

Now 11-0 with seven knockouts he prepares, this coming Monday, to duel Sho Kimura in Nagoya, Japan and with a lot more than just the WBO trinket on the line.

Hearts and minds, as always, translate into dollars and yen. The winner of this all-Japanese contest will find himself buoyed in fame, glory and gold in his home country, which also happens to be one of the few places on the planet where a boxer can collect a small fortune without ever leaving his native shores. Should the winner dare to dream a wider dream, then that too can be facilitated by the win.  Even fistic denizens of boxing strongholds in Japan and Britain feel a shiver run down their spines when the words “Las Vegas headliner” are whispered into their ear.

The favored man among the hardcore in the west is Tanaka. He is still very young at just twenty-three years old and is slick and quick, what the west expects of a Japanese force. Interestingly enough, however, the Japanese seem to be leaning towards Kimura: older, at twenty-nine, armed with a superb work-rate, good power, limited technique but the conqueror of Chinese superstar Shiming Zou who he stopped in the summer of 2017. Zou may have had his bubble burst by the Thai brawler Amnat Ruenroeng in 2015, but it was Kimura who sent him stumbling into retirement and at a time when the talk was of China stealing Japan’s thunder as boxing’s home in the east.

Kimura was indeed impressive that night in Shanghai. He maintained pressure with wonderful variety, eschewing the jab, perhaps, for spells, but filling those gaps with an assortment of wonderful punches, most of all his body attack, which was persistent, withering, and apparently went unscored by two of the three judges who somehow had the Chinese ahead at the time of the eleventh round stoppage. Zou had shown a skill for flurrying while fleeing and Kimura had shown him how to fight.

Now a strapholder at 112lbs, Kimura staged two defenses in the following twelve months. The first was against Toshiyuki Igarashi, the man who beat Sonny Boy Jaro, the man who had beaten the superb champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam before a softer fight against Froilan Saludar. He won both by stoppage.

Kimura, then, rather came from nowhere but made the most of his arrival. What he displayed in all three of these fights was a determination to offer pressure and footwork educated enough to do it while taking many fewer steps than his harried opponent. A tad overrated as a puncher, I suspect, he places himself in hitting position often enough that his default fight plan – chase, harass, throw – makes him capable of hurting his opponents by way of persistence and pressure.

He left Zou, Igarashi and Saludar, broken in his wake.

In short, he is the type of opponent Kosei Tanaka has been waiting for.

There have been calls for Tanaka to be considered a pound-for-pound talent should he overcome Kimura this Monday. I understand the impulse. Tanaka, were he to triumph, would become a three-weight world champion and he hails from a boxing territory which has little direct control over the meaningful pound-for-pound lists, if such a statement is not a contradiction in terms.

In short, it is felt he would be undervalued.

Tempering these calls is the fact that he has never beaten a divisional number one and that Kimura would be, by far, the best opponent he would have bested, and the most proven. Some Tanaka opponents have come good after he defeated them, some were ranked in the lower reaches of their respective divisional top tens when he matched them, but none are scalps as impressive as those dangled by the likes of Errol Spence or Anthony Joshua, who populate the nine, ten and eleven spots in reputable lists.

But this is neither here nor there; the key is not what Kimura does not represent, it is what he does represent. He is the best that Tanaka has met and, I would argue, the first truly elite fighter that Tanaka has met. He is the litmus test and he is one with a stylistic advantage.

Tanaka can punch. Here we will find out whether or not he punches hard enough to keep Kimura off him. Personally, I doubt it and that means that Kimura is going to hand him a serious gut check.

Interestingly, it will not be Tanaka’s first. The first time I wrote about him I stressed that his chin was essentially untested. That is no longer true. Tanaka, who is reasonably sound defensively, can be lazy in minding himself and foolish in pursuing the attack.

Thai puncher Rangsan Chayanram checked him in 2017, delivering a serious eye injury among other ignominies before succumbing in nine; puncher Angel Acosta, a ranked fighter if not a great one, hit and hurt Tanaka repeatedly late in their 2017 contest. If Tanaka has been learning these lessons, expectations concerning his potential may be realized. If he is not, he will fall short. Kimura is the man to test him.

Kimura’s experience and seemingly limitless twelve-round stamina are to be pitted against Tanaka’s skill, proven heart and taut footwork. It sees a superior technician – Tanaka – who has shown a propensity for being drawn into a cruder fighter’s wheelhouse matching an aggressive stalker – Kimura – who specializes in drawing technically superior foes into knockdown-drag-out scraps.

It is framed both as a fight that is likely to finish a future pound-for-pounder’s education and a fight where a young pretender is found out by a grizzled veteran.

Best of all, it is a fight that fight fans can watch for free, simply by clicking here.  The Asian Boxing website has secured exclusive international rights to the fight and will broadcasting it, free of charge, to anyone with an internet connection. As can be seen here, the fight is due to start at 4pm Japanese time.

All the reader has to do is find out what that means for timing in their own corner of the globe and a potential fight of the year will unfold before his or her eyes free of charge.

World class boxing being broadcast for free and including two of the best below 115lbs; a stylistic crossroads contest that opens up the on-ramp to pound-for-pound recognition for at least one of the combatants – on a Monday.  All facts worth keeping in mind the next time that someone tells you boxing’s prime was any number of decades ago.

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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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