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D-Hop Still Fighting Way Out of Uncle Bernard's Shadow

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HoltHopkins Bailey 2Four years after an unsuccessful title shot against Holt (left), Demetrius craves another shot. His uncle can help set the table, but D-Hop needs to get cookin' to secure the opportunity. (Hogan)

It is one of those perplexing questions that does not have one absolutely correct answer. Does being the relative of a famous person help or hinder one’s individual development? Is it better to bask in another’s reflected glory, or to try to make your own mark in the world?

For comebacking junior middleweight Demetrius “The Gladiator” Hopkins, his response to the complexities posed by his special but hardly unique circumstances has been to sample bits from both Column A and Column B. For the moment, he again has cast his lot with his Hall of Fame-bound uncle, Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins, whose tough-love approach to his nephew’s boxing career has occasionally been the source of friction between the two.

“I’m OK with Bernard,” Demetrius said. “I respect and appreciate what he’s accomplished, and what he’s trying to do to get me back into a position where I can fight for a world championship. I’m a Hopkins; nothing can change that. I’m proud to be a Hopkins. But I’m older, and I’ve learned from some of the things that have happened in the past. It’s time for me to really establish my own identity as a fighter, my own legacy.”

The younger Hopkins, who once was the IBF’s second-ranked junior welterweight contender, is now 32 and again bidding to regain a measure of relevance at a higher weight, albeit with somewhat lowered expectations. D-Hop (31-2-1, 11 KOs) takes on 36-year-old journeyman Keenan Collins (14-7-3, 9 KOs), of York, Pa., in a non-televised eight-rounder Saturday night in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall, on the undercard of an HBO World Championship Boxing doubleheader headlined by the matchup of WBC lightweight champion Antonio DeMarco (28-2-1, 21 KOs) and Adrien Broner (24-0, 20 KOs). The co-feature pits heavyweights Seth Mitchell (24-0, 20 KOs) and Johnathon Banks (28-1-1, 18 KOs) for Mitchell’s NABO title as well as the vacant WBC International belt.

The card is being staged by D-Hop’s once and perhaps future promotional company, Golden Boy, in conjunction with R&R Promotions and Gary Shaw Productions. And if you think that Bernard Hopkins’ position as a Golden Boy executive is mostly responsible for Demetrius getting what is tantamount to another tryout for a regular gig with GBP, you’d be correct.

“There’s a lot of people that gave me second chances,” Bernard said of Demetrius’ second bid to become part of the Golden Boy stable, the first being sandwiched between stints with Duva Boxing and Main Events. “There are people that gave me third, fourth and fifth chances. You can’t walk around with the cancer of bitterness.

“Boxing is open to redemption and forgiveness. Haven’t I preached that? Haven’t I lived that? I got Demetrius on board after five years of not being under Golden Boy’s banner, although he’s not there yet.”

Demetrius’ former manager, Cameron Dunkin, said he believes D-Hop – who lost a split decision to then-WBO junior welterweight champ Kendall Holt on Dec. 13, 2008, in what has been his only shot to date at a world title – has retained enough of his skills to mount another bid at serious contention. But much depends, Dunkin said, on whether Demetrius exhibits the sort of personal and professional discipline for which is uncle in renowned, and which the nephew has too often lacked.

“I got Demetrius a pretty big signing bonus (with Top Rank),” Dunkin recalled. “One fight we scheduled for him, when he got there he was, I don’t know, maybe eight or nine pounds overweight. The fight was canceled and we had to pay the opponent something like $12,000. So things started off kind of rough.

“But he still got that title fight with Holt. After that, though, it never really got going again. It wasn’t all Demetrius’ fault; things just never fell into place like we all thought they should have. You have to remember, though, that he took the Holt fight on short notice. He had to drop a lot of weight fast. Who knows? If he had beaten Holt, this might be a completely different conversation.”

Dunkin’s exasperation with Demetrius owed not only to the fighter’s failure to fully capitalize on his obvious talent, but with out-of-the-ring issues, one of which was his 2009 arrest on a warrant for an outstanding debt for child support.

“Let’s face it, if he had gone with Bernard from the beginning, I don’t think he ever would have come to me,” Dunkin said. “He and Bernard weren’t getting along and he needed someone to try to move him and get him fights.

“Being Bernard’s nephew, I think, was a benefit to Demetrius in a lot of ways. It separated him from the pack a little bit. But Demetrius got caught up in it at times. He thought that having the Hopkins name should have helped him more than it did, but that doesn’t get it done. At some point, you have to show you can do it all by yourself.

“Which is not to say he couldn’t have gotten it done then, or can’t get it done now. You see guys who are shot at 25 or 26. Bernard is nearly 50 and he isn’t shot. Boxing is a sport where one size doesn’t fit all. Demetrius is only 32. He has so much ability. I brought him out here (to Las Vegas) to camp and he sparred with one of my middleweights, who’s undefeated now. Demetrius just played with him. People who saw that session almost couldn’t believe how good he was. If he really dedicates himself now, I definitely think he can win a world championship.”

Not that total dedication to their craft is necessarily a family trait shared by both fighting Hopkinses.

“I remember Bozy (D-Hop’s former trainer, Derek “Bozy” Ennis) telling him, `You can say what you want about your uncle, but Bernard takes care of himself. He trains, he’s dedicated, he’s a true professional prizefighter,’” Dunkin said. “Bernard lives like that life 365 days a year. There aren’t a lot of those guys around.”

Bernard Hopkins’ adherence to a strict code of conduct, one he constantly tried to impose upon Demetrius, the son of his older sister, Bernadette, at various times spurred the nephew push himself harder. But it also frequently raised the kid’s hackles.

“I gave Demetrius his first pair of gloves,” Bernard said before his 2005 first bout with Jermain Taylor. “Demetrius would cry all the time. I’d tell Bernadette that he’d always be in trouble if he didn’t stand up to the tough guys who were giving him a hard time. So I took him around the corner to Mr. (Jazz) Jarrett, right in the basement, and put the gloves on him. Within a month, nobody was picking on Demetrius anymore. Within a year, he was putting combinations together and winning these little trophies, and he was hooked.

“It was an accident it happened that way, but, you know, he at least had to learn how to defend himself.”

As he got older, Demetrius sought to assert his independence from Bernard. Upon withdrawing from Temple University in 2000, he signed his first promotional contract with Dino Duva, against Bernard’s advice, and he only temporarily was trained by Bernard’s longtime chief second, Bouie Fisher (now deceased), preferring to return to Ennis. (Demetrius is now trained by Danny Davis.) The two also squabbled about other things, raising an already high tension level.

“There is a lot of pressure,” Demetrius said in June 2003. “People always want to compare me to my uncle. It’s like I can’t ever have a bad day or somebody will say, `You’re not as good as Bernard.’”

Nor were unflattering comparisons of his ring achievements in comparison to Bernard’s the only source of irritation for Demetrius.

“My uncle and me have our differences,” he said in 2008. “It’s not going to work out between me and him. The man kicked me out of my apartment. He kicked me, my son and my fiancée out.

“We don’t get along. It’s been like that for a while. It’s a shame. He’s got to learn how to talk to people and respect people.”

But time and circumstances, if not healing all wounds, at least provide grounds for uneasy truces. Besides, maybe the old saying really is true that blood is thicker than water.

Demetrius admittedly has much ground to make up. He fought just once in 2011, a 10-round, unanimous-decision loss to Brad Solomon, and once this year, an eight-round, unanimous decision over Doel Carrasquillo in Costa Mesa, Calif., with Bernard at ringside. An impressive showing against Collins could serve the purpose of reminding fight fans that he still is out there, and maybe as a potential factor in his new weight class.

“Demetrius understands that he represents not only himself in the ring, but the legacy of the Hopkins family,” Bernard said in 2005, a fact of life that neither man is apparently unable to overlook even if they wanted to.

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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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