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Bernard Hopkins Weighs In on Golden Boy Situation

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?The last time Bernard Hopkins registered a knockout in the ring was on Sept. 18, 2004, when he landed a left hook to the liver that put Oscar De La Hoya, gasping for breath, down and out on the canvas in the ninth round of their middleweight unification showdown at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand.

?A decade later, is Hopkins prepared to again knock out the “Golden Boy,” only this time in a business sense?

?Although he insists nothing is etched in stone at this point, Hopkins, who shortly after that watershed victory a decade ago became a limited partner in De La Hoya’s company, Golden Boy Promotions, is dropping broad hints as to where his loyalties lie in the aftermath of Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer’s announcement on Monday that he had resigned that position, effective immediately.

?“It’s got to be run by somebody,” Hopkins said of Golden Boy Promotions’ now murky future. “But it’s going to be very, very difficult for Golden Boy to keep the credibility of the brand without Richard Schaefer.

?“A guy like Richard – and let me say that we don’t always agree on everything – really can’t be replaced. I’ll reiterate: Richard Schaefer cannot be replaced. Things will continue to be run (at GBP), but they won’t – can’t – be the same. Richard is a man who is stern when he needs to be stern, and fair when he needs to be fair. It’s hard to find people like that in boxing. He’s one of the biggest and most respected players there is. Even the people who don’t care for him too much on a personal level have got to respect him when it comes to the way he does his job.

?“Think about it. Who really ran Golden Boy? I’m not talking about popping up in the office once or twice a year. Who was there, doing the deals, on a day-to-day basis?”

?If that sounds like a veiled shot at De La Hoya, the occasional visitor to his own company whose relationship with his onetime close friend Schaefer has grown increasingly chilly, draw your own conclusions.

?“Oscar’s been talking to certain people,” Hopkins said, a pointed reference to the olive branch extended by De La Hoya to his former promoter and more recent adversary, Top Rank founder Bob Arum, with whom Schaefer has adamantly refused to do business. “He’s been tweeting. He showed up at Canelo’s (Alvarez) camp. OK, he’s rededicated, he’s gotten himself together, he’s burying the hatchet (with Arum). Great. But with him doing all that, is anybody really surprised that this thing with Richard happened? The only thing that’s a shock is that it took this long to go down.”

?The ramifications of the De La Hoya/Schaefer split are significant. It was Schaefer who has a close personal and working relationship with boxing’s most bankable fighter, FloydMayweather Jr., as well as with Mayweather’s influential adviser, Al Haymon, whose deep roster of fighters regularly appeared on Golden Boy cards but all of whom were not under contract to GBP. Schaefer’s resignation was quickly followed by an announcement from Leonard Ellerbee, chief executive of Mayweather Promotions, that Mayweather and, most likely, Haymon’s other A-list fighters were also severing relations with GBP. That leaves De La Hoya’s depleted stable with a new lead pony, Alvarez (43-1-1, 31 KOs), who takes on Erislandy Lara (19-1-2, 12 KOs) on July 12 at the MGM Grand.

?Although it is widely presumed that Schaefer, a Swiss-born banker who had no background in boxing until he became De La Hoya’s business manager and then GBP’s CEO, will now partner up with Mayweather, Haymon and Ellerbe, there are legal issues that must be ironed out. For one thing, Schaefer – who signed a contract extension with GBP in April 2012 that Hopkins said “runs until, I think, 2017 or 2018” – remains a shareholder in the company, which could make it difficult for him to join Mayweather Promotions or some other promotional entity until the expiration of that arrangement. In a prepared statement, Schaefer indicated that he will “look forward to the next opportunity,” and that he hopes that opportunity is in boxing, but he also noted that he also is “proud to remain a shareholder, so I have a strong interest in the continued success of the company.”

?For his part, Ellerbe said, “Richard will have a tremendous impact on whatever he decides to do and wherever he goes. We always welcome smart leaders, but I don’t know what his future is.”

?Hopkins has spent his share of time in courtrooms, having engaged in bitter and ultimately litigated disputes with several of his past promoters, managers, trainers and advisers, including Butch Lewis, Don King, Bouie Fisher and Lou DiBella. He has an idea of where all this is headed.

?“You know it’s funny,” he said. “When I joined Golden Boy, people were actually betting that somehow I would find a way to screw it up. But I’m still here.”

?Yeah, but for how long? At 49, Hopkins (55-6-2, 32 KOs), the IBF and WBA light heavyweight champion, is looking forward to another unification matchup, with WBC 175-pound titlist Adonis Stevenson (24-1, 20 KOs). Whether that bout, if it comes off, is under the Golden Boy banner has yet to be determined.

?“I’m not under contract to Golden Boy,” stressed Hopkins, who added that he has spoken recently to both De La Hoya and Schaefer. “No one has asked me to come here or to stay there. I got my own team, a separate team. When all is said and done, I’m going to evaluate everything and decide to do what’s best for Bernard Hopkins. I’m going to try to be fair to everybody, but I got to look out for me first. It’s crucial for me to make the right move, whether it’s with Richard or with Oscar. I worked too hard to get here to do anything else.

?“No matter what, though, what’s going on now between them won’t affect me from getting in the ring and winning another title. I want to continue to unify the light heavyweight division, and with two titles I’m in better position to do that now, regardless of the shakeup. I could even promote my next fight myself. It won’t be an emotional decision. I’m going to align myself with the best, with the smartest, and with whoever can do the most for me at this stage of my career.”

?Hopkins was asked if the timing of Schaefer’s resignation could be interpreted as an attempt to somehow diminish De La Hoya’s induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame on Sunday. He said he didn’t think so, although Schaefer will not be in Canastota, N.Y., for the ceremony, which also would seem to say a lot.

?“That’s one way to look at it,” he said of the perception some have that Schaefer is intentionally trying to detract from De La Hoya’s Hall of Fame moment. “It’s the easy way to look at it. But let’s keep it real. The last 30 or 40 days, and maybe longer, this thing has been massaged every which way. Is anybody surprised that this thing with Richard happened?

?“But I don’t think too much should be read into the timing. Fights need to be negotiated, deals need to get done, whether it’s Hall of Fame weekend or not. Look, we all have to do what we think is best. I think Richard got to the point where he just couldn’t wait another week to do what he did. He probably felt he couldn’t wait another day.”

Hopkins also said the Showtime/HBO, Golden Boy/Top Rank “Cold War” was “foolish from the beginning. A lot of fans got hurt, and are still getting hurt to this day. They’re missing out on a lot of big fights. But it is what it is.”

There was one more potential surprise offered by Hopkins, who professed admiration for Haymon, who could become part of whatever remains of his twilight as an active fighter. That statement further suggests that boxing’s ageless wonder could soon be parting ways with Golden Boy.

“I have great respect for him, and he has great respect for me, going back to the day when he came into boxing with one fighter, my friend, Vernon Forrest, `The Viper,’” Hopkins said of Haymon, the Boxing Writers Association of America’s 2013 Manager of the Year. “I was on the other side from him when Al was representing Jermain Taylor.

“I don’t have a contract with Al Haymon, but I wouldn’t mind having one because he knows the business and he knows how to make the moves to get you where you need to be.”

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Crawford Ends it Like a Champ

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This past weekend WBO welterweight titleholder Terence Crawford 34-0 (25) retained his title stopping Jose Benavidez 27-1 (18) in the 12th round. Crawford was cruising along dominating the fight from the sixth round on, then came out hard in the last round and went for the kill against a tiring Benavidez. It ended abruptly when Crawford jarred and dropped Benavidez with a right uppercut to the chin. Benavidez beat the count but was immediately overwhelmed by Crawford as soon as the fight resumed and it was halted.

Prior to the bout Crawford was considered the best pound for pound fighter in boxing by many. His performance against Benavidez more than likely further endorses that sentiment. Unless Benavidez being competitive during the first five rounds is enough to make some re-think their position? For those who weren’t aware, Benavidez was the fifth undefeated opponent Crawford has defeated in a title bout over three weight divisions and he’s now 12-0 (9) in world title bouts.

The Benavidez fight was Crawford’s first title defense since winning it from Jeff Horn this past June. And it started in typical Crawford fashion. For the first two rounds Crawford surveyed Benavidez (who may be the biggest and longest welterweight in the division) while Jose was looking to apply his physical advantages. Crawford fought from a conventional stance through the first round and then as it was winding down he reverted to fighting as a southpaw and stayed in that stance for the rest of the fight. In the second Crawford did a little of everything but was mostly trying to get a read on Benavidez’s long jab. He tried leading and countering both on the move and in flurries but wasn’t initially met with overwhelming success. Benavidez forced Crawford to work as Jose moved in from a slight crouch hoping to lure Crawford into going first, and he did. However, Crawford disrupted his plan by slamming him to the body.  In return, Jose also went to the body but the difference over the first five rounds was Crawford’s quicker hands and more imaginative offense.

By the time the sixth round rolled around, Benavidez, who initially showed up to win, was reduced to accepting that he can’t outfight Crawford. Thus, he was reduced to doing just enough to keep Crawford from brutalizing him and to save face. During the mid-rounds when Crawford was killing his body and then flurrying with right hooks to the head – the only thing Benavidez could offer back was a shrug of his shoulders. In other words Jose was trying to con the judges into thinking Crawford was fighting his rear off yet he couldn’t do any real damage. Muhammad Ali applied the same con job against Joe Frazier during their first fight, and like Frazier, Crawford ignored it and kept working the body and mixing things up.

By the eighth round, Benavidez was slowed to a walk and his punch output was reduced to just doing enough so Crawford couldn’t go at him with total impunity. However, that was about to change. Crawford raised the rent in the 10th round and started to plant more and forced Benavidez to retreat after whacking him with straight lefts and counter right hooks to both the head and body. The more Benavidez refused to engage and shrugged his shoulders trying to convince Terence he couldn’t hurt him – Crawford knew better and in turn stayed focused and kept going at Benavidez when he knew he really was done fighting and hoping to go the distance. The problem was the bad blood between them was something Crawford wouldn’t let go of nor was he about to show his thoroughly drained and beaten opponent any mercy….it’s not in Crawford’s DNA.

Finally, after a pretty spirited fight, and winning all but maybe two rounds going into the 12th, Crawford had Benavidez where he wanted him – and that was right in front of him, tired and defenseless with little punch or resistance left. It was obvious as the fight wore on Crawford wanted a stoppage victory and wouldn’t be happy until he separated himself from his lanky opponent and the only way to achieve that was by ending the fight inside the distance.

“It was coming,” Crawford said. “It was just a matter of time. He slowed down tremendously. He was tired. That’s when I seen my opportunity to take my uppercut shot. Every time I’ll feint, he would pull back. So I was like, ‘Now is not the time.’ But once he slowed down, I seen that I can catch him with it and then that’s what I did.”

Crawford met Benavidez, who attempted to stem the tide, at the start of the final round. Terence unloaded on Benavidez to the head and body, wasting few punches. Crawford worked with the intent to finish his younger and beaten opponent. Crawford landed a jarring right uppercut that had Benavidez go down, nearly in a half somersault. Once they resumed engaging, Crawford flurried and the bout was stopped with 18 seconds to go in the fight.

The showing was impressive on Crawford’s part because he was troubled early due to Benavidez’s size and somewhat unconventional style. Jose had his moments and found moderate success with his jab and a few right hands he landed when Crawford retreated sometimes moving back in a straight line with his hands low. But other than that the fight wasn’t close and the fact that Benavidez realized he couldn’t win by the fifth round, he did what he could to prevent Crawford from beating him up but not much else.

Due to the fight going almost the entire distance, some observers feel Crawford was underwhelming; I don’t. And the reason is, Benavidez is better than most thought and he is the bigger man and it was pronounced seeing them in the ring together. In beating his bigger foe Crawford emptied his toolbox. He boxed during the periods he was devising an attack strategy, he moved and forced Benavidez to use his legs and work…..and then countered when Jose tried to be assertive. Crawford’s body punching to both sides was impressive and truly paid dividends down the home stretch. And the right uppercut that dropped Benavidez shows that although Crawford isn’t a life-taker when it comes to power, he consistently lands clean shots that his opponents never see coming.

Crawford closed the fight like the champ he is and once again exhibited why he’s the most diverse and stylistically versatile fighter in boxing. He answered mostly all of Benavidez’s punches with his own which is a staple of his style. Terence showed he’s capable of fully concentrating while fighting mad and seems to have an answer for anything and everything he’s confronted with. Crawford has no real weakness other than him not being a big welterweight.

There isn’t one welterweight in the world on his level as a fighter and technician. For Errol Spence, Keith Thurman or Shawn Porter to beat him – they have only one option. They better hope and pray that their physicality along with the ability to apply it can be a game changer…because if they can’t overwhelm him physically, they’ll be picked apart and totally outfought and out-thought starting around the third or fourth round when they eventually meet.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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Terence Crawford Has Conquered the World, and Now He’s Won Over Nebraska

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It was a day of even more anguish for Nebraskans, making for a night of even more exultation in a state where boxing – or, at least a particular boxer – is emerging as a hero and much-needed source of pride for citizens left wondering about the sorry state of the once-mighty Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Hours after those Cornhuskers snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, blowing a 10-point lead in the final 5 minutes, 21 seconds to fall 34-31 in overtime at Northwestern and begin a college football season 0-6 for the first time in program history, WBO welterweight champion Terence “Bud” Crawford defended his title with panache and power, stopping previously undefeated challenger Jose Benavidez, Jr. in the 12th round to buttress his argument that he is the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet. There are still pockets of resistance to his claim to that designation, of course, but none coming from the ESPN broadcast crew of Joe Tessitore, Timothy Bradley Jr. and Mark Kriegel, all of whom intermittently offered their opinion that the switch-hitting Omaha resident has now firmly established himself as best of the best.

The 31-year-old Crawford’s latest bravura performance was met with shouted hosannas of approval from the sellout crowd of 13,323 in Omaha’s CHI Health Center, a record for a boxing event in Nebraska, and a stark contrast to the burgeoning sense of panic among Cornhusker partisans, who have to be wondering who these impostors in the red-and-white uniforms are.

Crawford grew up in a poor section of Omaha as an avid Nebraska fan, and after his latest demonstration of nimble footwork, fast, accurate hands and surprising power you could hardly blame his fellow home-state citizens from wondering if he might be persuaded to enroll at NU and play quarterback for his floundering favorite team. The ability to finish strong, taking the fight even harder to Benavidez in the final round when the more prudent move might have been to simply run out the clock, stamps Crawford as the pugilistic equivalent of Tommie Frazier, the option master who led the Huskers to back-to-back national championships in 1994 and ’95. But even the legendary Frazier wasn’t perfect; he was 43-3 as a starter during his four-year college career. Crawford, now 34-0 with 25 wins inside the distance, has a vision of someday retiring undefeated, a goal that at this stage seems entirely reasonable.

Top Rank founder and CEO Bob Arum, Crawford’s promoter, cited the fighter’s 12th-round mugging of Benavidez, the key blow being a ripping right uppercut that he had hidden up his figurative sleeve like a card sharp’s ace, as proof that the three-division world champion is indeed separate and above the madding crowd.

“Most fighters today, in that position, having clearly won the fight, would back off in the 12th round, not take any chances and run out the clock,” Arum said. “Not him. He’s a performer. He wanted to close the show, and that’s what he did. That’s what makes him special. That is not the mindset most (other fighters) have. But Terence is a showman. He wants to make a statement.”

He especially wanted to make it, and as loudly as possible, against the mouthy Benavidez (27-1, 18 KOs), who has been talking smack about Crawford for months and gave him a hard shove at Friday’s weigh-in, which precipitated a retaliatory right hook from the champion. It missed, thankfully, but no matter. Crawford landed plenty of shots that did when it mattered, smoothly alternating, as always, from an orthodox stance to southpaw and back again.

“We just took our time today,” Crawford said, referring to himself in the plural rather than the singular, a nod toward his support team, most notably manager-trainer Brian McIntyre. “Everything that went on this week, he was trying to get in my head, wanting me to have a firefight with him. I knew if we got in a rhythm we could do whatever we wanted, and that’s what we did.

“He made me work in the early rounds. He was trying to counter me, working on my distance. I couldn’t figure it out at first. But once I got my distance, it was a rout from there.”

Maybe the rout evolved methodically and in a controlled fashion because that’s what Crawford, who had vowed to “punish” Benavidez for his impertinence, had in mind all along. He is a man of his word, and, also as he had vowed, he declined to touch gloves with Benavidez or to offer even a halfhearted hug after the final bell. No surprise there; like fellow Omaha native Bob Gibson, the St. Louis Cardinals’ Hall of Fame pitcher, he regards all opponents as the enemy and thus off-limits to fraternization of any kind.

What about that kept-in-reserve uppercut, which sent Benavidez tumbling awkwardly to the canvas and in obvious distress?

“I’d been seeing it rounds and rounds ahead of time,” said Crawford, who is now 5-0 in Omaha and 6-0 in  Nebraska, counting a sole appearance in Lincoln. “I seen him pulling back,but then he stopped pulling back so I started leaning more and more because I was touching him to the body. Then I threw the shot, and it landed.”

For those with a need to crunch numbers, official scorecards through 11 completed rounds all had the overwhelming wagering choice – Crawford went off at minus-3,000, or a 1-to-30 favorite – winning big on the scorecards tallied by judges Levi Martinez (110-99), Robert Hecko (108-101) and Glenn Feldman (107-102). Punch statistics furnished by CompuBox also were conclusive if not necessarily off-the-charts, with Crawford landing 186 of 579, a decent but not overly so 32.1 percent, to 92 of 501 (18.4 percent) for the outclassed but game Benavidez. But boxing is basically  an art form, not math, and like all artists Crawford is more about aesthetic impression than raw data.

For his part, Benavidez, who had promised to “shock the world” by “exposing” Crawford, figured he had done as well, if not better, than most of Bud’s previous victims.

“I gave him a hell of a fight,” Benavidez reasoned. “But I got tired. Boxing, you know. I was pretty impressive. I wanted to give the fans a fight that they paid to come watch. I know he didn’t think I would be that good.

“I take nothing from him. He’s the best of the best for a reason. He’s a good fighter, you know? But I’m a good fighter, too. I had that fight close.”

In the co-featured bout, 21-year-old featherweight Shakur Stevenson (9-0, 5 KOs), a silver medalist at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, was much more dynamic than he had been in scoring a relatively pedestrian eight-round unanimous decision over Carlos Ruiz on Aug. 18 in Atlantic City, blasting out Romanian veteran Viorel Simion (21-3, 9 KOs) in one round. The southpaw Stevenson’s weapon of choice was the right hook, which he used to telling effect to floor Simion three times, prompting referee Curtis Thrasher to wave the bout off after an elapsed time of three minutes.

Simion, a 36-year-old Romanian whose previous losses were to former world champions Lee Selby and Scott Quigg, was penciled last in as a replacement for the injured Duarn Vuc, had never been stopped in his 12-year pro career and he looked askance at Thrasher, as if disbelieving that he would not be given the opportunity to fight his way out of trouble in the scheduled  10-rounder.  But, his legs still wobbly, he was not pleading a winnable case.

“My power was here tonight, and my speed,” said Stevenson, who claimed the vacant WBC Continental Americas 126-pound title. “Ain’t too much more that I can work on, but I’m going to keep staying sharp and get right back in the gym.”

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Close Early, Then All Crawford

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Terence “Bud” Crawford stopped Jose Benavidez, Jr at 2:42 of the 12th round. Benavidez came in with an unblemished record of 27-0. That run of success came to a screeching halt tonight. For the first half of the bout, Benavidez didn’t fight like the 20/1 underdog that the odds reflected in gaming shops across the globe. He made a good accounting for himself during the first six rounds, however the same can’t be said for the remainder of the fight, as Crawford dominated from the midway point on. It was the beginning of the end with Crawford landing a picture perfect uppercut that found it’s mark late in the final stanza. While Benavidez deserves credit for getting back to his feet, he only managed to prolong the inevitable for a handful of seconds more. Crawford goes to 34-0, with 25 by KO.

Story to follow.

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