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PATERSON’S PREDICTION PAGE: Expert Calls on Hopkins-Kovalev

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“Nobody will ever do it five times because you know as well as I do that people get old too fast. I used to run six miles a day but now I got to make an effort for three. I can still do everything I want but I got to make appointments. Can’t do things on the spur of the moment like when you’re 20.”

Those candid words weren’t uttered by today’s elder statesman of boxing and its most distinguished defier of age erosion, Bernard Hopkins, who will turn 50 in January.

Wearing a chocolate brown suit, relaxing on a couch, muscles probably still twitching after a two mile run earlier that morning, a fighter with deluded intentions swirling around inside his head like a tornado, had just spoken to New York Times sports columnist George Vecsey. At 39, lofty mountains had already been scaled on more than a few occasions, memorably. However, one more victory, a victory which would propel Muhammad Ali out boxing’s abyss and onwards and upwards toward a shot at the near impossible, winning the heavyweight title for a fourth time, was always going to be as probable as a resurfacing of the Titanic.

Deep down, Ali knew it.

12 days later, on December 11, 1981, inside the Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre in the Bahamas’ capital, Nassau, the scene of an infamous demise for boxing’s foremost entertainer – in and out of the ring – was just as painful for the contingent of seated observers to view as it was for the great man himself to physically endure. Compared to how he moved around the ring, which was eloquently graceful and highly distinctive during the iconic decade the 60s, this Ali was almost statue-like whilst being undressed by the youthful hands of 27-year-old Trevor Berbick over the course of a 10 round points decision loss. Had he been around ten years earlier, Berbick would’ve been fortunate enough to have found himself on Ali’s payroll as a sparring partner.

In addition, three years after his final farewell, Ali was sadly diagnosed with Parkinson’s Syndrome, a disease with a much more prolonged impact than any jolting wallops he received from Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, or Trevor Berbick, amongst others. It has has taken its toll to the point where he is now, for the most part, secluded to the confinement of a wheelchair.

Those words, the ones Ali, now 72, briefed Vecsey with 23 years ago, are ringing truer than ever today. Simple tasks in life many of us take for granted such as washing our faces or reaching for the TV remote control are long gone for him. Making a mere effort, now a sacrifice. Quick spur of the moment physical reaches, void.

Dear Bernard:

Hey, you. Yes, you, the youngest old man in the world.

Time to walk away into the horizon, brother. Win or lose, this Saturday against Sergey Kovalev, it’s time. Time to hang ’em darn gloves up.

If defeats to Taylor, Calzaghe and Dawson couldn’t push you into retirement, what will? Also, after those previous historic wins of recent years, you still couldn’t walk down those steps one last time. You’re stupidly getting caught up in a turbulent vicious circle – and you know it.

Time to vacate the premises.

Good luck, Saturday night.

Yours truly,

Robbi Paterson

Hopkins vs. Kovalev is a 12-round unification bout for the IBF, WBA and WBO Light Heavyweight World titles, presented by Golden Boy Promotions and Main Events in association with Caesars Atlantic City, Corona Extra, AT&T and Hortitsia Vodka. The HBO World Championship Boxing telecast begins at 10:45 p.m. ET/PT. Coverage starts at 2:00 am in the UK on Boxnation.

Prediction time – I’ve reached out and spoke to various experts and asked them for their take on the outcome. Enjoy, and please add your own, in the TSS forum.

Chris Cozzone (Fightnews.com): I’m predicting an ugly fight ending in a majority decision for Hopkins. B-Hop will put on an unpretty clinic, with plenty of tying up and complaints, while a frustrated Kovalev will try to land bombs, several of which will have judges seeing a close fight.

Matt Hamilton (ESNewsreporting.com): Most – including the bookmakers – will make Sergey Kovalev a strong favorite in this one. But for me it’s one thing to knock over less cultured, less refined and perhaps critically less proven campaigners at world level, it’s another to take out the ilk of Bernard Hopkins. Hopkins has been discounted before and whilst Kovalev presents an entirely qualitatively disparate dilemma to say Kelly Pavlik, I can’t help but assume B-Hop provides as close to a litmus test of authenticity as exists for the multitude lofty claims surrounding the Kovalev phenomenon. Kovalev is a favourite for a reason but I’m going to stick my neck on the block and predict a Hopkins win by wideish unanimous decision.

Ben Dirs (BBC Sport and author of the book ‘The Hate Game: Benn, Eubank and British Boxing’s Bitterest Rivalry’): Hopkins on a split decision.

Robbi Paterson (TheSweetScience.com): It’s going to be an interesting evening. I’m firmly in the corner of Kovalev trainer John David Jackson when he says it’s Hopkins’ fight if he dictates the tempo – a slow tempo. He’ll be looking for Kovalev to do more flowing than thinking, which just happens to be very difficult to accomplish and maintain against Hopkins, who’s style and superbly implemented counter punching approach makes many opponents ‘pause.’ See, that’s the thing about fighting Hopkins effectively; it’s about taking him out of his comfort zone. The first 3-4 rounds will be extremely crucial. During those moments, Hopkins needs to defuse Kovalev by making doubts creep into his mind. Apart from Kovalev winning by result of a one punch knockout, for me, Hopkins wins on points.

Diego Morilla (HBO.com, RingTV.com, XN Sports.com): Through the last few years, Hopkins has been able to demonstrate that boxing is not all about speed and power, and he has placed experience and ring IQ even above those two virtues, redesigning and reshuffling the pieces of the puzzle that he presents to his opponents in each one of his fights with the ability of a wizard. But against a rangy, powerful, skilled and motivated fighter like Kovalev, he’ll need much more than that. So far, few fighters have been able to land more than two meaningful punches in a row against Hopkins, or at least one with enough power to unsettle him. My bet, unfortunately, is that Kovalev will be able to execute either one of these feats (or both) to bring The Alien’s career to a halt, once and for all. Kovalev TKO 10 Hopkins.

Mikey Garcia (WBO world super featherweight champion): Hopkins by decision.

Jeff Mayweather (Boxing/MMA trainer): Interesting fight. Kovalev should win but no guarantee. He hasn’t fought anyone near Hopkins’ calibre or smarts. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hopkins pull-off the upset. Kovalev by close decision.

Randy Gordon (tss.ib.tv/SiriusXM radio host): I am finding this the toughest pick I have ever had to make, that’s how even I think this fight is, despite the fact they are totally different fighters. Kovalev has the power. B-Hop has the skill. Kovalev has the youth. B-Hop has the experience. Kovalev is like a bomb, set to blow up and do damage. B-Hop must be the bomb squad. He can’t simply jump on the bomb and try to rip it apart. If he does, it will most likely detonate. He must take his time, diffusing it wire by wire, piece by piece. Can he do it? I say he can. I look for a distance fight which will be close and competitive, especially in the first half of the fight. Then, the massive skill and experience of B-Hop will take over. Rough and dirty at times, this will be an interesting fight. B-Hop by unanimous decision.

Jason Pribila (Secondsout.com): I had the honour of sitting ringside for Hopkins’ masterpiece vs Pavlik. Bernard looked old in the opening frames vs Pascal in their first fight. Kovalev won’t let him off hook. And, John David Jackson will prepare Kovalev for a “Graterford Stare” at the weigh-in. Kovalev TKO 6.

Clay Moyle (Prizefightingbooks.com and author of the book ‘Sam Langford: Boxing’s Greatest Uncrowned Champion’): I’ll go with Hopkins by decision.

Abel Sanchez (trainer of world middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin): It could end up being a great fight. I believe it is a 50/50 fight. It’s there for Kovalev to win it if he boxes, maintains distance and doesn’t get caught up in the machismo of trying to knock Hopkins out. Hopkins will school you if you are to aggressive and over anxious. Hopkins by decision.

Ben Doughty (TipTV.co.uk): While I could never write the ‘Alien’ off, I am inclined to feel that this will be a step too far for Hopkins. He has had an amazing run and his place in history is secure but we should remember that he lost fair and square to the younger Chad Dawson a couple of years ago and Kovalev is fresh, capable and dangerous. Bernard’s body of work is vastly superior with Nathan Cleverly about the most notable scalp on Kovalev’s record. But I suspect Kovalev will make Hopkins fight at a pace that doesn’t suit him and can win on points.

Jeffrey Freeman (KO Digest): This is a scary boxing blockbuster in the making! Here’s a sneak preview of coming attractions: a 49-year-old Bernard “The Alien” Hopkins gets launched from the ring by the crushing power of a real-life killer with an a**-kicking strategy, Sergey “The Krusher” Kovalev. In Atlantic City, the Russian will execute the former executioner from Philadelphia with a prophetic injection of phantom punching precision. It’s a black and white remake of Rocky Marciano knocking out Joe Louis except this “Krusher” sheds no tears. To him, it’s a dark comedy, or worse, a dirty movie. Wherever his spaceship crash-lands inside old Boardwalk Hall, the “Alien” will be writhing around in agony, but this time it’s no act. Closing credits: If the fight somehow makes it to the scorecards, the rotten tomatoes review was written and executive produced by judges Layton, Ortiz, and Sammartino. Sergey Kovalev TKO4 Bernard Hopkins.

Rudy Hernandez (Los Angeles based trainer): If Kovalev is anywhere as smart as Nicholas Walters (who knocked out Nonito Donaire for the WBA featherweight title on Oct 18) he wins by knockout. But I believe that Hopkins will find the easy way out and claim injury.

Allan Scotto (Maxboxing.com): I think Hopkins takes the decision. Much more experience and very crafty.

Sean Crose (Boxinginsider.com): Man, this one is most certainly NOT easy to pick. I said I would never go against Hopkins again, but I’m going to have to eat my words in this case. Here’s the thing – Kovalev can do more than just punch. He’s an adept ring technician. Add that to the fact that the man can literally knock a person down with no more than a jab and you’ve got a deadly combination on your hands. I see this one being stopped in the later rounds after it becomes clear the Alien can’t outsmart the Krusher and the heavy punches start to really take their toll. Kovalev by TKO, 11th round.

Leighton Ginn (Desurtsun.com): I have Kovalev. I hate to go against Hopkins but Kovalev might be too much.

Barry Jones (Boxnation pundit and former WBO world super featherweight champion): It’s a hard one to call as Kovalev’s style is suited to Hopkins. But saying that I’m going for Kovalev to win, with Hopkins looking for a way out and possibly getting disqualified.

Springs Toledo (TheSweetScience.com and author of the book ‘The Gods of War’): I’m actively recommending this fight to non-boxing fans because if gray-bearded Hopkins happens to defeat the most dangerous light heavyweight in the world, it will be an historic accomplishment. There’s a caveat though: Hopkins will have to weather early storms which will be fun to watch, but then he’ll slow the pace, maul, and make the fight an eyesore. If he doesn’t neutralize Kovalev with spoiler tactics, he will provoke him into unthinking aggression and catch him with counters. A part of Hopkins’s training regimen may be learning Russian slurs to use during clinches. I’m going with age and guile for this one; Hopkins by controversial SD or DQ.

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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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