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Hopkins: “Now The Light Heavyweight Division Has Life”

Kelsey McCarson

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“It’s very hard to discourage me to not be motivated,” said Bernard Hopkins, the soon-to-be 49 year old master pugilist. “I dust my pants off, wipe my elbows and keep going. I understand that any time I have an opportunity to breathe and make another go at it — at anything, whatever it is — that I have a chance to make a wrong right.”

Hopkins faces Karo Murat in a 12-round bout for Hopkins’ IBF light heavyweight title belt on Saturday night. The Showtime telecast begins live at 9 p.m. ET.

Hopkins said he believes his bout with Murat will lead to bigger and better things for his campaign in the light heavyweight division.

“You might not have read this quote,” said Hopkins. “But I said something yesterday that had even most reporters muffled. I said that saying Bernard Hopkins is getting old. I got some laughs out of it because this is the only sport that if you’re on the top level and you’re doing what you’re doing, which I am, that they will still say why don’t you retire? If I was in basketball or any other sport, they would be praising me if I was doing this, especially doing it legally. And this is crazy: boxing is sport that likes to dictate what they want to give to the consumers.”

Hopkins believes he has even more to accomplish in his already impressive career. One of the greatest middleweights who has ever laced up the gloves, Hopkins has enjoyed incredible success since he turned 40 years old. He’s won both the lineal as well as other versions of the light heavyweight title, and he’s beaten a litany of great fighters along the way.

At 48, Hopkins became the oldest fighter to ever win a major boxing title when he defeated Tavoris Cloud for the IBF title in March of 2013. It was the second time he achieved such a feat. Hopkins first set the record when he defeated Jean Pascal in 2011 at age 46 for the WBC, IBO and Ring Magazine light heavyweight titles.

Hopkins said he’ll continue to fight and prove his critics wrong.

“I’m putting up a hell of a fight in my own right to show that they might be right about 99.9% of the people that they are dictating to as dictators, but I’m not going to be the one that they do that to. And let me show you more than I can tell you.”

When asked of his bout against the relatively lackluster opponent (Hopkins has been in with the Felix Trinidads and Roy Jones, Jr.’s of the world), Hopkins said it all came down to one thing: business.

“It was a business decision I had to make. I won the belt in March of this year. I inherited Cloud’s mandatory defense. That was part of the deal. The IBF gave me the opportunity to fight for the championship only with the agreement that I’d fight the mandatory right away.”

Hopkins’ bout against Murat was originally scheduled to take place in July at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. However, the fight was called off in June when Murat was denied a visa by the United States.

Still, Hopkins said he had to stick with the Murat bout afterwards to ensure he had a better seat at the negotiating table with the likes of WBO titlist Sergey Kovalev and lineal champion Adonis Stevenson.

“Okay, the [Tavoris Cloud] fight took place. I won. I got the mandatory. It had to happen in 90 days. I had a choice to make. Either go to England and fight Nathan Cleverly, which I think is totally absurd. Why would I go to England and fight Cleverly unless there was just so much money on the table that I’d be a fool as a business man not to take it? And there wasn’t. So I had a choice to give up a bird in the hand, the IBF title, and go to England and fight an Englishman for the WBO title. I weighed the options, the pros and cons. I kept the IBF title instead of risking going to England and fighting Cleverly and getting robbed.”

Ever the strategist, Hopkins said the risk of fighting Cleverly on the road was too great for such little benefit.

“I look at it like this. I haven’t knocked anyone out since Oscar De La Hoya in 2004. If I go to England and get robbed or something happens, then I have no title. So what I said is that I’m going to fulfill my obligation.”

Hopkins praised Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer for moving quickly on getting the Murat fight signed, sealed and delivered. There was no benefit, he said, to ditching the IBF belt for a chance at the WBO trinket.

“I’d rather fight the mandatory.”

Hopkins likes what he has seen happen in the division since. In June, Adonis Stevenson knocked out Chad Dawson in Round 1 to become lineal champion and put his stamp on the 175-pound division. Two months later, Sergey Kovalev destroyed Nathan Cleverly in 4 rounds for the WBO belt. Hopkins believes his strategy of fighting the IBF mandatory defense, Murat, has now paid off with potential opportunities against top up-and-comers.

“Now Adonis Stevenson has knocked out Chad Dawson. Sergey Kovalev has made a name for himself. And now the light heavyweight division has life. Tell me…did I make the right decision?”

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2015 Fight of the Year – Francisco Vargas vs Takashi Miura

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The WBC World Super Featherweight title bout between Francisco Vargas and Takashi Miura came on one of the biggest boxing stages of 2015, as the bout served as the HBO pay-per-view’s co-main event on November 21st, in support of Miguel Cotto vs Saul Alvarez.

Miura entered the fight with a (29-2-2) record and he was making the fifth defense of his world title, while Vargas entered the fight with an undefeated mark of (22-0-1) in what was his first world title fight. Both men had a reputation for all-out fighting, with Miura especially earning high praise for his title defense in Mexico where he defeated Sergio Thompson in a fiercely contested battle.

The fight started out hotly contested, and the intensity never let up. Vargas seemed to win the first two rounds, but by the fourth round, Miura seemed to pull ahead, scoring a knock-down and fighting with a lot of confidence. After brawling the first four rounds, Miura appeared to settle into a more technical approach. Rounds 5 and 6 saw the pendulum swing back towards Vargas, as he withstood Miura’s rush to open the fifth round and the sixth round saw both men exchanging hard punches.

The big swinging continued, and though Vargas likely edged Miura in rounds 5 and 6, Vargas’ face was cut in at least two spots and Miura started to assert himself again in rounds 7 and 8. Miura was beginning to grow in confidence while it appeared that Vargas was beginning to slow down, and Miura appeared to hurt Vargas at the end of the 8th round.

Vargas turned the tide again at the start of the ninth round, scoring a knock down with an uppercut and a straight right hand that took Miura’s legs and sent him to the canvas. Purely on instinct, Miura got back up and continued to fight, but Vargas was landing frequently and with force. Referee Tony Weeks stepped in to stop the fight at the halfway point of round 9 as Miura was sustaining a barrage of punches.

Miura still had a minute and a half to survive if he was going to get out of the round, and it was clear that he was not going to stop fighting.

A back and forth battle of wills between two world championship level fighters, Takashi Miura versus “El Bandido” Vargas wins the 2015 Fight of the Year.

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Jan 9 in Germany – Feigenbutz and De Carolis To Settle Score

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This coming Saturday, January 9th, the stage is set at the Baden Arena in Offenburg, Germany for a re-match between Vincent Feigenbutz and Giovanni De Carolis. The highly anticipated re-match is set to air on SAT.1 in Germany, and Feigenbutz will once again be defending his GBU and interim WBA World titles at Super Middleweight.

The first meeting between the two was less than three months ago, on October 17th and that meeting saw Feigenbutz controversially edge De Carolis on the judge’s cards by scores of (115-113, 114-113 and 115-113). De Carolis scored a flash knock down in the opening round, and he appeared to outbox Feigenbutz in the early going, but the 20 year old German champion came on in the later rounds.

The first bout is described as one of the most crowd-pleasing bouts of the year in Germany, and De Carolis and many observers felt that the Italian had done enough to win.

De Carolis told German language website RAN.DE that he was more prepared for the re-match, and that due to the arrogance Feigenbutz displayed in the aftermath of the first fight, he was confident that he had won over some of the audience. Though De Carolis fell short of predicting victory, he promised a re-vamped strategy tailored to what he has learned about Feigenbutz, whom he termed immature and inexperienced.

The stage is set for Feigenbutz vs De Carolis 2, this Saturday January 9th in Offenburg, Germany. If you can get to the live event do it, if not you have SAT.1 in Germany airing the fights, and The Boxing Channel right back here for full results.

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2015 Knock Out of the Year – Saul Alvarez KO’s James Kirkland

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On May 9th of 2015, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez delivered a resonant knock-out of James Kirkland on HBO that wins the 2015 KO of the Year.

The knock-out itself came in the third round, after slightly more than two minutes of action. The end came when Alvarez delivered a single, big right hand that caught Kirkland on the jaw and left him flat on his back after spinning to the canvas.Alvarez was clearly the big star heading into the fight. The fight was telecast by HBO for free just one week after the controversial and disappointing Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao fight, and Alvarez was under pressure to deliver the type of finish that people were going to talk about. Kirkland was happy to oblige Alvarez, taking it right to Alvarez from the start. Kirkland’s aggression saw him appear to land blows that troubled the young Mexican in the early going. Alvarez played good defense, and he floored Kirkland in the first round, displaying his power and his technique in knocking down an aggressive opponent.

However, Kirkland kept coming at Alvarez and the fight entered the third round with both men working hard and the feeling that the fight would not go the distance. Kirkland continued to move forward, keeping “Canelo” against the ropes and scoring points with a barrage of punches while looking for an opening.

At around the two minute mark, Alvarez landed an uppercut that sent Kirkland to the canvas again. Kirkland got up, but it was clear that he did not have his legs under him. Kirkland was going to try to survive the round, but Alvarez had an opportunity to close out the fight. The question was would he take it?

Alvarez closed in on Kirkland, putting his opponent’s back to the ropes. Kirkland was hurt, but he was still dangerous, pawing with punches and loading up for one big shot.

But it was the big shot “Canelo” threw that ended the night. Kirkland never saw it coming, as he was loading up with a huge right hand of his own. The right Alvarez threw cracked Kirkland in the jaw, and his eyes went blank. His big right hand whizzed harmlessly over the head of a ducking Alvarez, providing the momentum for the spin that left Kirkland prone on the canvas.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez went on to defeat Miguel Cotto in his second fight of 2015 and he is clearly one of boxing’s biggest stars heading into 2016. On May 9th Alvarez added another reel to his highlight film when he knocked out James Kirkland with the 2015 “Knock Out of the Year”.

Photo by naoki fukuda

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