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Hopkins Takes Best Shots At Lying Lance Armstrong

Bernard Fernandez

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The most enduring of boxing champions, 48-year-old Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins, knows that controversy sells, even when he’s not intentionally trying to sell it. He has the sometimes unfortunate habit of saying what he thinks and doing what he feels like doing, even when it is politically incorrect to say or do it.

Think not? Consider just a few of the incidents that have garnered the most publicity for the Philadelphia ring legend in recent years.

*Throwing down the Puerto Rican flag at two public gatherings prior to his Sept. 29, 2001, middleweight unification showdown with Felix Trinidad. The second such incident, on Trinidad’s home turf in San Juan, nearly caused a riot.

*Pronouncing that “no white boy can beat me” during the lead-up to his April 18, 2008, light-heavyweight bout with undefeated Welshman Joe Calzaghe in Las Vegas. Calzaghe, his pale complexion not proving an insurmountable hindrance, won a 12-round split decision despite being knocked down in the first round.

*Voicing his displeasure with the seeming lack of urgency by Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb in the closing minutes of a 24-21 loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX on Feb. 6, 2005. “I’m disappointed in Donovan McNabb,” Hopkins said. “I’m going to be straight up, I’m not holding back. I’ll say it to his face.”

But with a July 13 defense of his IBF 175-pound title against Germany’s Karo Murat (25-1-1, 15 KOs) coming up at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., Hopkins (53-6-2, 32 KOs) no longer seems capable of, or even that interested in, inciting frenzy with an imprudent word or deed. He wants to be appreciated for the uniqueness of his career, for the incredible longevity of it, and most of all for the unsullied manner, in a physical sense, in which he has achieved it.

The simple act of beating up on a 29-year-old German who is virtually anonymous in these United States isn’t apt to stop some fight fans from yawning at still another B-Hop victory on the path to eventual enshrinement in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Maybe extending his latest championship reign until he reaches the ridiculous age of 50 will gain him the recognition he believes he deserves. Then again, losing to mystery man Murat might be the trick. It could be argued that people have become too comfortable with Hopkins’ successes than to be inspired or excited about them.

To Hopkins’ way of thinking, negativity in today’s jaded sports world is the fastest, surest way for someone to call attention to himself or herself. The biggest headlines go to athletes who test positive for performance-enhancing drugs; who slap around their wives or girlfriends, or at least serial-cheat on them; who get into wee-hours brawls at strip clubs, and who snort more coke than Al Pacino in Scarface.

Living clean is, well, so … boring.

Which maybe explains why Hopkins ripped into a seemingly unlikely target in the press room at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall a couple of hours before Argentine junior welterweight Lucas Matthysse impressively stopped Lamont Peterson in three rounds in the Showtime-televised main event.

That would be disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, recently stripped of his seven Tour de France cycling championships and the teary-eyed confessor of his PED-fueled misdeeds — after years of adamantly professing his innocence — in a pair of highly rated TV interviews with Oprah Winfrey.

“Lance Armstrong pulled the ultimate betrayal and the biggest con in sports history that I know of,” Hopkins, his voice rising, said during a 47-minute session with a few media members. “He beat Pete Rose out, and that was just gambling.

“Here I am, a year and a half from being 50 and I’m still taking names and whupping ass. You telling me that’s not a story? But all I hear is `When are you gonna quit? When are you gonna retire?’ Don’t you understand that y’all are witnessing something that you might not see again in your lifetime? Maybe you think this is no big deal. Maybe you think this is something you’re going to be covering over and over. Maybe you think you’ll see somebody else who’s gonna make 20 title defenses in one weight class over 10-plus years, or somebody else who’s gonna fight at this high a level until he’s 48.”

Hopkins stressed that his unprecedented stay at or near the top of a brutal, unforgiving profession is not as rooted in superior physical gifts as it is in his fanatical obsession with keeping his body, which he calls his “temple,” in perfect working order.

“By no means am I perfect,” Hopkins said. “But in the game of boxing, the way I live, I am super-perfect. I am super-perfect when it comes to taking care of myself. I’m not that talented. Roy Jones was 10 times more talented than me. James Toney was more talented than me. But something I understood from Day 1 was that you got to keep your body clean, your mind clean, and you can’t get caught up in the bullbleep that comes with success. That’s why it’s hard for these kids to keep up with me.

“I take care of my body, my temple. They win a fight, they’re out on the dance floor, at a nightclub somewhere. Me, I’m in my suite, in the bathtub or in bed, just resting. That’s the secret to longevity.”

Hopkins also dismisses the suggestion — forwarded by, among others, baseball superstars Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens — who claimed they unknowingly ingested banned substances provided by sycophants.

“I got to send a message to young people that you can do things without cheating,” Hopkins continued. “You can do things without taking a shortcut.

“When you see somebody that has to do something (illegal) to get ahead … man, everybody knows what the deal is. We’re grown men. If somebody gives you something and you take it and then claim to not know what it is, you’re not taking full responsibility. There’s nobody in this business who should ever say the only reason he has something in his system is because somebody else gave it to him without his knowing anything about it. Are you a bleeping idiot? When I hear that crap, it makes me mad. I do things the right way. Guys who don’t do it the right way and get caught ruin it for all of us who do it the right way.

“I’ll (pee) in any bottle. I’ll give my stool if they need that. I will let them follow me around to see what I eat, what I drink. But this country has a problem with doing it right. What’s promoted is always the negative. The guy that is doing it right gets no coverage. But the guy who’s into skullduggery and subterfuge, that’s news. I can’t change it. I’m just bold enough to speak it.

“People say, `Why isn’t more positive news reported?’ Because they really must not want that. We Americans are hypocrites that way.”

Hopkins isn’t being hypocritical when he says that his main goal now, for legacy purposes, is to have another really big fight on his resume, rather than to add to his collection of 175-pount title belts. He said he’s fighting Murat, whom he described as a “come-forward guy, although I don’t see anything in him that indicates he’s a special fighter,” because he promised to fulfill his IBF mandatory if and when he dethroned Tavoris Cloud. He did, and he is.

But neither WBA champion Beibut Shumenov (13-1, 8 KOs), of Kazakhstan, or WBO ruler Nathan Cleverly (26-0, 12 KOs), of Wales, is particularly high on Hopkins’ to-do list before retirement, and neither of those names as possible opponents for the ageless wonder is apt to cause the hearts of Showtime Sports honcho Stephen Espinoza or most fight fans to go pitter-patter.

That leaves guys from down under, and we’re not talking residents of Australia.

“To me, the superfights out there for me are with the guys that might want to come up (from super middleweight),” said Hopkins, who said his last opponent to bring the requisite juice was now-business partner Oscar De La Hoya, whom he knocked out in nine rounds on Sept. 18, 2004, to fully unify the middleweight championship. “(Andre) Ward would be an interesting fight, but we’ve established how I feel about that, and Ward, too. (Each professes to have too much respect for the other to square off.) (Editor Note: After Hopkins beats Tavoris Cloud in Brooklyn, Ward left the door open for a Ward-Hopkins fight, saying that the purse would have to be immense.)

“(IBF 168-pound champ Carl) Froch? Big fight. If I go to Europe, and I’d be glad to, or if he comes here, which I believe he did twice, in Atlantic City, it’d be a really big fight. And if Froch beats (WBA titlist Mikkel Kessler), that would make it a superfight. (Former IBF titlist Lucian) Bute would be another superfight.”

Anyone else?

“That `Triple G’ guy (WBA middleweight king Gennady Golovkin),” Hopkins said. “You say he’s middleweight? Well, I jumped up two weight classes from 160 to fight (Antonio) Tarver and everybody thought I was losing my mind.”

Someone mentioned that Froch has already said he would like to mix it up with B-Hop for fun and profit.

“First of all, I accept,” Hopkins said, laughing. “I’m in.”

At a catchweight?

“I did it for (Kelly) Pavlik,” he said. “I did it for Winky Wright. I can cut five pounds off this lean body. Come on, let’s go where the money is.”

 

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Conor McGregor vs. Pac-Man: The Circus is Back in Town

Arne K. Lang

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MMA superstar Conor McGregor stole some of the thunder from a busy Saturday in boxing with his announcement that his next fight would come against Manny Pacquaio. “boxing Manny Pacquiao next in the Middle East,” McGregor tweeted on Friday, Sept. 25.

Jayke Johnson, a representative of Pacquiao, confirmed that there have been preliminary talks. Johnson hinted that this would be Pacquiao’s final fight and said that Senator Manny would be donating a large chunk of his purse to COVID-19 relief in the Philippines. The situation is bad there. As of Sept. 22, there were 291,789 confirmed infections in a population of approximately 109 million. The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that travelers postpone all travel to the Philippines, including essential travel.

The best guess is that the fight will take place early next year. Pacquiao is unlikely to leave his homeland until the pandemic has abated there.

Pac-Man, who turns 42 in December, last fought in July of 2019 when he further cemented his great legacy with a 12-round decision over previously undefeated Keith Thurman. McGregor, 32, last fought in January of this year. His fight with Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone was over in 40 seconds. Cerrone left the ring with a fractured nose and orbital bone.

In June, McGregor announced his retirement, but few people gave it any credibility. McGregor was just making noise which he is very good at. But like him or loathe him, the fellow is certainly adept at selling his brand. In the world of combat sports, the Dubliner is Mr. Charisma.

In 2019, McGregor was reportedly the 4th wealthiest sports personality in the world, trailing only Mayweather, Lionel Messi, and Cristiano Ronaldo. And his bank balance was growing in leaps and bounds because the whiskey he was promoting was flying off the shelf. Proper No. 12, a three-year-old blended Irish whiskey bottled at Ireland’s oldest distillery, was launched in September of 2018 and reportedly attracted $1 billion in sales in its very first year. (The “12” refers to the postal code of the neighborhood where McGregor grew up.)

McGregor started the company; he wasn’t merely the spokesperson. The parent company of Tequila maker Cuervo recently upped their stake in Proper No. 12 to 49 percent. Without a punch or a kick, McGregor made a big score.

(By the way, the popularity of Conor McGregor’s libation isn’t matched by the reviews. A bottle was sent complimentary to a business magazine in London with instructions to pass it around the office. No one liked it. “It smelled like ethanol and tasted only marginally better,” said one imbiber.)

McGregor’s fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. in June of 2017 attracted a whopping 4.3 million pay-per-view buys. The match at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas drew 13,094 paid and a live gate of $55.4 million, the second highest in Nevada history (albeit well short of the $72 million gate generated by Mayweather vs Pacquiao in 2015).

McGregor plainly won the first round in that fight and won the first three rounds in the eyes of many observers. But by the ninth round the Irishman was clearly fatigued and Mayweather stopped him in the 10th.

Many people, including this reporter, believe that there was a gentleman’s agreement in place whereby Mayweather agreed to fight the first few rounds under wraps to give the paying fans more bang for their buck. In a recent tweet, McGregor said that he was disgusted with himself for not following up his early advantage and that, if he could go back and do it over, he would give Floyd a good kick in the neck because getting disqualified wouldn’t have stung as bad as getting TKOed.

The preamble to the McGregor-Mayweather fandango was a four-city promotional tour that began in Los Angeles and coursed through Toronto and New York before concluding in London. At each stop, the public was invited to come and witness the fighters’ vent their mutual enmity and the circus was live-streamed on several social media platforms.

Each session was marked by an orgy of F-bombs. Veteran boxing writer Bernard Fernandez, after tuning-in to the Toronto segment, articulated the feelings of many as he voiced his disgust: “(The show) defiled whatever remained of the nobility of combat sports, and in a broader sense the fabric of civilized society.”

If there is a promotional tour for McGregor-Pacquiao, it will take a different tack. Manny is deeply religious; he won’t play that game.

Historically, some fights for charity have been little more than exhibitions. A writer for an MMA site speculates that McGregor-Pacquiao may be contested under a modified rule set, whatever that means. Regardless, if this event comes off, it wouldn’t command my patronage if I were anything other than a boxing writer obliged to give it a look-see.

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Emerging Heavyweights: Three to Watch

Ted Sares

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Victor Faust (Viktor Vykhryst), a 6’6” 232-pound Ukrainian heavyweight (and long-time amateur) is a product of the great amateur program in the Ukraine–one that has produced the likes of the Klitschko brothers, Oleksandr Usyk, Vasily Lomachenko, and more recently Sergiy Derevyanchenko.

At first glance, his amateur record does not appear stellar, but a closer review indicates several SD’s or MD’s.

Earlier this month, on Sept. 20, he scored a frightening one punch KO when he fought the more experienced Gabriel Enguema (10-9) in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro. It was his third KO victory in three professional fights—all in 2020. The end came as a result of a Doctor Steelhammer-like perfect straight right to knock the Spaniard out cold. It brought back memories of Wladimir’s KO of Calvin Brock in 2006. Faust displayed skills, size, a solid chin, and power in dispatching his opponent.

“…Soon everyone will …see how skillful he is. He’s the complete package and will compete in massive fights sooner rather than later.” Erol Ceylan (Faust’s German promoter)

Oh yes, Faust beat Romanian Mihai Nistor in the amateurs and the talented Nistor in turn halted Anthony Joshua in the amateurs back in 2011. (Nistor also went 1-2 with Filip Hrgovic and lost to Tony Yoka in 2012.) Of course, one must be circumspect when using logic in boxing. Now that Nistor has turned pro, he will be worth following as his style is very much Tysonesque.

There are others who have—at a minimum– the same potential as Faust.

Tony Yoka

tony

Hard-hitting Frenchman 6’7” Tony Yoka (8-0) has beaten far better opposition than Faust and has a far better amateur record. In fact, he beat Filip Hrgovic and Joe Joyce in the 2016 Rio Games on the way to a Gold Medal. Recently, he dismantled veteran and fellow Frenchman Johan Duhaupas, a fringe contender with some notable notches on his belt. The end came in the first round by virtue of a crunching right uppercut.

Yoka perhaps could be slotted above Faust at this point.; he just might be the best of the new guys on the block. However, there are some dicey anti-doping issues that have tainted his reputation, though they do seem to be mostly resolved at this point.

Arslanbek Makhmudov

Arslanbek

This Russian “Lion,” 6’5 ½”, 260 pounds with an imposing muscular frame, is still another hungry prospect ready to break into the next tier. Nicknamed the “Lion,” — he also has been called “Predator” and “Beast — he is 10-0 (10 KOs).

He now lives and fights out of Montreal. The holder of two regional titles, he stopped a shot Samuel Peter in one round this past December.

“I’m confident that with my team, Eye of the Tiger Promotions and Golden Boy Promotions, I will reach my goal of becoming heavyweight champion of the world,” —Makhmudov.

This all said, The Lion needs some work on his technical skills as size can only go so far.

Makhmudov’s next opponent is Canadian heavyweight Dillon “Big Country” Carman (14-5) whose claim to fame is that he KOd comebacking Donovan Ruddock in 2015 in Toronto. This one will end differently for “Big Country.”

Others

Arguably, classy Americans Stephan Shaw (13-0), and Jared Anderson (6-0 with four KOs in the first round) could be added to the above. Filip Hrgovic and Efe Ajagba, both 6’6”, have already moved up.

A good yardstick is 6’5” American Jonathan Rice who lost a 10-round bout to Ajagba, was TKO’d in the seventh round Makhmudov, lost a 6-round decision to Tony Yoka, and a lost 6-round decision to Shaw.

Have I missed any?

Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com of on Facebook.

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Jermell Charlo Unifies Super Welterweights Via Solar Plexus Punch

David A. Avila

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WBC super welterweight titlist Jermell Charlo knocked out IBF and WBA titlist Jeison Rosario with a knockout punch delivered to the solar plexus on Saturday to add two more belts to his collection.

“I’m definitely bringing home the straps,” said Charlo.

Shades of Bob Fitzsimmons.

Back in 1897, Fitzsimmons used the same solar plexus punch to dethrone Gentleman James Corbett for the heavyweight title in Carson City, Nevada.

In another casino city Charlo (34-1, 18 KOs) floored Dominican Republic’s Rosario (20-2-1, 14 KOs) three times at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn. He and his brother co-headlined a heavy duty pay-per-view card with no fans in attendance on the Premier Boxing Champions card.

Charlo jumped on Rosario quickly in the first round when he charged and clipped him with a left hook to the temple. Down went the two-belt champion for the count. But he got up seemingly unfazed.

For the next several rounds Rosario was the aggressor and put the pressure on Charlo who was content to allow the Dominican to fire away. Occasionally the Houston fighter jabbed but allowed Rosario to pound up and down with both fists.

After allowing Rosario to get comfortable with his attack, suddenly Charlo stopped moving and connected with a short crisp counter left hook and right cross in the sixth round. Down went Rosario again and he got up before the count of 10.

Charlo said it was part of the game plan.

“I’m growing and I realize that the knockout will just come,” he said.

Charlo was in control with a patient style and allowed Rosario to come forward. But the Dominican was more cautious in the seventh.

In the eighth round Charlo jabbed to the head and then jabbed hard to Rosario’s stomach. The Dominican fighter dropped down on his seat as if felled by a gun shot. He could not get up and convulsed while on the floor. The referee Harvey Dock counted him out at 21 seconds of round eight.

“That jab that got to him must have landed in a vital point,” said Charlo after the fight. “I hope he recovers and bounces back.”

Charlo now has three of the four major super welterweight world titles.

WBC Super Bantamweight Title

Luis Nery (31-0, 24 KOs) captured the WBC super bantamweight title by unanimous decision over fellow Mexican Aaron Alameda (25-1, 13 KOs) in a battle between southpaws. The war between border town fighters was intense.

Nery, a former bantamweight world titlist, moved up a weight division and found Alameda to be a slick southpaw with an outstanding jab. At first the Tijuana fighter was a little puzzled how to attack but found his groove in the fourth round.

But Alameda, who fights out of Nogales, Mexico, began using combinations and finding success.  A crafty counter left uppercut caught Nery charging in a few times, but he managed to walk through them.

In the final two rounds Nery picked up the action and increased the pressure against the slick fighting Alameda, He forced the Nogales fighter to fight defensively and that proved enough to give the last two rounds for Nery and the victory by unanimous decision. The scores were 115-113, 116-112 and 118-110 for Nery who now holds the WBC super bantamweight world title. He formerly held the WBC bantamweight title.

Roman Wins

Danny “Baby-Faced Assassin” Roman (28-3-1, 10 KOs) managed to rally from behind and defeat Juan Carlos Payano (21-4, 9 KOs) in a battle between former world champions in a nontitle super bantamweight clash. It wasn’t easy.

Once again Roman fought a talented southpaw and in this fight Payano, a former bantamweight titlist, moved up in weight and kept Roman off balance for the first half of the fight. The jab and movement by the Dominican fighter seemed to keep Roman out of sync.

Roman, who fights out of Los Angeles, used a constant body attack to wear down the 35-year-old Payano and it paid off in the second half. Then the former unified world champion Roman began to pinpoint more blows to the body and head. With seconds left in the 12th and final round, a left hook delivered Payano down and through the ropes. Sadly, the referee missed the knockdown. It didn’t matter as all three judges scored it identical at 116-112 for Roman after 12 rounds.

“I made some adjustments and picked up the pace and got the win,” said Roman who formerly held the WBA and IBF super bantamweight world titles.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME

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