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Bernard Hopkins Talks Floyd Mayweather Fight, Making 160 Pounds

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The always entertaining Bernard Hopkins got on a roll on a Thursday conference call to hype the Oct. 26* Golden Boy card which unfolds at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, and portions of which will run on Showtime (9 PM ET).

He will meet Karo Murat on that night, but as Murat seemingly isn’t in the same class sphere as the pugilistic sage nonpareil, the 48 1/2 year old got cooking about a theoretical fight with Floyd Mayweather, at 160 pounds, and the disrespect shown to fighters who engage in more “sweet science” than brawling.

Hopkins (53-6-2 with 32 KOs) joined the call after Murat and company had the floor.

In a response to my question, Hopkins said that he was asked about a fight against Mayweather recently, so he answered the bigwig who posed the potentiality to him that he’d be open to it. He said he could make 160 pounds if given enough notice, for a May 2014 fight, and that he likes his chances to test Floyd. (The last time Hopkins fought at 160 was way back in 2005, against Jermain Taylor, for the record.) Nobody in their 20s and 30s can test him, he said. But he could, and the promotion would be incredibly exciting. “That’s the reason I threw my hat in there,” he said. He said he’s six pounds from his weight max now. At middleweight, that glorious division..imagine the possibilities, he said.

I got some friendly flak on Twitter from another media member for asking the question, which he termed absurd, but Hopkins himself touched on that when he said the bigwig who posed the superfight to him “sure didn’t look like he was joking.”

I followed up with Showtime boxing boss Stephen Espinoza, wondering if talking about that potential fight is “absurd.”

“No,” he told me. “And if Bernard keeps saying it, you are perfectly justified in asking it.”

He then got on a roll about people not caring for the sweet science. He said Ray Robinson and Leonard would both be considered “boring” today, because too many people crave tradefests. He thinks that the glorification of the Gatti-Ward HBO doc might be bad, because it will encourage young fighters to take too many risks. He is testament, he said, that there is more than one way to stand out in the game, and he lobbied hard for his method, which prizes not getting hit as much as hitting, in order to retain brain cells. (Great point, though I’d point out that he gets tremendous respect from a huge swath of media and fans, and is quite well compensated for doing his thing. Now, will his legacy be the same as those of men like Gatti, who is more willing, for whatever reason, to give parts of themselves in the ring to entertain fans? That remains to be seen. Is it “fair” that we marvel at the manner in which an Arturo Gatti and a Micky Ward ply their trade, and don’t marvel in the same way at the way a Hopkins or an Andre Ward does? Perhaps not..But it is what it is. In general, the most reward goes to those who risk the most. I personally have high regard for each method of combat.)

Hopkins said the best lesson he’s learned is to never take anyone lightly, which he took from “The Art of War,” a book he liked while in prison.

Murat, the challenger whose chances are being universally dismissed, is a German resident. His promoter, Kalle Sauerland, was present on the call. The German spoke perfect English; he said Murat’s been with Sauerland since 2006, and has earned the right to fight Hopkins. Karo has promised him, he said, that he won’t show respect to the 48-year-old. “We believe in our man Karo Murat,” he said.

Murat (25-1- with 15 KOs), born in Irag in 1983, said he likes his chances against Hopkins, who debuted in 1988 as a pro. And does Hopkins look 48 to him? He said he appreciates his accomplishments, but Hopkins “doesn’t have the speed anymore” and the mileage is apparent on him. He said his white hair and gray beard are evidence of that. In Hopkins’ last fight, against Tavoris Cloud, he said he saw a man looking to land one punch, and clinch. Hopkins was asked about these assertions. The elder said his info isn’t correct. “I’m already up four rounds on him,” he said, because Murat has gotten bad intel. Also, “gray is wisdom,” he said. Pavlik, Cloud, these guys figured that out after the fact. As a middleweight, he didn’t clinch so much. Can he stop him from clinching? He won’t divulge how he will do so, he said. But he will do so, he promised.

He touched on his background some. He started boxing at age 13, one year after he came from Iraq, he said. He went with his brothers, he recalled. He won and got in touch with the Sauerland crew.

Murat, who will be fighting for the first time in the US, was asked about potentially overtraining, considering fights for him have been scheduled and then cancelled lately. He said that won’t be an issue at all.

Axel Schultz came over here many moons ago, and fought George Foreman, and was not shown love by the judges. True fans know what Schultz did, he said. “I’m hoping for an impartial referee, and judges and the rest is up to me,” he said.

Golden Boy COO Bruce Binkow took part in the call. He noted that there will be a presser next Wednesday in NYC. He said tix are still available for the Hopkins card. Also, Saturday at 4 PM, he said there will be a presser to hype the Dec. 9 Adrien Broner-Marcos Maidana faceoff.

Follow Michael Woods on Twitter.

*=Peter Quillin will defend his middleweight title, against Gabe Rosado, on the card. Check out this short video of Quillin talking about his path to today here.

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Denny and Crocker Win in Birmingham: Catterall vs Prograis a Go for Aug. 24

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Matchroom was at Resorts World in Birmingham, England today with a card topped by an EBU European middleweight title fight between Tyler Denny and Felix Cash. Denny was the defending champion and had home field advantage, but Cash, undefeated heading in (16-0, 10 KOs) went to post a consensus 9/4 favorite.

A member of the Irish Traveler community, Cash was making his first start in 18 months. As noted by Tris Dixon, he had a number of distractions during his hiatus, including a bitter divorce. Tonight, he looked rusty and he never did get the chance to establish a rhythm.  In the second round, he suffered a cut on his right eyelid from what was ruled an accidental clash of heads. The cut deepened, and in round five the referee stopped the action and had the ringside physician inspect the wound. On his advice, the bout was stopped.

Owing to the derivation of the cut, the bout went to the scorecards. Tyler Denny was ahead on all three cards: 49-46 and 49-47 twice.

Denny, who improved to 19-2-3, won his second straight inside the distance, an oddity as every one of his first 17 wins went to the scorecards.

Co-Feature

In the co-feature, Belfast welterweight Lewis Crocker advanced to 21-0 (11) with a unanimous but unpopular 10-round decision over Wolverhampton’s Conah Walker (13-3-1). The judges had it 95-94 and 96-93 twice. There were no knockdowns, but Walker had a point deducted in round nine for low blows.

The crowd’s dissatisfaction with the decision (Walker was clearly the busier fighter) was tempered by the fact they got to see a doozy of a fight. At times, notably in the last two rounds, the action was furious.

A rematch is in order, but all indications are that Crocker’s next fight will come against Paddy Donovan who was in attendance. A Top Rank signee from Limerick, Ireland, Donovan is 14-0 as a pro after a decorated amateur career.

Before the main event, Matchroom honcho Eddie Hearn announced that he had come to terms with Jack Catterall and Regis Prograis who will lock horns on Aug. 24 at the new Co-Op Live arena in Manchester, England. In his last assignment, Catterall comprehensively out-pointed former unified 140-pound world champion Josh Taylor while avenging the lone “L” on his record, a highly controversial setback to Taylor two years earlier in Glasgow. Regis Prograis, a two-time world title-holder at 140, has had only bad showing, but that came in his last start when he was thoroughly outclassed by Devin Haney.

Photo credit: Mark Robinson / Matchroom

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Results from Las Vegas where Rafael Espinoza Retained his WBO Title in Grand Style

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Top Rank made its first foray to the newest Las Vegas Strip resort, the Fontainebleu, tonight. Topping the bill was an all-Mexican featherweight title fight between Guadalajara’s Rafael Espinoza and Oaxaca’s Sergio Chirino. The lanky Espinoza, at six-foot-one the tallest featherweight world title-holder in history, was making the first defense of the title he won with a shocking upset of Robeisy Ramirez and tonight he looked sensational.

Espinoza, who advanced his record to 25-0 with his 21st KO, had his countryman on the canvas in the very first round, the result of a counter left uppercut. Chirino wasn’t badly hurt, but it quickly became apparent that he was out-gunned. In round three, Espinoza sent him to the canvas again with a four-punch combo climaxed by a short left to the liver, and Chirino would be down once again in the following round, hunched down from a series of punches that caught only air. At this juncture, referee Raul Caiz Jr wisely stepped in and stopped the fight. The official time was 2:45 of round four. Chirino, who came in riding a 13-fight winning streak, declined to 22-2.

Espinoza is expected to have a rematch with Ramirez, provided that Robeisy gets past his Mexican opponent later this month in a match that, on paper, looks like an easy win for the Cuban southpaw. In their first meeting, the unheralded Espinoza was a massive underdog. Based on his showing tonight, he looks no worse than “pick-‘em” in the sequel.

Co-Feature

In a 10-round junior lightweight fight, North Las Vegas native Andres Cortes scored a unanimous decision over former world title challenger Abraham Nova. The scores favored the local fighter by scores of 96-94 and 97-93 twice.

Cortes had the crowd in his corner, but the reaction when the verdict was announced was one of surprise. Nova, who was credited with throwing and landing more punches, was in better condition and seemingly had the best of it in the late rounds. It was the twenty-second win without a loss for Cortes. Nova (23-3), a class act,  was diplomatic in defeat.

Also

In a true crossroads fight (a “pink slip” fight in the words of ESPN commentator Mark Kriegel),Troy Isley, a former Olympian and stablemate of Terence Crawford, out-worked Javier Martinez to win a unanimous 10-round decision. The judges had it 96-92-and 97-91 twice.

The middleweights were well-acquainted, having split four fights at the amateur level. Isley, from Alexandria, VA, improved to 13-0 (5) Martinez, born in Milwaukee to immigrants from Mexico, was 10-0-1 heading in. Both fighters lost a point for low blows after repeated warnings from referee Tony Weeks.

Other Bouts of Note

In an 8-round bantamweight fight that turned zesty after a slow start, Floyd Mayweather Jr protégé Floyd “Cashflow” Diaz improved to 12-0 (3) with a unanimous decision over Tijuana’s Francisco Pedroza (18-12-2). The judges had it 78-73 across the board. Diaz was making his second start under the tutelage of Brian “Bomac” McIntyre. Pedroza lost a point in round six for hitting on the break.

Steven Navarro, a hot prospect from a prominent SoCal boxing family, won his second pro fight with a 6-round shutout over rugged but outclassed Juan Pablo Meza (7-4), a 33-year-old Chilean.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank

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Will Eumir Marcial be the First Filipino Boxer to Win an Olympic Gold Medal?

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Will Eumir Marcial be the First Filipino Boxer to Win an Olympic Gold Medal?

Over the years, some of the world’s best boxers have been Filipino. Long before Manny Pacquiao there was Pancho Villa (Francisco Villaruel Guilledo) who became a national hero at the age of twenty-one when he captured the world flyweight title with a one-sided beat-down of Jimmy Wilde in 1923, knocking the legendary Welshman into retirement. But one thing is missing from the Pinoy boxing catalog, an Olympic gold medal. There have been eight medalists in all, four silver and four bronze, but the coveted gold has proved elusive.

Eumir Marcial came close in Tokyo. He advanced to the semi-finals in the middleweight competition where he lost a razor-thin decision to his Ukrainian opponent. Two of the judges favored him, but that was one short of what was needed.

“It took a long time for me to get over it, but I came to accept that God had a different plan for me,” says Marcial who gets another crack at it next month. He survived the qualifying tournaments and is headed to Paris where he will carry the flag of the Philippines into the Games of the XXXIII Olympiad.

Eumir (you-meer) Marcial grew up in Zamboanga City in the southern region of the archipelago, a two-day trip to Manila by ferry. He was introduced to boxing by his father Eulalio Marcial who besides being a farmer and a jitney driver is also the head coach of the Zamboanga City (amateur) boxing team.

Eulalio’s son is a big wheel in his native habitat, one of the more urbanized areas of the Philippines. This past October, when Eumir returned to Zamboanga City with his silver medal from the Asian Games in China, a motorcade awaited him at the airport and he was whisked to City Hall where he was feted in a ceremony organized by civic leaders.

In Las Vegas, where he was been training for the Olympics, he’s anonymous. No one genuflects when he walks into the DLX Gym in the company of his attractive wife Princess. He’s just another face in the crowd and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Marcial had one pro fight under his belt before the Tokyo Games. In December of 2020, he won a 4-round decision over a 3-1 opponent from Idaho on a card in Los Angeles. Not quite two months before that fight, while training at Freddie Roach’s gym, Marcial, who has two sisters, received the devastating news that his only brother Eliver had died in the Philippines of a sudden heart attack at age 39. Despite the age difference, the two were extremely close.

Marcial has had four more pro fights since then, advancing his record to 5-0 (3 KOs). In two of those fights, he had anxious moments.

In his second pro fight, he was knocked down three times in the first two frames, but gathered his wits about him and stopped his opponent in round four. In his next outing, a 6-rounder on the undercard of a Showtime PPV, he fought through a bad gash over his right eye, the result of an accidental head butt.

“I learned a lot from those fights,” says Marcial, “and they will make me a better Olympian than I was in 2021.”

Marcial spent nearly 10 years in the Philippines Air Force, but as somewhat of a civilian employee, spending little time around aircraft. He attracted a lot of attention after winning the AIBA world junior championship as a 15-year-old bantamweight in Kazakhstan in 2011. The Air Force seized on his growing fame to make him a recruiting specialist.

The word icon is over-used, but not when applied to Manny Pacquiao who overcame abject poverty to become an international superstar. “He was an inspiration to me,” says Marcial who references “PacMan” as Sir Manny or Senator Manny when he speaks about him.

The two would become well-acquainted. Pacquiao co-promoted Marcial’s last pro fight in Manila which was nationally televised in the Philippines and billed as a homecoming for Eumir who hadn’t fought in a Manila ring in five years. (He knocked out his Thai opponent in the fourth round.)

Marcial recalls some advice that Pacquiao gave him: “He said to me, ‘the higher you get, the more humble you should be.’”

Humbleness comes natural to the affable Marcial who is unstinting in his praise of those who have helped him along on his journey. “I would not have gotten through the qualifying tournament for the Paris games if not for my coach Kay Koroma,” he says.

Nowadays, whenever a Filipino boxer appears for a photo-op, Sean Gibbons is certain to be standing close by. Gibbons, who has homes in Las Vegas and the Philippines, has had an amazing ride since the days when he plied the Oklahoma and Midwest circuits, driving hundreds of miles each month to small shows in the sticks, transporting carloads of journeymen boxers with him. “[Sean Gibbons] helps us with accommodations, rental cars, whatever we need, and I am so grateful to him,” says Marcial of the man (pictured above on the left) who wears many hats but is perhaps best described as a facilitator.

Making matters more daunting for Marcial going forward, his weight class was eliminated when the governing body of the Olympics added a new weight category for women, subtracting one from the men. A middleweight (165-pound ceiling) in Tokyo, he will perform as a light heavyweight (176-pound ceiling) in Paris.

Eumir Marcial will return to the pro ranks regardless of what happens in France, but lassoing that elusive Olympic gold medal would likely bring him more joy than anything he may accomplish at the next level.

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