64 fights. 20 middleweight title defenses. 28 years as a professional boxer. Bernard Hopkins has defined the landscape of boxing in remarkable style, and most notably, always in HIS way. Hopkins final bout Saturday in Los Angeles against Joe Smith Jr. is no exception.
Smith is an aggressive power puncher, and he’s coming to the Forum Saturday night armed with a 22-1-0 record and a big stoppage win over Andrzej Fonfara, who defeated Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. He intends to make Hopkins retirement an early one, well inside their scheduled 12 rounds.
Covering this event, Hopkins 65th fight, billed as “The Final 1”, it’s tempting to fall into clichés referring to Hopkins age and ring longevity, or to summon a sense of nostalgia, or speculate whether it’s truly his final fight. But Hopkins has indulged in no such sentiments. His approach to this bout was strictly business, the hard nosed work ethic firmly in place. This was no time for dwelling on memory lane. Smith is coming to the Forum in Los Angeles to spoil Hopkins farewell party. But Bernard has other plans for Smith. He’s used to spoiling evenings for his opponents, and it’s a fun thing to see. While Hopkins may not be in the mood for reminiscing, it’s a guilty pleasure for those who have enjoyed his feats in the ring to look back at a few of his best performances.
Hopkins/ Tito Trinidad, 2001. For 5 rounds, Hopkins worked on frustrating Tito Trinidad, with movement, defense, and accurate counter punching, rendering him ineffective. As the fight continued, Hopkins dominated and Trinidad imploded. Trinidad had no answer for any of Hopkins tricky offense, and his own combinations missed desperately time after time. Hopkins was accurate with each punch while Trinidad became a hopeless target. At the time of the stoppage, Trinidad was barely on dangerously shaky legs in front of referee Steve Smoger after pulling himself up off the canvas, when his father, Trinidad Sr. stepped in to stop the slaughter. Hopkins, at age 36, out boxed and out fought the Puerto Rican superstar.
Hopkins/Oscar De La Hoya, 2004: The Executioner versus the Golden Boy in Las Vegas. During the ninth round of their title bout, Hopkins dropped Oscar De La Hoya with a shot to the liver that left him motionless and unable to breathe, then he turned a flip in celebration. Before the stoppage shot, Hopkins and De La Hoya engaged in an all defense fight, avoiding any all out warfare. Hopkins, age 38 gave De La Hoya his first knock out loss, and was winning on judges scorecards when he delivered the knockout.
Hopkins/Kelly Pavlik, 2008: Kelly Pavlik known as a busy, hard hitting brawler met with the master in Hopkins, and earned his first loss. Hopkins completely stymied Pavlik for 12 rounds, effectively slipping his punches then beating him accurately to the punch in return. Hopkins movement also negated Pavlik’s signature, thudding 1-2 combinations, and for most of the fight Pavlik was in the role of absorbing punches rather than dishing them out. In what he then considered his best bout, 43 year old Hopkins showed real emotion after his victory, as he unloaded on press row, shouting: “I’m tired of proving myself”. This performance silenced doubters.
Hopkins/Smith 2016: 51 year old Bernard Hopkins goes to war with an undefeated, young fighter who appears to be a real threat, looking to grab a career making win. Expect Hopkins to fully execute his mental and physical skills against Smith, who will find himself at a loss.