by Danny Howard
Bernard Hopkins’ career began with calamity losing to Clinton Mitchell over 30 years ago, so it seemed almost ironic that it ended with calamity at the hands of Joe Smith Jr. inside The Forum in Los Angeles.
In front of a very pro-Hopkins crowd, which included a Bernard Hopkins styled remix of Frank Sintara’s “My Way,” Smith started off strong only to find himself falling into the traps of the cagey ex-champion. While Smith was able to impose himself early on Hopkins, including landing some pretty crushing blows on the 51-year-old future Hall of Famer, Hopkins was able to battle back in a closely contested battle.
In the eighth round, Smith cornered Hopkins and landed a series of blows that staggered his aged foe. During the scuffle, Smith landed a right hand that knocked Hopkins out of the ring and on his neck in a sequence that echoed the end of Joe Louis’ legendary career being knocked out of the ring by the brutish Rocky Marciano.
Confusion emerged at ringside, but Hopkins was unable to re-enter the ring after 20 seconds and Smith was awarded the victory by TKO. Despite being in the ring with fighters such as Roy Jones, Joe Calzaghe, Felix Trinidad and Sergey Kovalev, Smith became the first person to ever stop Hopkins in his nearly 30 year career.
Despite the controversy of the ending, it is unlikely that we will be seeing a return bout for Hopkins, who shares the same fate as many of the great fighters of our generation that hung around too long and had to be bounced out of the sport to know that it’s really over.
Smith scores another tremendous stoppage win, moving to 23-1 in what has been a banner year for the Long Island fighter. Earlier this year, he stopped Andrej Fonfara in the first round and he followed it up ending one of the most storied careers of the modern era.
Hopkins falls to 55-8-2, suffering the first stoppage loss of his career. Retirement and a first ballot entry to the Hall of Fame awaits one the all-time greats of the sport despite the disastrous ending.
On The Undercard
Joseph Diaz Jr. may be one of Golden Boy’s investments for the future, but the 23-0 fighter from El Monte may need more seasoning before taking his shot at the best of the Featherweight division.
Diaz dominated opponent Horacio Garcia from beginning to end, using his speed and boxing acumen to easily control the fight. Though Garcia was thoroughly outclassed, Diaz took more punishment then he should have and wasn’t able to land any telling damage on his opponent despite winning every round.
With a Featherweight division that boasts the likes of Carl Frampton, Leo Santa Cruz, a resurgent Abner Mares and Oscar Valdez, Diaz may be better suited for more development before taking what would be one leap too big.
In the opening bout, WBO Cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk made a big splash earlier this year when he dethroned Krzysztof Glowacki in just his tenth pro fight, but his US debut against Thabiso Mchunu was a miserable nine round affair.
From the start, Usyk and Mchunu traded jabs and clinches and not showing much that resembled any kind of sustained offense. It wasn’t until the midway point of the fight where Usyk started opening up and dropped Mchunu three times before stopping him in the ninth.
Usyk moves to 11-0, but may not see himself on American television any time soon.
Danny Howard has been all over the place, writing for FightHype, the Yahoo Contributor Network and the Examiner. He also became a legend in his own mind by writing “And Stay Down! Boxing’s Worst Comebacks, which you can either buy on Amazon or email him for a free copy. Howard doesn’t have time to drown in the nega-verse that is social media, but you can find him on Facebook or breathe life into his long dead Twitter @dbbox625 or let him have it directly at Daniel.Howard6@att.net