Boxing


The Beauty and the Beast: A Tale of Two Champions

05.06.04 – By Vincent van der Steen: Tonight, Oscar ‘the Golden Boy’ De la Hoya – 36-3 (29) – will make an attempt at capturing a piece of the world championship in his sixth weight class as a professional. On that night in Las Vegas he will challenge Felix ‘Adnan Catic’ Sturm – 20-0 (9) – for the lightly regarded WBO middleweight championship of the world. The same card will also see the undisputed middleweight champion of the world, Bernard ‘the Executioner’ Hopkins – 43-2-1 (31), defend his title for an unprecedented 18th time when he faces Robert ‘Armed and Dangerous’ Allen – 36-4 (27) – for the third time in his illustrious career.

This doubleheader is supposed to serve as a showcase event for two of boxing’s marquee names; Hopkins and De la Hoya. A potential match up between the both of them has been a part of rumour and speculation ever since Bernard Hopkins handed Felix ‘Tito’ Trinidad – 41-1 (34) – his lone loss on the 29th of September 2001, Trinidad was responsible for Oscar’s first ‘official’ loss, to become the first undisputed middleweight champion in more than a decade. Hopkins has held the middleweight titles ‘hostage’ ever since and broke Carlos ‘Escopeta’ Monzon’s – 87-3-9 (59) – longstanding record of fifteen world title defences in the process. Hopkins now has his eyes set on an unprecedented record of twenty middleweight title defences.

De La Hoya:

Oscar De la Hoya is coming of a ‘controversial’ decision loss to ‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley – 39-3 (35) – who is responsible for both his other losses. The decision had De la Hoya, and a lot of his fans, flabbergasted. Regardless, De La Hoya came back on his word of retirement (he would retire if he lost to Mosley) and decided to make a first instalment of what should be the final chapter of De la Hoya’s career. In the golden boy’s world Adnan Catic – Sturm is a stage name, he is of Bosnian decent – serves only as a prologue to the much anticipated Hopkins fight, and if victorious, his conclusion to a great legacy (Trinidad?!).

De la Hoya career has been an exemplary one. As an amateur he won the national golden gloves championship, two national championships and a silver medal at the world amateur championships. He culminated his amateur career by winning a gold medal at 132 pounds at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 – hence his moniker – and a 223-5 amateur record. As the sole US gold medallist in Barcelona, accompanied by his ‘boyish good looks’ and soft spoken manner, De la Hoya has been a marketing manager’s dream since turning professional after the Olympics.

The rest is history, as De la Hoya sports an incredible professional record – Chavez (2), Whitaker, Quartey, Trinidad, Mosley (2) and Vargas – that spans through five different weight classes. De la Hoya is also the highest grossing fighter outside of the heavyweight division, and is one of boxing’s few remaining ‘cash cows’. The Oscar awards are always surrounded by glamour, the rich and famous, and the power of the Industry. In other words: he is the ideal vessel for a fighter to lift the veils of obscurity into the limelight of primetime prize fighting.

Hopkins:

Bernard Hopkins orchestrated a brilliant symphony of pain against the former three time WBA middleweight champion William ‘Torelle’ Joppy – 34-3-1 (25) the last time he was in office. Joppy, aided by a bet not to get KOd by Hopkins, showed some real grit and determination while Hopkins once again pointed out why he has gone 21-0-1 (15) since he was beaten last by the long time P4P king Roy Jones Junior – 49-2 (39) – in 1993.

Hopkins has often been accredited as being ‘green’ when he faced Jones Junior in 1993, the rebuttal that is often used is that Jones won that fight with one hand. Green or not, Hopkins did have an exemplary amateur record of 95-4 before he got incarcerated for five years on a robbery conviction. The only criticism the executioner had to endure after that, was his lack of ‘quality’ opposition, and the fact he has but one ‘career defining’ victory in Trinidad. As a result, Hopkins feels his exploits have been left out to dry.

For the past 11 years he has executed a whole slew of middleweight convicts in an effort to harvest the fruit of his own sweet labour. Now in the twilight of his career, Hopkins is 39, it looks like he has finally found the beanstalk that will carry him to the goose that lays the golden eggs. The answer had been simple all along: put a lease on your career, use your wit and patience, and let King’s seeds bear their fruit. The opportunity is nigh, the foundation was laid first, not the wall as Sa’adi would say. Judging the current state of the middleweight division, it is in this author’s opinion that Hopkins laid his personal penitentiary’s or domicile’s foundation and walls very well.

The Opponents:

Like de la Hoya and Hopkins, Sturm was an accomplished amateur fighter with a record of 113-9. He won two German National Championships, the European championships and would lose in the third round of the Olympics to the bronze-medallist Jermain ‘Bad Intentions’ Taylor – who is currently 20-0 (15) as a professional. He won the WBO title by beating Hector Javier ‘el Artillero’ Velazco – 30-3-1 (14) by split decision on short notice, which suggests – along with this fight – that Sturm does not waver when an opportunity presents itself.

Sturm lacks power, which reportedly he has been working on. He however makes up for the lack of power with good skill and lateral movement. Sturm has good hand speed, and a good straight jab. He also has a slight height advantage, stamina might be an issue though. A friend of Sturm stated that Felix used to loath certain training methods, like doing roadwork, though this has not been an issue nowadays. More concerning would be if he fights according to the infamous Sauerland-tradition, accurate minimalism and jumping on the bicycle for a ‘tour de ring’ will not win him the beauty contest in Las Vegas.

As you would come to expect for fighters that will meet each other for the third time tonight, these two carry a history. Their first contest was ruled a no-contest after Hopkins fell through the ring and injured his ankle, Allen was leading by two rounds on the scorecards. The second fight is something Allen would rather forget, Hopkins will not let him though. Allen feels that he has Hopkins number – the tenacity reminds of pre-Mosley Forrest – and that he has studied the tapes of both fights every day of his life ever since.

Hopkins does consider Allen ‘dangerous’, but definitely ‘unarmed’ if comparisons with Morrade Hakkar – 31-4 (19) – are in order. Allen has excellent amateur credentials – 44-0 – and was the armed-forces champion in 1999. Hopkins however will be ‘damned’ if he would let Allen stand between and his golden goose (current market value: $10 million). The long-reigning middleweight champion recently stated in this respect: “Robert Allen's the hors d'oeuvres, but Oscar De La is the main course but I'm going to eat the hors deouvres then I'm gonna wait 90 days, to clear my system. It's going to be the super fight of the century."

Collision Course:

So finally, a collision course has been set for a match in the mould of fights like Hagler vs. Leonard. The most appealing match ups in history have always been style or character match ups, be it in a technical sense – a boxer versus a puncher – or in a personal sense – the beauty and the beast. De la Hoya first contest at middleweight will most likely be a beauty-contest to impress the judges. Both he and Sturm, probably, lack the power to take one another out. Allen and Hopkins will more probably perform a replay of their previous fight, with the executioner handing yet another fighter his head.

In boxing it is often difficult to make predictions. For instance, I like a fighter like Sturm in a potential match up with a guy moving up like De la Hoya. He has speed, skill and a closed defence. His lack of experience, lack of power, and questionable stamina are huge question marks though. De la Hoya on the other hand, lacks power, size and stamina…he is the house fighter though, a lot ‘cuter’, and has more experience than even the most excellent European champions will ever see. With regard to Hopkins and the 160 pound limit? It is like Hopkins says himself: ‘Only Bernard Hopkins can beat Bernard Hopkins’.

Article posted on 05.06.2004



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