Boxing


De La Hoya Cites The Difference

09.09.04 - By Frank Lotierzo - GlovedFist@Juno.com - I was recently on a media conference call with Oscar De La Hoya. In less than two weeks, he will fight the best and toughest fighter he's ever faced in his career, undisputed Middleweight Champ Bernard Hopkins. What stood out to me is how confident De La Hoya sounded in his tone and demeanor. I believe there isn't a doubt in his mind that he'll beat Hopkins on September 18th. He consistently harped on his great condition and edge in speed as being the keys to beating Hopkins. From what I gathered, De La Hoya is resigned to the fact that he probably can't stop Hopkins. But he believes he can and will out box him.

When De La Hoya was asked about the similarities between his fight with Hopkins and the Hagler-Leonard fight, he was more than willing to discuss them. He basically said you have a smaller man challenging a bigger man who hasn't lost a fight in 11 years. He was quick to point out the one big difference between his fight with Hopkins, and the Hagler-Leonard bout of 1987. As he sees it, Hagler was slipping and slowing down, opposed to Hopkins despite being almost 40 who isn't. De La Hoya apparently forgot that Ray Leonard only fought once in five years prior to fighting Hagler because of suffering a detached retina.

De La Hoya continued on how Hopkins has remained at his peak and hasn't slowed over the years. I somewhat expected that from him since he wants to make Hopkins the greatest fighter of all time to enhance his standing if he beats him. But the fact is, Hopkins has eroded some and is not the same fighter who stopped Felix Trinidad three years ago.

Lets debunk the myth that Hopkins is fighting at his brilliant best as of September 2004, before the De La Hoya fight takes place. I've attended four of Hopkins last five fights going back to his fight with Trinidad at Madison Square Garden. Since the Trinidad bout, Hopkins has fought Carl Daniels-TKO 10, Morrade Hakkar-TKO 8, William Joppy-UD 12, and Robert Allen-UD 12. The Allen fight is the only one I didn't attend.

Since fighting Trinidad, Hopkins has lost some foot speed and he's not as sharp offensively as he once was. It took him more than a few rounds to track and methodically break down Daniels and Hakkar. Against Joppy, Hopkins looked good once he got into the fight, but he certainly didn't look like the same fighter who fought Trinidad. In his last fight with Robert Allen, he looked ordinary at best.

The Bernard Hopkins who will fight Oscar De La Hoya in less than two weeks is not far removed from his peak fighting days. However, he is definitely on the slide, I have no doubt about that. Hopkins foot speed, not that it was ever great, is not quite what it was. He is more vulnerable to movement now than he's ever been in his career. I also think his punches lack a little steam compared to what they were three or four years ago.

I do think Hopkins has started to show signs of aging over the last few years. Although it may not be as significant as other fighters, it's enough to notice. Recently, I've read how Hagler was just about finished heading into his fight with Leonard. The reality is, Hagler was not at his peak when he fought Leonard, but he was still thought to be the absolute best Middleweight in the World. The idea that he had eroded enough and could lose his title to any Welterweight or Middleweight in the World simply did not exist. Regardless of what the fighters name was.

However, Boxing is one of the greatest sports in the World for revisionist history by many writers and fans. Prior to fighting Leonard, Hagler scored three of the most impressive wins of his career versus Hamsho, Hearns, and Mugabi. In his last five fights over the same time period as Hagler, prior to fighting De La Hoya, Hopkins destroyed Trinidad, and was nothing more than solid against Daniels, Hakkar, Joppy, and Allen. Too me, that's advantage Hagler. If De La Hoya or anyone else believes the Hopkins coming out of the Allen fight is significantly sharper and better than the Hagler who came out of the Mugabi fight, they see something I don't.

The only thing I know for sure regarding whether Hopkins is shot or fighting at his best, is that I'll have to wait until September 19th to find out. If he beats De La Hoya, he'll be thought of as being at the top of his game. If he loses, it will be said that he's practically 40 and shot. As of this writing, the Hopkins-De La Hoya fight is 12 days away. And just like Hagler-Leonard, nobody is saying if De La Hoya wins it'll be because he fought a faded Hopkins

Article posted on 10.09.2004



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