Boxing


De La Hoya-Hopkins: The Surreal Deal

19.09.04 - By Lee Hayes: Is it possible for two marquee fighters to instantly look their respective ages in the same ring on the same night? I think we may have seen it tonight when Oscar DeLaHoya took on the monumental task of challenging Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins, for all of the middleweight belts and glory.

To be honest, neither man, looked great in the Super Fight of the year. In fact, they rarely looked good. To makes things worse, HBO treated all of it’s viewers to countless replays of Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Marvelous Marvin Hagler before the match began, making it all the more apparent that what we were watching probably wasn’t even a “poor mans” version of that historical match-up. As HBO analyst and commentator, Larry Merchant, aptly stated in the middle rounds of the fight, “I’ve seen Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Marvin Hagler, and this is not Leonard/Hagler.” Indeed.

What we did get to see, is a near upset of great proportions, judging by the first four rounds, during which Oscar landed nearly all of the telling punches and simultaneously shocked nearly all viewers by standing inside with Hopkins.

What happened next was incredibly more shocking, with DeLaHoya standing almost directly in front of the Executioner, Bernard simply…failed to capitalize on his gift. Leading up to the fight, the big questions, if you will, had been, “Can Hopkins cut off the ring and catch Oscar as he dances around the ropes all night, taking pot shots?” or, “Will Oscar choose to use the style that trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr. instilled in him in recent years?” The latter being a style that appeared to be the recipe for a very early night for DeLaHoya. We got neither. DeLaHoya stood and traded. In the end, he also got a brutal lesson as to why that plan had not even been an option to most of us.

Unlike his last fight -and only other taste of the middleweight division- against Felix Sturm, Oscar came in to this fight in excellent condition. I won’t even get in to the pseudo-controversy about DeLaHoya’s injured hand, because it turned out to be not much of a controversy at all. To this writer, the only controversy lied in Hopkins refusal to fight DeLaHoya, while he stood in the lion’s den, during the early rounds.

The shot that eventually knocked out “The Golden Boy” –for the first KO loss of his career- was an off-balanced left hook to the bottom of the rib cage. The punch appeared to have landed with the inside of Hopkins left hand, not even requiring his knuckles, but the effects were, non-the-less telling. Oscar was clearly devastated and unable to continue.

I think it was wise of Hopkins to mention that he’s only interested in one more fight, before retirement. He did not look like one of the greatest middleweights of all-time tonight. In fact, it was hard to imagine either of these men beating Felix Trinidad or Ricardo Mayorga with what they showed tonight. If Hopkins is serious about retirement, the winner of the Trinidad/Mayorga bout in two weeks may determine the divisions immediate future.

One thing is for sure, if this was Hopkins last fight at middleweight, and he is seriously thinking about moving up in weight to face Antonio Tarver, those five belts that were contended for this evening will be splintered faster than you can say “FUBAR” or “Don King”.

Trinidad will surely win a title. Jermain Taylor may too. Perhaps Felix Sturm, and hey, why not Robert Allen? He obviously wasn’t going to win it while Hopkins was the reigning watchman over the prizes.

Final thoughts on tonight’s card:

1. Tonight we were reminded why boxing is our favorite sport and can hold it’s own with any other. Yes…one punch can truly end it all. At any given moment, and the size of the name of the fighter does NOT matter.

2. Bernard Hopkins is a very good middleweight champion, but he probably never deserved to be mentioned along with the likes of Ketchel, Greb, Walkers, Robinson, Monzon or Hagler. His list of top opponents really only contains Roy Jones Jr. (to whom he lost quite convincingly), Felix Trinidad (his most crowning achievement) and Oscar DeLaHoya (who was very much in the fight up until the KO).

3. With all of the suspicious, and ridiculous changes and inconsistencies before the fight, I think it’s time for somebody to demand that Marc Ratner stand down and resign. Ratner, who once was the name of integrity and honor in the sport, no longer carries that clout. He’s become bad for boxing. Take your pick. Whether it’s because Dr. Margaret Goodman -the Nevada State Athletic Commissions top doctor- was either refusing to work this fight (as Ratner would claim to the HBO team in an interview) or because two judges from the controversial DeLaHoya/Sturm fight were chosen to score this bout, all things lead to Ratner over staying his welcome. The choice of referee was also somewhat suspect, although I’ve always liked Kenny Bayless and he did a commendable job.

4. What was with the judges scoring? How on earth could anyone have Hopkins ahead by 6 points at the end of that fight? Isn’t there something that can be done to put an end to this plethora of bad decisions and scoring that has plagued our sport for what seems like forever? Maybe having those two judges worked in reverse for DeLaHoya, because they received so much negative press and back lash (deservedly) after the terrible decision against Sturm. Who knows, but I’ll tell you, the fight was a hell of a lot closer than that, and without the final round, I still had Oscar up by one point.

5. Finally, during his most heart breaking defeat in the ring. His most painful loss. Oscar DeLaHoya finally acted like a man instead of the primadona/manchild we’ve become accustomed to over the years. Through the pain and humiliation of the post fight interview, Oscar was very candid, offered no excuses (although the hand would have been a mighty convenient one) and summed it all up when Larry Merchant asked him if he would retire of right on…Oscar’s simple reply of “I love boxing (pause), what more can I say?” He’ll be back, and this writer for one, has a newfound respect for DeLaHoya. He may not be “the Golden Boy” anymore, but sometimes, a Silver or Bronze is just as good.

Article posted on 19.09.2004



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