Oliver McCall vs John Hopoate This Friday

oliver mccall21.05.09 - By Tony Nobbs: When John Hopoate was iced in 89 seconds by debutant Ben Edwards in April , ’07 , his critic thought that the former rugy league Test representative’s fledging boxing career was like last weeks pay.

But you can’t keep a goood man down and on Saturday afternoon (Australian time) the Tongan born 34 year old father of eight from Manly makes his international debut at the Orleans Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, almost three years to the day he exploded on to the scene on the Mundine-Green bill, a man very much on a mission.

While the IBA Intercontinental Heavyweight bauble and a buck fifty’ll get ya a cup of coffee, it’s the name opponent, albeit a 44 year old, that victory will get the ex Kangaroo one step closer to the “big league”.

Former WBC heavyweight boss Oliver “The Atomic Bull” Mc Call (51-9, 36 whacks) can punch and as any old timer will tell you, power is the last thing that leaves a fighter , long after the legs, money and hangers on are gone..

We all remember Lennox Lewis in ’94 (and try to forget ’97). But there’s others too. Who’s forgot Oleg Maskaev?! There’s Henry Akinwande, Francesco Damani. Recent years, lesser lights like Przemslaw Saleta, Darroll Wilson, Yanqui Diaz. Mc Call upset top rated Sinal Sam in 2007, his second last appearance, around the same time Hopate suffered back to back L’s to basic novices.

The first man Hoppa sparred when he took up the noble art after he was exiled from league, was Kali Meehan, the “Australasian” heavyweight contender who came within a whisker of dethroning WBO heavyweight titlist Lamon Brewster in Vegas five years back , and who is now number one contender for the WBA title. Team Hoppa has been in Los Angeles for two weeks, working out of Hollywood based Aussie trainer Justin Fortune’s ‘Fortune Gym’. I spoke to the current Australian Heavyweight title holder on Wednesday morning (Tuesday afternoon US time) as they were thirty minutes out of Vegas in 96 faranheit heat and the feeling in the camp is positive, bouyed by impressive sparring with Brewster and one time WBC title challenger Lionel Butler - who dropped a ten round decision to Mc Call in 1990.

Relaxed after a day in Anaheim visiting his sister, Hoppa (11-2, all wins by the short route) had an adrenalin rush before the fight when there was a tremor in LA on Sunday.

“I was with my cousins having a cofee and all of a sudden the kids were jumping up and down. It only lasted five or six seconds but it was great to have experienced one of them. They happen all the time over here.”

Might have been a good thing he attended Church that morning.

“He had been sparring Solomon Haumono and Kali Mehan every second day in Sydney. Sparring with Brewster and Butler , eight rounds each day for three days topped of the best preparation he’s ever had. They were great sessions, John showed that he can mix it and we are going in fully confodent but also not underestimating Oliver Mc Call in any way” said trainer-manager Dave Millward.

“They are top blokes too. You can’t buy that experience. They showed me little things to look for, tactics some of these guys do when the ref isn’t looking, it’s a different game over here” said Hop.

“I’m still a baby in this sport. I’ve only had 14 fights (this weekend) and I haven’t really done anything yet. I’m still learning the basics of boxing really.”

Did he even dream, three years ago, that he would be fighting in Las Vegas so soon and against an opponent like Mc Call?

“No way. I thought I’d be fighting for six years before I got anywhere. Winning the Australian title (last September , ko 9 Bob Mirovic) was personally a massive achievement for me, especially so soon”.

What’s he expect from Mc Call? “I’m expecting him to come out and try and blast me out of there. He will want to test me early, use his experience. I’m prepared for that”.

Mc Call has had more fights (50) than Hopoate has had rounds (43). Oliver’s only inside the distance defeat came in the Lewis rematch. Does Hop think that the American’s would look at his record, see two defeats, one ko by 1, and only thirteen fights, the only near notable opposition being Mirovic and Cliff Couser, and take him lightly?

“Without a doubt! But I’ve trained for the best he has”.

A practicing Mormon, Hop once told me that “I wil always be John Hopoate. I can be a priest and
people will still remember the silly things I did on the footy field.People will always have their opinions of me”.

In gutting out a win over Bob Mirovic , he won new fans. He deserves credit for coming back the way he has to get into a position where he fights a guy like McCall. To tell the truth, he deserves credit for fighting Mc Call. There are a truck load of easier opponents he could have faced, building his record, fooling the public.

Working Hopate’s corner for the fight will be Millward , Fortune and regular assistant Jarrod Heaney. The following week, on Saturday night, Millward’s light heavyweight prospect Kerry Foley (11-0, 9 ko’s) makes his US debut in San Bernadino on a Top Rank card.

Article posted on 21.05.2009

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