Boxing


Bernard Hopkins and Jermaine Taylor: Repeat or Revenge?

02.12.05 - By Fadi Khawaja: The rematch between Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo taught me one thing - initial meetings between fighters do not give us all the answers. Most boxing writers thought Corrales would elect to box en route to a unanimous decision. He went ten rounds on the inside, surely he could go twelve on the outside. Their line of thought was Corrales was the more versatile fighter and when boxing in the first fight found success.. What the rematch showed is fighters do not always learn from their mistakes as Corrales was on the brink of disaster the first time round yet chose to plough forward again the rematch. It also showed us do not take any fighter for granted. Castillo made huge changes that were unexpected but evident from the start. In the eyes of this writer the fight was won by the changes Castillo made.

In the Bernard Hopkins and Jermaine Taylor fight we are presented with the same similarities. The fight is quite easy to read; Hopkins fought a very slow fight for the first two thirds of the fight then turned it on.

People who thought Taylor won gave him the first two thirds of the fight because he was trying to make the fight. People who thought Hopkins won did so because they thought Taylor was fighting Hopkins fight and thus gave Hopkins some early rounds, which coupled with the last third of the fight which was definitive for Hopkins, earned him the decision.

The rematch is simple right? Hopkins turns it on early and cruises to the finish line or does what some think he should have done the first time and stops him. Wrong! This fight holds a huge number of variables that need to be considered.

Firstly, Hopkins is an old man. This is not an opinion; this is a fact as he has admitted. His line of thought is one of a pugilist specialist; if his opponent is not going to make him fight at a high pace then he is going fight a slow strategic fight. When a fighter gets old they cannot sustain the pace they once did, Hopkins is no different. Hopkins has been fighting measured fights since his fight with Robert Allen. He fights slow for two thirds of the fight then turns it on. Against an Allen, Eastman or De La Hoya he can get the wins, against Taylor, a big, strong, powerful, fast fighter he was out done. Hopkins carried on like a man possessed until thirty eight years of age. Since the William Joppy fight however he has become human but knows the game so well that he is pulling the wool over peoples eyes. Some fans do not want to admit it but it is the truth. Allen says his power has decreased, there are visible signs of slowing and the paces of his fights have fallen badly. Hopkins does not mind fighting at such a pace because he is a clever fighter and knows it is in his best interests. For Hopkins to come out and set a scorching pace against Taylor would for me be a miracle. The Hopkins of the Johnson fight could do it and win, present day Hopkins does seem to be able to.

Secondly, Taylor is a man now. Before the first bout there were clear signs of respect from Taylor to Hopkins. The rematch is aptly named “No Respect”. I do not see any signs of the stuttering Taylor of old. His choice of words has taken a turn for the spiteful in his bid to unsettle Hopkins and show he has matured. One of two things happened in the first fight; Taylor has bad stamina or he let nervous energy get to him. To my knowledge he stays in good shape, trains hard and they say his coach Pat Burns is a conditioning freak. His reason of tiring late may well have been nervous energy. I myself find this plausible. People who have been in such a situation (maybe not on such a big stage) can attest to nervous energy being draining.

The first two points tell us Hopkins might not be able to fight twelve hard rounds at his best where as Taylor might be.

Technically I was expecting Hopkins to expose Taylors major flaws. I thought Taylors low left and the carrying of the right hand away from the chin would be asking for Hopkins trademark lunging left hooks and lead rights. I thought Hopkins would parry his jab and manhandle him on the inside. Hopkins did expose these flaws but he simply could not do it for twelve rounds. For the rounds where he fought like I thought he would, he won but it was too late. Taylor showed a wide variety of intangibles. Firstly, Hopkins punch could stun him but not put him away thus showing a certain degree of chin. Secondly, Taylor showed formerly unknown strength in the clinch which did not allow Hopkins to dictate one of his best areas – the inside. Thirdly, Taylors power was evident as he stunned Hopkins in the second round with a right hand, left hook albeit with the right hand landing behind Hopkins head. Fourthly, Taylor showed heart in the face of adversity as he got cut, tired and lost four or five rounds in a row.

So Hopkins and Taylor have many variables going into their fight. Do not think for a moment this is a straight forward fight. It is all there for Taylor to win and easier than the first time. However he may follow in Corrales footsteps and use his brawn and not his brains. Taylor seems high on not giving Hopkins any respect but it could be his undoing. Hopkins has not got the same type of fight ending power as Castillo so he is going to need to dig deep and go to the well.

I was once a Taylor admirer but I like skilled fighters who improve. Taylor does not seem content on going down this path. He has a lot of talent but is failing to take note of the finer side of the sport. I think only Roy Jones managed to maintain a technically flawed style of fighting for a long period of time. I maintain what I once said years ago, if Taylor can master the game like Hopkins we have got a pugilistic demon. At the moment he is being very successful with much of what he was born with. He was born tall, strong, fast, with good reflexes and a natural aptitude for punching hard and these were key areas in him beating Hopkins. He did display some skill in cutting off the ring and using that ram rod jab but why stop when he could do more.

So will Hopkins muster one last hurrah or is Taylor going to complete the changing of the guard. A win for Hopkins seals his legacy; a win for Taylor pits him as an immediate candidate for greatness as a fight with Ronald ‘Winky’ Wright awaits, If Wright can get past Sam Soliman.

As mentioned in the beginning, this fight has a lot of variables. One of those variables is I have read this all wrong. It is a possibility and that is what makes boxing brilliant.

NOTE: The first time I went with Hopkins, this time I am going to go with him again. I like to pick the guy who in my eyes is the underdog. Hopkins knows his legacy is on the line. I expect him to fight like it is.

Article posted on 02.12.2005



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