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Dougie’s Friday mailbag

07
Nov

CAN HOPKINS PULL IT OFF?

Hi Doug,

I just wanted to throw my two cents worth in on the Bernard Hopkins-Sergey Kovalev debate. First of all I am amazed (yet delighted) that we are getting such a high profile, high quality bout on HBO and don’t have to pay $75 to see it.

As for the fight itself, it harkens back to several such fights from the past where the old veteran met the seemingly unbeatable, bigger, stronger man… Clay-Liston, Ali-Foreman and of course Leonard-Hagler.



I was 21 years old when Ali fought Foreman and I remember the buzz about it. I was an Ali fan back then and it was thought in many circles that Ali was going to get seriously hurt, yet he performed a “miracle” in the ring and KO’d big George. Clay and Leonard also beat big odds to do the impossible, but for every such “miracle” there is the sad specter of the beaten veteran as he looked after the fight like Ali did against Larry Holmes. I saw that one live as well but never watched the replay… ever.

I know Bernard’s record and history of great wins and world titles, but there are also questions like, “How the heck did he lose to Jermain Taylor TWICE!” I guess it will all be answered Saturday night. As a guy who likes to analyze and breakdown fights (like you do as well), I just cannot see Hopkins winning this fight. I can’t see him out-boxing Kovalev or having the power to hurt him much. Bernard’s savvy and know-how might enable him to go the distance, but that will make for an ugly boring fight. Unlike George Foreman’s strategy (none) against Ali (as Richard Pryor said “Which one’s the referee…..cause I’m gonna KILL the other M*&%F$# ER”) I think Kovalev will fight a more controlled fight as he tries to wear the older man down.

If Bernard wins and makes us all look silly then more power to him and I will cheer him to the rafters. As an older guy myself I would love to see Hopkins take Kovalev to school. I am just picking what I think is sadly going to happen. I guess we will see. – David, Nashville

Yes we will, David.

I also believe that Kovalev will press Hopkins with “patient” aggression and go about his usual punishment in a controlled manner. I think the fight will go the distance in what may indeed be an ugly and/or boring fight but I think it will have a lot of intensity because of Kovalev’s power and the stakes/history involved with the fight.

Like you, I think Kovalev wins (by decision). Unlike you, I can see Hopkins out-boxing the younger man and pulling off another historic victory. If Hopkins is the official underdog in this one, I think he’s a live dog.

However, I don’t think he’s going to be able to be as active in this fight as he has been in his recent victories against Tavoris Cloud, Karo Murat and Beibut Shumenov. To open up as much as he did at times with that game-but-limited trio against Kovalev could result in Hopkins getting clipped – and he knows this. I think he’s going to use his legs and be very choosy about his punch selection during the first half of the fight. If he feels that Kovalev is slowing down or getting frustrated after six or seven rounds, he’ll step on the gas a little more down the stretch. However, even if he’s able to avoid getting hurt or dropped during the first part of the fight, I don’t think he’ll have it in him to beat up even a gassed version of Kovalev. If I’m wrong, and B-Hop not only takes Krusher to school but also behind the proverbial wood shed, I’ll be cheering him on right along with you.

Regarding Hopkins’ losses to Taylor, around 80 percent of the ringside press (myself included) thought he clearly won the first bout, though it was competitive. I thought the rematch was legitimately close and could’ve gone either way. If tomorrow night’s fight is that close, I think Hopkins will get the benefit of the doubt from the official judges.

 

HOPKINS-KOVALEV, AL HAYMON

Hi DougIs it Saturday yet?! I’m pumped for this fight. I know you picked the Krusher. I think he’s gonna win probably a lot easier than people expect but its BhopÔǪ you can never count him out. So what’s the deal with Al Haymon I mean why are so many fighters signing with him and what exactly does an advisor do? I must be missing something. I know he advised Peter Quillin to turn down a career high pay day and give up his belt. Sounds like bad advice to me but fighters seem to be flocking to him? What’s your thoughts on his most recent signing of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Do you think Junior has anything left and what weight will he comeback at? I think he can’t make 168 and will have to fight at 175 and he won’t have the size advantage that he had over his opponents at middleweight and will get destroyed by the top guys at 175. Personally, I would love to see him get krushed by the Krusher. Thanks – Mike

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Mike. No, you can never count Hopkins out – ever. But I did pick Kovalev. I don’t think it will be a walk in the park for the Russian, but we’ll see. It’s been awhile since Hopkins was in with a cable guy who could thump with both hands like Krusher. What’s the deal with Al Haymon? He generally gets his clients good paydays and TV exposure. That’s what prize fighters want beyond adulation and world titles. What does an adviser do? He advises. Duh! LOL. Just kidding. Haymon is from the Shelly Finkel school of advising, which means he’s a de facto manager and promoter. Defining himself as an “adviser” means he doesn’t have to get a promoter’s or manager’s license and be subject to the contractual regulations of those positions.

There are pros and cons to being a Haymon fighter. The upside is obvious. If you have talent/charisma, he’ll quickly guide you to title bouts, good purses and TV dates. Haymon’s got juice. However, there are downsides. Haymon’s got rivals/enemies in the industry, which limits who his clients can play with (although this can be a plus for certain fighters who like to call out badasses on social media but have no intention of actually fighting them – you know the guys I’m talking about). Haymon’s also got a very full plate, which limits the number of TV dates even his most talented fighters get. He’s got to accommodate a lot of top contenders and rising prospects, which means his guys won’t be fighting four times a year – even if they want/need to. Danny Garcia, Keith Thurman, Adrien Broner and Gary Russell Jr. are in the sport’s hottest divisions and in their primes but they only fought twice this year. Shawn Porter will probably end 2014 having only fought once (the loss to Kell Brook). Same deal with Kid Chocolate.

You think having Quillin drop the WBO belt was bad advice? I don’t know about that. Yeah, he gave up a lot of money in the Matt Korobov fight, but as ordinary as the Russian looks, that’s a fight Kid Choc could have lost. With Haymon’s help, Quillin juiced that WBO belt for what it was worth with three “safe” title defenses. If Quillin had lost to Korobov, his marketability would have dropped considerably. He’s one of those guys who needs to have an undefeated record to get fans (and network execs) hyped about him. I think Haymon figures “if my guy is going to lose it’s either going to be against a star in a huge fight, or to another one of my guys.”

You noted that Haymon just signed Chavez Jr. Maybe Junior and Chocolate will get it on at 168 pounds in the near future.

Do I think Junior has anything left? Yeah, I think he’s got two or three solid years of fighting in him if he wants it, but I think he’s peaked as an athlete and a boxer. He’s got his name, his solid foundation, his size and uncanny durability. That’s about it. He ain’t getting’ any better and I agree that he’ll get busted up by the top light heavyweights (although I’d give him a shot against Jean Pascal). So my guess is that he’ll try his best to get down to 168 pounds – where a potential blockbuster against Carl Froch can be made – but he won’t kill himself to make the super middleweight limit. You know Junior.

 

KOVALEV BY KO

Hey Dougie, I’m of the opinion (don’t think it’s widely shared) that Kovalev destroys Hopkins this weekend and it will seem like a no brainer pick in retrospect. The key will be the constant pressure that Hopkins just isn’t equipped to deal w/ anymore and the bludgeoning power that comes w/ it will speed up the process. I’m calling mid-rounds KO, or DQ for Kovalev if Hopkins pride won’t let him go out on his back. W/ that said Bernard’s has a way of making people who pick against him look like fools! I’ve been writing you since high school back in ’02/’03ish when you tore me a new a__hole for asking how Jose Luis Lopez would fare against the top welters or junior middles of that era. Think you replied he’s probably smoking dope on some beach somewhere. Which brings me to my Mythical Matchups! How do you see JLL doing in a roundabout w/ some of today’s welters? Thurman, Brook, Tim Bradley, & Provodnikov to be exact. Also:Terry Norris vs Mayweather Donald Curry vs Mayweather James Toney vs Golovkin (P.S. Thanks for all the mailbags! I’ve more likely than not have read every single one since a little before my JLL email. May have missed one in your transition to RingTV, but I doubt it!) – Jesse in Fort Worth

Wow. Ten years (or a little more) of reading the mailbag. You make me feel kind of old but proud at the same time, Jesse. Thanks for reading all these years.

By the way, I remember that response to your question about Lopez, who happens to be one of the biggest wastes of talent to come around since I started covering the sport. When he was focused and in shape I think he had the ability to beat any 147 pounder of the late 1990s/early 2000s – including two new hall of fame inductees, Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad – but he seldom had his head screwed on tight, or maybe his heart wasn’t in boxing.

Regardless, he was a big, talented boxer-puncher with an iron chin and excellent power (just ask Ike Quartey and James Page). Lopez at this best could have beaten all of the welterweights you mentioned – by knockout. Thurman and Brook have the size, speed, power and lateral movement to beat the Durango, Mexico native, but they wouldn’t have been able to knock him out. JLL could take a sick shot. I think Bradley is too small (and feisty) to beat Lopez; and Provo is tailor-made for the Mexican. I think Lopez would have KO’d the Russian pressure fighter.

Terry Norris vs Mayweather – Terrible Terry by mid-to-late rounds KO

Donald Curry vs Mayweather – Lone Star Cobra by close but clear decision

James Toney vs Golovkin – Toney (if he’s at his best) by close decision in a great fight (at 160 or 168).

You’re absolutely right about a Kovalev KO victory tomorrow night. If it happens, fans and media will either say “we should have seen this coming” or “I knew that would happen” (even if they didn’t say so before the fight – LOL).

That’s boxing.

 

HOPKINS AND HIS FUTURE

Hey Doug,

I’ve gotta say, I share your worry for Bernard Hopkins going into Saturday’s showdown. I know what happened to Roman Simakov is a rare occurrence in boxing, but what’s even less common is a fifty year old man fighting at the world championship level against an opponent with world class power. And while Hopkins is anything but the average fifty year old in terms of physical conditioning, his brain and his skull are still middle aged and I don’t like the way he’s been fighting off the ropes in recent fights.

That being said, he is still one of the best defensive fighters in the world and has more tools in his kit than maybe any other active boxer. I see this as a fight of tangibles vs intangibles. Kovalev has strength, power, durability and youth, along with solid fundamentals. Hopkins has old school ring savvy, an iron will and true grit. I think Kovalev will win by mid-to-late TKO, but if Hopkins does manage to pull off the upset, I would personally rank it as one of the greatest wins of all time; bigger than Ali over Foreman, Leonard over Hagler, or Foreman over Moorer. His legacy is already secure but I think a win on Saturday would elevate it to the point of mentioning him in the same breath as Archie Moore, Ezzard Charles and Sugar Ray Robinson.

Hopkins IS Philadelphia: a little rough around the edges, an underdog many times over, and a prime example of determination and dedication to one’s craft. His life story and resilience are inspiring. I just hope he makes it through Saturday night safely; then he can retire and focus on mentoring at-risk-youth from Joe Frazier’s old gym. I really think that’s where he belongs now. I can’t think of a guy more qualified for that public service. – Jack from Vancouver

I can’t either. Unfortunately, win, lose or draw, if Hopkins gets through 12 rounds with Kovalev unscathed, there’s no way he’ll hang up his gloves. He’s too proud and there’s too much money to be made fighting easier guys than Kovalev.

I hate to even write this, but if you really want Hopkins to retire or at least consider it you should hope that he gets knocked out (but not seriously hurt, of course). Hopkins is a great fighter, and apart from a few exceptions, most great fighters have to lose in one-sided – often humiliating – fashion before it sinks into their stubborn heads that they don’t have it anymore (or aren’t what they used to be).

Anyway, you obviously have high praise for Hopkins and a lot of respect for his long journey and his accomplishments – all of which is well deserved.

 

ROOTING FOR B-HOP

Dougie;

Hope all is well with you and your family.

I just saw an interview on ESPN where Hopkins discussed race, and claimed that if he was white, his success story and longevity would result in his face being plastered on every billboard and milk carton around. I must admit, I have never been a big Hopkins fan, but I am buying what he is selling there. And I am cheering for him on Saturday night.

Question; have you ever known a fighter who is as mentally strong as Bernard Hopkins? He seems utterly unflappable. And downright scary at times. Thank you. – Dave from Ilderton

No, I have never met a fighter as mentally strong as Hopkins; and as someone who was on his s__tlist for many years, I can tell you from personal experience that he is one of the most intimidating human beings you’ll ever meet.

I don’t agree with Hopkins’ comments about his race preventing him from being as popular in the mainstream media as his accomplishments merit, not entirely anyway.

I’m not going to tell you that racism doesn’t exist in America or that there aren’t people who will automatically shun a pro athlete (or anyone else) who happens to have dark-colored skin and a “black” identity as Hopkins does. (I spent the 1980s in the Ozarks of southern Missouri where few bothered hide such feelings, so I know first-hand what racism looks and feels like.)

Hopkins’ race may indeed have something to do with his not being celebrated as much as other accomplished athletes, but I believe that his personality, background and the low place that boxing currently ranks among major professional sports in the U.S. has a lot more to do with his lack of crossover appeal.

I’ll start my argument with a fact that few longtime boxing fans can deny: Boxing isn’t as popular as it was in previous decades. I know it seems like Hopkins has been around forever, but he didn’t emerge as a boxing star until the 2000s, a time when the sport was completely off network TV and all but ignored by the mainstream sports media. So yeah, Hopkins has done great things in the sport during the past 15 years, but how many casual fans witnessed it or read about it?

Next we have his background, which to some people (mainly those who follow boxing) is a wonderful tale of personal redemption and an inspirational example of how discipline, perseverance and dedication to one’s craft can pay off. However, some people can’t see past the criminal background. They don’t see a great boxer or an accomplished individual, they see an “ex-con” and they’d view him as such if his skin was white.

But the main thing that prevents Hopkins from being celebrated the way he feels he deserves to be is his personality. Before he set all those boxing records, he made his name as a maverick. He was the boxer raging against the machine — the promoters, the managers, the networks, and all of the various injustices of the sport and its industry. To some people that made him a very special athlete with a special brand of courage, but to others it made him a malcontent, a complainer, a troublemaker.

The sports figures who get all the media recognition and nationwide endorsements in this era are not the rebels with a cause. They are the guys who win and smile and either say the right things or say nothing at all. And it helps if they are attractive or at least perceived as non-threatening.

I’m not saying Hopkins is an ugly guy, but he definitely looks like a fighter. And there’s nothing non-threatening about him. B-Hop is an intense dude. Even when he’s in a designer business suit, he exudes “don’t f__k with me.”

And when it comes to what he says, he says a lot. Hopkins talks and talks and talks and talks, and he says whatever is on his mind and he doesn’t give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks about what he says.

Although Hopkins’ constant lecturing during media events can be tiresome, I and others consider this particular trait to be refreshing, but it’s not what Madison Avenue is looking for in a celebrity spokesperson or pitchman.

I could be wrong with this theory, but I think if Oscar De La Hoya had the same contentious, adversarial, tell-it-like-it-is personality that Hopkins has, the Golden Boy wouldn’t have been as popular as he was.

Personality/charisma/public image is the key to crossing over to the mainstream public in any arena.

Muhammad Ali, one of the most polarizing figures of the 1960s, took a stand on many issues and was often outspoken, perhaps more so than Hopkins, but he was still the most celebrated athlete on the planet during ’70s. Granted, he crossed over in the 1970s when there was more social consciousness among athletes and pro sports weren’t as corporate as they are now, but part of his mainstream appeal was that he was a good looking, gregarious guy who could laugh at himself. Ali had an easy time joking and being playful in public. People are attracted to that kind of personality, people of all ages and backgrounds who are not necessarily sports fans. (I’m a prime example of this. I got into boxing because of Ali. I had no strong interest in boxing or any sport. I was simply sucked into his world after watching him do one of his funny routines with Howard Cosell)

There’s nothing playful or funny about Hopkins’ personality. I’m not saying that he can’t be playful or funny, because he can, and I’ve witnessed it, but “playful and funny” isn’t who he is.

 

HOPKINS’ COMMENTS ON RACE

Bernard, in my book, is a Hall of Famer and All Time Great. However, that does not give him a pass for his racist comments that seem to get ignored because he is black. I personally take nothing away from him or his accomplishments, but I really think his style is boring and more roughhouse than “slick.” I think that is why he doesn’t have the huge fan following he thinks he deserves, not because he is “black.” If you look back on his career the entertaining fights are few and far between, and it took his opponents to make him come out of his shell a little and fight instead of hitting the hips, holding, pushing, claiming low blows, etc.

“[It’s] because I’m black. What do you think if my name was Augustine, Herzenstein, Stern? Cappello? Marciano? Don’t you understand the conflict of interest? If I was any of those names of any other background, I’d be on every billboard and every milk carton and every place to be,” said Hopkins, according to ESPN.com.

Come on Bernard, the only current boxers that have that kind of coverage are Mayweather (black and also boring to watch), and Canelo (Mexican). Why so much hate for the white guys, Bernard?

“The great Sugar Ray Leonard, right now, if he was boxing, they way that they want you to fight, the people that pull the strings of the puppet, he would be boring today. Ray Robinson – the great Robinson – would be boring todayÔǪ people criticize Floyd Mayweather because of his offense and defense – and mainly his defense,” said Hopkins, back in October 2013.

Really Bernard? Sugar Ray Leonard would still be a superstar today, his fighting style was must see TV! I’ve only seen youtube footage of Robinson, and he was 10x more exciting than any Hopkins fight I have ever watched.

Maybe old age is getting to Bernard. I’ll be watching Saturday hoping Father Time catches up to him along with a Kovalev hook. Being that Kovalev is a white European it would be kinda funny, like when he was defeated by another fighter who used a “slick” African-American style who just happened to be a white guy (Joe Calzaghe). – SR

I remember his “I’ll never get beat by a white boy” comment prior to the Calzaghe fight. Hey, Hopkins has never been politically correct or ethnically sensitive, and he doesn’t reserve his racial comments just for folks who have white skin, as Puerto Ricans and Felix Trinidad fans can tell you.

I agree with your take on his ring identity. I wouldn’t define B-Hop’s style as “slick” at all. He’s a savvy ring general, to be sure, but he’s more cagey, crafty and rough, as you noted, than he is slick.

I also agree that Robinson and Leonard would be huge stars in the sport if they were fighting today. They both had the kind of charisma/personalities that attracted media attention and the ring styles/mentalities that satisfied all boxing fans – the purists who fixate on skill and technique, the casuals who are awed by special talent and athletic ability, and the blood-thirsty ghouls who want to see somebody get KTFO.

The Sugar Men did it all. They were immensely talented boxers who mastered their craft but they also gave their all every time they stepped into the ring, and they usually closed the show with sort of chilling KOs that cause fans to follow a fighter regardless of his race.

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I reviewed a lot of George Foreman fights on Youtube when I was editing Lee Groves’ 40- and 20-year anniversary retrospectives on “The Rumble in the Jungle” and Foreman-Moorer this past week, and I was reminded about how much boxers of those decades gave of themselves in the ring. I mean, the most popular boxers – including African-American fighters (hell, especially the black dudes) – used to lay it on the line. While watching a highlight video of the Foreman-Ron Lyle shootout, I thought to myself “No wonder boxing was so damn popular.” Seriously, check out these highlights of Foreman-Lyle. These were heavyweights – who just happened to be African Americans – on network TV. Were they slick? Uh, no, thank goodness.

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Even when Foreman was in his 40s, he was still willing to go at it for 12 rounds if need be. Check out the highlights from his challenge to Evander Holyfield.

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Same thing with Leonard and his peers. Even when they were past their primes or even considered “shopworn,” as Thomas Hearns was going into his rematch with Leonard, they f___ing threw down.

Once upon a time the sport’s pound-for-pound elite and its most popular boxers also put on the best fights. Leonard-Hearns I and II, Hagler-Hearns, Leonard-Hagler – all Fight of the Year winners (between black fighters, Mr. Hopkins).

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They did it with skill and technique. They weren’t totally reckless, but greats like Leonard and Hearns sure as hell weren’t going to stink it out and then tell fans and media that they didn’t appreciate “real boxing” or that the “powers that be” have an agenda against “slick boxers.”

LANGFORD VS. MOORE, NO CONTEST

Hello Mr. Dougie,Sam Langford was the truth!!! Who would you favor in a mythical match up between Langford and Archie Moore??? Also if I was a betting man I would put money on a No Contest for this weekend’s fight if that is an option. I have seen crazy things happen in Hopkins fights and once he feels Sergey’s power around round 3 or 4 I predict Hopkins will perpetrate something crazy to happen that will cause a No Contest. Keep up the great work. Take care!!! – Albert from NYC

I really hope that doesn’t happen. After Hopkins getting seriously hurt, I think a No Contest or DQ would be the worst scenario for tomorrow’s big fight.

Sam Langford was indeed the truth, as was Moore. I think their bouts, which could be fought from middleweight to heavyweight, would be tactical affairs that occasionally featured fierce displays of power punching and knockdowns. If they fought 10 times, I think Moore would win six or seven times, but I think at least one of Langford’s victories would be by knockout.

FUTURE EXCUSES AFTER B-HOP WINS

Dougie,

I’m going to go ahead and send you all the excuses for a B Hop win over Kovalev in advance.

1) Kovalev was a product of good match making.

2) We all knew he couldn’t fight a full 12 rounds.

3) He never fought anyone even close to Hopkin’s skill level or a skill level below that before.

4) He is a one trick pony. If he can’t knock you out he gets frustrated.

5) The Lt. Heavyweight division is weak.

6) He underestimated the old man.

7) He didn’t make any adjustments.

8) Hopkins wouldn’t have fought him if he didn’t think he’d beat him.

9) Hopkin’s has feasted on guys like Kovalev his whole career.

10) And the mailbag favorite – he was overrated.

Maybe a little drama early, but the Alien by a stinky, long, boring UD. – J in FLA

You know boxing fans as well as you do the sport, J. We’ll see what happens tomorrow night.

 

Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @dougiefischer

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