"We have judges, we have officials. In the end, it's the fans who know who won the fight.
"I just feel like I made him look amateurish."
(Quotes from ESPN.com)
Photo © Eric Jamison / AP
Bernard Hopkins lost last night to Joe Calzaghe, making Calzaghe the rare European star to come to America and succeed in knocking off a major American fighter.
If you've seen my scorecard, you know that I don't think this was a close fight. I thought some of the rounds were close and tough to score, but not all of them. I thought many of them were clearly won by Calzaghe. And the only rounds that I thought Hopkins did win were the first, when he got a flash knockdown, and the tenth, when he was Daniel Day-Hopkins in There Will Be Low Blows. Seriously, could he have milked that any harder? The fact that he came out of the recovery period throwing big shots doesn't make it any better, if you ask me.
But let's say Bernard really was that hurt. (He says his junk was knocked outside of his cup, which is what hurt.) The fact that he started changing his gameplan would mean that, for once, someone got to Bernard. Bernard didn't get to Joe Calzaghe.
There's a first time for everything. And if you believe Bernard Hopkins, there's a fifth time for everything.
He doesn't think Roy Jones, Jr., beat him. He doesn't think Jermain Taylor beat him either time. I'm sure he doesn't think that Clinton Mitchell beat him in his professional debut. And he's saying he doesn't think Joe Calzaghe beat him.
But I look at the situation a little closer, and I see a beaten man within the fight. A man that knew he was losing. A 43-year old legend that can still go, but not with someone like Joe Calzaghe.
It took a hell of a long time for the ruthless "Executioner" to look his age, but last night's fight in Vegas -- where most of the 14,000 in attendance rooted for the Welshman, Calzaghe -- was where it happened.
Bernard Hopkins knows he didn't beat Joe Calzaghe. But why would he say it? When has he ever? To Hopkins, there has always been a vast conspiracy against him. He's a different man who has seen a far different world than most of us. I'm sure a lot of what Hopkins will tell you about certain situations is truth.
Both Hopkins and Glen Johnson in the past two weekends have made massive to-dos about "robberies," and I think it's a shame. Johnson's loss to Chad Dawson was a true toss-up decision. I had it a draw, and I really think that the fight was even steven. Johnson is making it sound like Lewis-Holyfield.
I think Calzaghe dominated Hopkins. I didn't see any massive difference in Calzaghe's fight with Hopkins compared to Calzaghe's fight with Kessler, one where everyone agreed that Joe had decisively won the bout despite Kessler doing some things well and probably boxing to the best of his ability.
The difference is that this is Bernard Hopkins, not an undefeated Dane of whom most folks had, at best, a mild amount of knowledge and opinion.
Look at Hopkins during this fight. His endless clinching of Calzaghe was a wise tactic, because when Calzaghe let his hands fly, Bernard looked really bad. He not only couldn't fire back in trade past one counter shot, he couldn't even defend fast enough to keep up with Calzaghe.
"My face isn't marked up," said Hopkins. Calzaghe carries with him a small cut on the bridge of his nose from the opening round, when Hopkins did land one beautiful right hand. So what?
It was even Hopkins that caused the Oscar nominee low blow, as Calzaghe's punch was going to the body and Bernard pushed his head down, which lowered the fist's destination point. Calzaghe clinches, too. BLH's Matt Miller noted after the Calzaghe-Kessler fight how much of a master of the offensive clinch Joe is, and it's very true. He uses it to disrupt rhythm, neutralize counter opportunities, and as an opening for more offense of his own.
Hopkins does something similar, but against Calzaghe, it looked like a fighter that couldn't combat the hand speed and the athleticism of his opponent. The two things that have given Bernard Hopkins trouble in his career have been hand speed and great athletic fighters. Jones. Taylor. Calzaghe. It is not a coincidence.
Watch him huff and puff in between rounds for much of the fight. As Freddie Roach and others talk strategy, Hopkins has other things on his mind, asking for towels and such at a point where you'd expect, "OK," or, "Alright." Joe Calzaghe never seemed to be approaching the realm of tired -- he was dealing with a fiery father-trainer, and I think this may have been the best job Enzo Calzaghe has ever done. Enzo kept it in Joe's head that he couldn't let up for even a second if he wanted to beat Hopkins. He sent him into the 12th round telling his son that he needed a knockout.
Bernard Hopkins is a great fighter, even still. He is in all-time ranks in the sport of boxing. He is one of the best middleweights ever. He may not always be a favorite (or ever, if you aren't from Philadelphia), but he's always either been the man winning or the guy across the ring when the winner says, "That was maybe the toughest fight of my career."
No one is unbeatable. Roy Jones had Antonio Tarver. Shane Mosley had Vernon Forrest and Winky Wright. Vernon Forrest had Ricardo Mayorga, of all people. Calzaghe is the exact type of fighter that makes Bernard Hopkins struggle and makes Bernard Hopkins look bad. It is nothing to be ashamed of, and if Hopkins decides to hang up his gloves, he should do so with his head held high.
But he lost. I think if you take the name "Bernard Hopkins" out of it, it's very clear that he lost. People say they like the aggressor. Calzaghe was the aggressor for 100% of the fight. People always talk about momentum and rhythm -- Calzaghe had that for the majority of the bout. They talk about dictating the pace, and I guess you could say Bernard did that. He dictated a pace that didn't get him pummeled with combinations. But Calzaghe was enough to pull that favorably toward his side anyway, outlanding and outworking the chess master. Those that want big, meaningful punches won't find a ton of it from Joe, but you won't find much more from Hopkins, either.
As always, it's very easy to respect Bernard Hopkins, as everyone should. But like too many times in his Canastota-bound career, it's also very easy to find his complaints to be the same old song and dance.
At the end of the day, ignoring all analysis and everything else, I just have a hard time believing this one: a European star comes to America for and is rewarded with a decision he didn't earn over a big-time, star American fighter. Maybe "anti-American" can be Bernard's newest conspiracy theory.
And as for chess masters, even Fischer and Kasparov lost. The crown to Calzaghe, if you please.