This past Saturday we not only witnessed history, but shocking entertainment. You very well may always expect one to happen in a Bernard Hopkins fight these days, but not both. He often let the boxing be damned and went to war. Consequently Karo Murat landed on B-Hop (cleanly) more than anyone I've ever seen, but neither his power nor his extracurricular activities were enough to disrupt Bernard offensively. Ultimately Bernard was busier and landed at a higher connect percentage.
Be that as it may, Murat came prepared and put forth his best effort. When he realized that effort wasn't enough, he got frustrated and cheated. Before it was over Murat had intentionally hit on the break (whether Bernard was on or off his feet), hit low, and headbutted. Hopkins, usually the type to sell a foul, never complained and just made Murat pay for it. But not all of the action went Bernard's way...
Oddly enough, the fight began with Hopkins arguably dropping the first 3 rounds (which actually happened on at least 1 of the official scorecards). He was being out punched and almost looked his age (relative to championship level fighters). Hopkins then woke up in round 4 and dominated the first 2 minutes and 30 seconds, but it was Murat that closed the stronger (although not enough to steal the round). Round 5 saw Bernard once again take his much younger opponent to school and this time he added insult to injury by kissing Murat on the back and head. The round closed equally unprofessionally with both fighters hitting after the bell (and Murat taking the worst of it).
And that's probably when Murat lost all regard for following rules.
After getting dominated on the inside through the first 2 minutes of round 6, Murat wrestled Hopkins to the canvas and attempted to land 2 punches while Bernard was clearly sitting on the floor. Fortunately B-Hop had the good sense to cover up and nothing came of the illegal shots. Professor Hopkins continued to lecture young Karo in the 7th round but was interrupted by yet another cheap shot on the break. This prompted referee Steve Smoger to finally take a point from Murat.
Once Smoger took that point war truly broke out. Round 8 was one of the greatest things I'd ever seen (in person). "The Alien" had arrived. After once again dominating the majority of a round Hopkins decided to walk to Murat's corner and tried to convince them to stop the fight. The action was not paused and Murat did his best to take Hopkins out while this was going on, but Bernard's defense, chin, and return fire safely carried him out of the round. Subsequently Murat looked a little punched out until the end of the 9th where he finished strong and stole it (although Julie Lederman and Joseph Pasquale thought otherwise). Then round 10 was pretty even before Hopkins closed the show in the championship rounds. The ebb and flow of the fight was interesting to say the least.
But at the end of the day it was a clear Bernard Hopkins victory. Scorecards looked something like this:
Julie Lederman: 119-108
Joseph Pasquale: 119-108
Benoit Roussel: 117-110
Al Bernstein: 116-111
Steve Farhood: 115-112
Paulie Malignaggi: 116-111
Scott Christ: 115-112
Ryan Bivins: 117-111 (scored round 2 even)
Thus the artist formerly known as "The Executioner" retained his IBF light heavyweight title. Where to next? Well, that's what the post-fight press conference was for:
Obviously there's the ludicrous Mayweather fight at middleweight, but Hopkins also seemed interested in light heavyweight unification. Fights with WBO champion Sergey Kovalev and WBC/RING champion Adonis Stevenson are unlikely due to TV network issues but a showdown with "super" WBA champ Beibut Shumenov appears to be on the table. Shumenov technically still has to get by Tamas Kovacs in December, but that's just a formality. Or maybe I don't know what I'm talking about:
On another note the "regular" WBA title is apparently vacant now after Shumenov's upgrade and will be fought over by Juergen Braehmer and Marcus Oliveira. Oliveira is another guy you probably haven't heard of, but at least he's coming off an impressive victory over 21-0 Ryan Coyne.
In any event I do think we're going to see Hopkins-Shumenov in 2014. Shumenov may be the worst WBA super champion of all time, but, he's probably as legit as Murat and is a more exciting fighter. His volume punching, aggressive fighting style should make things interesting against a 49 year old B-Hop.
Speaking of which, Bernard will indisputably be the oldest man to defend a world title in his next fight. Most people seem to believe that this is already the case, but George Foreman was actually 48 years, 10 months, and 12 days when he lost his lineal / RING heavyweight championship to Shannon Briggs (which was controversial to say the least). Against Murat, Hopkins was 48 years, 9 months, and 11 days, but it's safe to say he won't lose his title in the next month or so.
Note: a title defense doesn't have to be successful. But if you want to be pedantic about it, let's just say Foreman is still the oldest reigning world champion until late November.
And then there was the would-have-been-more-satisfying co-main event between Peter Quillin and Gabriel Rosado, where Quillin scored a controversial 10th round stoppage, so controversial that it ruined what could-have-been a great fight. Personally I had Rosado ahead but there were enough swing rounds to take the fight either way (stoppage aside). What definitely was not a swing round, however, was round 4. Quillin was rocked multiple times and clearly on shaky legs. In no universe did he win the round. Yet judge Kason Cheeks still gave it to him (along with every other round). That was bogus, plain and simple. From press row I also thought rounds 5, 8, and 9 were clear enough for Rosado but they became a lot less clear upon re-watching on Showtime. So after review I can forgive judge Waleska Roldan's 89-81 Quillin scorecard. I still don't agree with it, but I've seen much worse. Also, Ron McNair's 87-83 Quillin was perfectly legit, although I don't agree with that either. McNair gave Rosado rounds 4, 6 and 8.
Based on what I saw Quillin was probably going to legitimately win by a late TKO as the cut (generated by a stiff jab) was pretty awful and a few more punches to it may have made it too dangerous. But Rosado also could have scored a late knockout of his own. Quillin was being walked down and fighters on the verge of being stopped on cuts have come back to win throughout history. Imagine if they pulled the plug early on Rocky Marciao-Ezzard Charles II, or Marvin Hagler-Tommy Hearns, or James Toney-Tim Littles, or any number of Aturo Gatti fights? Allowing fights to go past points of uncertainty can make or break their greatness and the legacies of the fighters involved. So in the words of Gabby's trainer Billy Briscoe, "they could [have] [given] [him] 1 more round."
Also part of the Showtime Championship Boxing broadcast was a thrilling heavyweight attraction between Deontay Wilder and Nicolai Firtha. Wilder stopped a game Firtha in round 4 after an uneasy opening round. Wilder later told me in the post-fight presser that the jab that wobbled him in the first 5 seconds didn't actually hurt him and the stumble was just a balance issue. Also revealed in the presser is that Richard Schafer plans to get Wilder to challenge for the vacant WBC heavyweight title in 2014. Then apparently after he defeats Bermane Stiverne, which is far from a guarantee, he'll unify the titles against Wladimir Klitschko. For Wilder's sake I hope Schaeffer isn't also planning Klitschko-Wilder for 2014.
Note: WBC champion Vitali Klitschko announced that he's running for the presidency of Ukraine. He's also been inactive for over a year. Whether he officially announces his retirement or not, you have to expect that the WBC will strip him.
With all major fights now accounted for, here's a round-by-round analysis of the complete card (this time in chronological order):
1. Dominic Wade TKO1 Roberto Ventura (2:08)
In the opening bout of the night Wade dropped Ventura 3 times with left hooks and right hands. Upon the 3rd knockdown the referee immediately waved it off, despite no actual 3 knockdown rule. It seemed appropriate. Ventura was an out-of-shape journeyman. Thus middleweight prospect Wade improved to 13-0.
2. Braulio Santos TKO1 David Clark (1:49)
In a more competitive but even shorter 2nd bout, Clark was dispatched by a huge left hook. He boxed well from range early, which you would expect from a 2 time USA Olympic alternate, but got backed up to the ropes and dropped. Clark beat the count and wanted to continue but was deemed unfit by referee David Fields. Things quickly went from bad to worse for Clark after being staggered by an overhand right midway through the round. Subsequently Santos rebounded from his only loss and advanced to 11-1.
3. Zachary Ochoa UD4 Michael J. Doyle (40-36, 39-37, 39-37)
And then there was the worst fight of the night and also the final preliminary bout televised by ShoExtreme. Ochoa, the taller and longer fighter, was content to slowly walk Doyle down behind an uncommitted jab without taking risks. And Doyle was just content to disengage apart from a round stealing flurry in the opener. The crowd booed loudly during and after the "fight," although Ochoa clearly won. The light welterweight prospect is now 5-0.
4. Wellington Romero UD4 Victor Galindo (40-36, 40-36, 40-36)
In an off TV swing bout Romero utterly dominated Galindo from start to finish. Early on Galindo was simply a walking punching bag and later he evolved into an ineffective aggressor. Romero was taller, longer, and the better boxer. Galindo was rocked by right hooks in rounds 2 and 3.
5. Deontay Wilder TKO4 Nicholai Firtha (1:26)
Firtha was dropped twice by right hands in round 1 began to bleed. As Wilder continued to punish him with jabs in rounds 2 and 3 the bleeding got progressively worse but ultimately the job was finished by another right hand that put Firtha down hard in round 4. The ultra-tough Nicholai was on his way to beating the count but the referee held him down and waved it off. It was probably the right call. Wilder is now 30-0, all by way of knockout. He's 2 KOs away from surpassing Wilfredo Gomez's streak.
6. Peter Quillin TKO10 Gabriel Rosado (0:40)
Neither Al Bernstein (86-85), Steve Farhood (85-85), nor Paulie Malignaggi (85-85) scored this bout for Quillin and all thought the official scoring was poor. Promoter Russell Peltz felt the same way:
Just about every Rosado fan believes he deserves a rematch and given his great crowd reception he probably makes it financially viable. However, Quillin is already unofficially scheduled to face Daniel Jacobs early next year. If Jacobs can avoid getting knocked out in the process, the blueprint to beat Quillin is in the Rosado fight: force Kid Chocolate backwards and trap him on the ropes. Ironically Quillin doing that to Rosado led to the fight's sole knockdown in round 2.
Aside: I estimated Boardwalk Hall (capacity 10,500) was roughly 35% full right before Quillin-Rosado began, which may/may not have increased by 5% during the main event. No official attendance was announced during the post-fight presser.
7. Bernard Hopkins UD12 Karo Murat (117-110, 119-108, 119-108)
I pretty much already wrote everything I feel like writing about, so let's just evaluate the finish. After Murat hit Hopkins low and then on the break with a little over 20 seconds to go Steve Smoger pushed Murat away. Then when Murat threw a few intentional headbutts after the final bell, Smoger pushed him away even harder (and this time to the face). It's not like Murat didn't deserve it, but that was probably unprofessional...
But hey, the fight was almost over and it would have been a waste of time to officiate appropriately and just disqualify Murat. At least that's how I see it. Then again, I like Smoger. He might be biased but he's a cool dude and a fun interview.
Oh yea, then there's this:
"I think it could be the biggest event of all time." -Richard Schaefer on the hypothetical matchup of Mayweather going for his 50th win against a 50 year old Hopkins
This Oct. 26, 2013 card was put together by Golden Boy Promotions and televised by Showtime Sports. A photo gallery of the event, courtesy of Darryl Cobb Jr, is available atop this page. You won’t find any photos of Robert Easter Jr. (7-0, 7 KOs) or Noel Echevarria (11-1, 6 KOs), as their fight was scrapped at the last minute, but you should be satisfied.