Joe Smith Jr knocked out Bernard Hopkins tonight. Hopkins, a month shy of 52 years of age, claimed over and over that he was shoved out of the ring. He was not. It was a series of clean punches that knocked an old fighter off balance, through the ropes, and straight down to the floor.
Hopkins (55-8-2, 32 KO) had never been stopped before in a 28-year pro career. He’s never liked to lose — even more than most of us don’t like to lose, even more than most pro fighters don’t like to lose. But he lost. He was old, he was slow, he had no pep in his step, and he got caught by a powerful, young fighter.
If you need the evidence, here you go:
It’s cut and dry. Smith (23-1, 19 KO) put Bernard Hopkins away tonight. Hopkins has no argument.
Bernard says that “controversy” — which he’s created alone — aside, he will indeed retire. This is it. He has other things to do in life. Perhaps that tells us that he knows what really happened. Perhaps at the moment, he just wants or needs to believe that something less clear happened tonight. Maybe in a few days, or weeks, or months, he’ll call it what it was. Maybe not. It doesn’t really matter.
As Hopkins kept telling Max Kellerman, the people know what they saw. It’s just not what Bernard wants to tell us we saw.
It’s a weird way to end a career, but not exactly anything new for Hopkins, who courted controversy plenty of times in his Hall of Fame-bound career. He was a great fighter, a volatile personality at times, and over the years settled down into being something of a lovable curmudgeon. It is, as they say, what it is. He lost. But it doesn’t really matter, either. It doesn’t have any impact on his career on the whole, a remarkable story that by all rights never should have happened the way that it did. He should have retired over a decade ago. He didn’t. He kept fighting, and winning.
For Joe Smith Jr, it’s a big win in that it will keep him in money fights for the foreseeable future. How much does it mean to beat an obviously very old Hopkins, who hadn’t fought in two years? We’ll find out more of what he’s really made of going forward. He is somewhat limited, but he’s a big light heavyweight with heavy hands, too. He comes to fight, and he’s got what seems to be a quite likable personality. He gave Hopkins credit and respect. And on at least some level, no matter how you felt about him over the last two decades plus, we all should give Hopkins credit and respect.
There’s never going to be another Bernard Hopkins. But it was Joe Smith Jr’s night at The Forum.