Hopkins by Decision, Fans Say

By Clarence George on March 5, 2013
Hopkins by Decision, Fans Say
I'm with the 40% who expect The Executioner to win by decision, however closely contested.

RingTV.com’s ongoing poll is asking who will win the Tavoris Cloud-Bernard Hopkins IBF light heavyweight title fight at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, on March 9.

According to recent results, 50% expect Hopkins to win (40% by decision, 10% by stoppage), while 40% give the nod to Cloud (evenly divided between decision and KO). Interesting that fully 10% of the respondents anticipate a Hopkins win via disqualification, while none expect Cloud to win that way. And, thus far at least, none of the participants predict a draw.

Forty-eight-year-old Hopkins (52-6-2, 32 KOs) hasn’t been stopped in his 25-year career. He turned pro in 1988, losing his first fight. He won the next 22, 16 by stoppage, until losing in 1993 via unanimous decision to cruiserweight Roy Jones Jr., against whom he avenged himself in 2010. Except for a draw and a no contest, “The Executioner” won his next 26, 16 by stoppage, until twice being decisioned by Jermain Taylor in 2005. Hopkins was also decisioned by Joe Calzaghe, in 2008. He drew against Jean Pascal in 2010, though he beat him the following year by unanimous decision. There was a no contest with Chad Dawson in 2011, and Hopkins lost to him via majority decision in his sole fight of 2012, in April, which means that he’s been inactive for almost a year.

But those bare-bone facts and figures don’t tell the whole story, do they? Yes, Hopkins is currently a light heavy. More, a former champ of that division. He won the IBO title from Antonio Tarver in 2006 and the WBC from Pascal in 2011, only to lose the latter to Dawson last year. The IBO became vacant following the Pascal bout, because Hopkins refused to pay the sanctioning fee. But his days of glory were as middleweight. Although not on my own list of all-time top 10 160-pounders, many boxing fans and observers do indeed consider “The Executioner” among the best ever. And not without reason. He reigned as middleweight king for more than 10 years and defended his fiefdom 20 times, both records. Hopkins was the IBF, WBC, WBA, and WBO champ. He won the vacant IBF crown in a match with Segundo Mercado in 1995, the WBC from Keith Holmes in 2001, the WBA from Felix Trinidad in 2001, and the WBO from Oscar De La Hoya in 2004. He lost them all to Taylor by split decision on July 16, 2005, which must surely be Hopkins’ very own date of, if not infamy, then certainly bitter regret.

I never could warm up to the guy, which I’ll grant probably says more about me than it does about him. But his record speaks for itself, and credit must be given where it’s due.

Cloud, 31 (24-0-0, 19 KOs), turned pro nine years ago. Undefeated, “Thunder” won the vacant IBF title by unanimous decision against Clinton Woods in 2009. He twice defended his crown in 2010, decisioning Glen Johnson and Fulgencio Zuniga, and once in 2011, stopping Yusaf Mack by eighth-round TKO. Cloud had one title defense (in fact, one fight) last year, beating Gabriel Campillo by split decision in February, which signifies more than a year’s worth of ring rust.

One, a former titlist, hasn’t fought for almost a year and the other, the current champ, hasn’t fought for more than a year. Small beer when you think how Henry Armstrong defended his welterweight title three times in one month, in March 1939—first against Bobby Pacho in Havana, then 12 days later against Lew Feldman in Missouri, and finally against Davey Day at Madison Square Garden 15 days after the Feldman bout.

Better times than these.

Cloud is considerably younger than Hopkins (only six years old when his opponent had his pro debut) and a much harder puncher—he has a KO record of some 79%, while that of Hopkins is at around 52%. But while Hopkins isn’t exactly a Rommel of the Ring, I think his vast experience will give him the edge—I’m with the 40% who expect him to win by decision, however closely contested.

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