Having a blast in social club as everyone jumped out of their card chairs or bar stools as the great Bernard Hopkins was knocked cleanly of the ring. Spectators were witnessing history both past and present unfold before their eyes. Some of the old timers who were choking on fifteen dollar cigars fresh from the humidor as they recalled not having seen a stoppage like that since the glory days of the forties and fifties. While the future hall of famer sat in dressing room still dazed from landing on his head he was delusional on how he arrived there courtesy of a Joe Smith, JR.’s vicious five punch assault. While Bhop kept insisting this was an unfair stoppage like Deja vu against Robert Allen back in ‘98, HBO replayed the five punch knockout sequence over and over dismissing his being pushed out of ring excuse and theory.
Ok, let me back track and set the stage. Yours truly predicted here for your reading pleasure that Hopkins would lose by stoppage. The Vegas betting odds favored the legend while I handicapped how the entire fight would play out bucking the conventional logic. The Ward Vs Kovalev robbery notwithstanding, I haven’t been wrong yet since I signed on with Ringside Report.
The fight followed my prefight prediction including late stoppage but nobody could have envisioned the immortal Bhop dropping four feet through space head first. The horrific look of despair on his face when his head bounced off floor signaled the end of an incredible career that did not warrant Hopkins going out on his shield. Hopkins is last of a dying breed who in a world of cherry pickers has continued to face only the top flight opponents regardless of his advancing years. Some scribes might find it befitting his legacy that the “Executioner” was executed in his farewell fight. The sad never ending saga of most every boxer’s career staying around one fight too many. Never one to play it safe and pick a lower echelon foe to ensure a good-bye victory, Hopkins true to form picked on a young tiger and sadly got mauled.
His senior business partner at Golden Boy Promotions Oscar De la Hoya must have been of the same mind set as Hopkins that the kid would be reckless and fight with abandon. Made me scratch my head wondering if anyone was truly paying attention to just how good Smith, JR. is?
Ok, so now that Smith, JR. has a career highlight KO of Hopkins you might be wondering where does he fit in? Please don’t be as delusional as Bhop and the HBO commentary staff who refused to give this kid any credit for his boxing ability labeling him as a one dimensional puncher. Bullshit! Take off the blinders.
As I pointed out just days ago the kid has a classical stance and moves forward behind a mighty jab setting up his power shots. He keeps his chin tucked to his chest with his guard high at all times and in every exchange. He has beautiful balance and gets terrific leverage on his punches. While he is flat footed he is fast on his feet and throws wicked combinations with power. Yes, he can learn a smoother exit from pocket, uppercut more, and learn to add lateral movement to his game but so far, he is more accomplished than anyone at tonight’s broadcast was willing to give him credit for.
Which brings me to filling my 8” high ball glass to the rim. I’m getting nauseated lately in past few fights of how HBO staff always shills for house fighter. If unofficial scorecard keeper Harold Lederman who was doing a splendid job of calling fight accurately was calling Joe a plain and simple puncher. Max Kellerman who I have praised in recent columns has backed off from reality in recent months saying Ward Vs Kovalev could have gone either way and dismissing Smith as a mere puncher. Joe has a wonderful foundation and with his modest hard working attitude can only get better. While Andre Ward contemplates if he has the stones to rematch Sergey Kovalev, it appears only Adonis Stevenson is part of the experienced trio who would be favored to beat him. Rankings be damned, this kid just proved he is the fourth best light heavyweight on planet. Should he take two more fights this upcoming year for experience before going after true titles? You bet! Nothing succeeds like success and he like anyone else can benefit from a few more durable fights.
The Recap: Smith, JR. comes out at first bell and swing for the fences. The missed punch sent a strong breeze and clear message that Joe wasn’t there for just a payday as his nonstop perpetual forward momentum saw him jabbing his way into pocket as Hopkins tried to use his ring generalship to circle every free inch of canvass. As fight would progress Hopkins would shoot an occasional counter jab or one/ two combo trying to time his adversary in hopes of picking him apart. Not even a flagrant head butt was able to deter the mission the young upstart was hell bent on performing.
Hopkins managed to counter in three and four punch combos for most of the fourth round to win it on my score card. It would be the only round I believed Hopkins won, and to be honest, not even clearly. The stoppage in eighth round quite possibly prevented another 2016 boxing debacle as the score cards were pathetic at time of stoppage. My editor in chief forbids any writer from ever calling a fighter a “bum” on this prestigious web site and rightfully so as each and every warrior takes his life in his own hands when summoning the immense courage it takes to lace up the leather. Wondering aloud if this applies to judges who have been making a damn mockery of sport lately on high profile events?
Judge Pat Russell had Hopkins ahead at time of stoppage with score card of 67-66. Judges Tim Cheatham and Thomas Taylor had it 67-66, and 69-64 respectively for Smith. At least Taylor had it right.
What to look for on replay: While you won’t ever find the “push” or “elbow” that Bhop explains was used as forward momentum to send him through the ropes I implore you to watch Smith’s foot work as it corresponds with his five punch combination sending Bernard airborne. His proper foot placement lent itself to terrific balance and leverage I pointed out days ago. Right foot behind body when throwing right hand with power. Right foot ahead of body when throwing left hook with mean intentions. The results were not lucky punches or the bi-product of just heavy hands.
I tip my hat to Bernard for leaving us his outstanding legacy and going hardcore right up to the very last minute of his career. I toast the “Forever” champion for the memories and the good will ambassador to boxing he will always be. His record now culminates with a 55-8-2, 32 KO’s.
Joe Smith, JR. who now sports a 23-1,19 KO’s record will move forward in coming year as a force to be reckoned with.
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