As a boxing reporter, I’d have to say that watching a seasoned, veteran boxer in the last years of a boxing career is always heartbreaking. But I do love the fight of the elder boxers.
For veteran boxers, I always root for them because they still have a lot of fight savvy and ring intelligence to possibly get in the one punch that could knock out the younger opponent. It may not be as simple and quick as a knockout and usually 12 round unanimous decisions are difficult to watch especially if it’s the younger fighter that emerges with the win.
In August, we will see Jamaican fight veteran Glen “Road Warrior” Johnson, 50-13-2, 34 KO’s, go up against current IBF Light Heavyweight titleholder Tavoris Cloud, 20-0, 18 KO’s. For Johnson, it could very well be a return to a shadow of greatness by earning back the title he once held back in 2006. For Cloud, this is perhaps just the beginning of many title defenses on his way to the top of the light heavyweight ranks.
Undefeated records can mean everything or sometimes not everything. One just need look at the caliber of fighter. Given that Cloud is undefeated, I don’t recognize too many of the names on his record. And there’s only one name that matters for now among light heavyweights: Bernard Hopkins.
Cloud’s impressive record consists of 20 wins and no losses, along with matches decided by 18 knockouts, Cloud is definitely a light heavyweight on the move. Currently ranked #8 among active light heavyweights, he earned the IBF Light Heavyweight belt when he defeated Clinton Woods in August 2009 by unanimous decision.
Prior to his win over Woods, Cloud fought 10 rounds in a scheduled 12 round bout against former WBO Light Heavyweight Champion, Julio Cesar Gonzalez back in August 2008. He eventually earned the TKO in the 10th round. Cloud’s last two performances showed a new stage of fighting maturity as he did not get the quick and easy KO or TKO. And just to mention, he began the year against Mike Wood with a 1st round KO.
Back in 2007, Cloud faced 4 fighters. Three of the four fights were by KO with one fight ending in a 3rd round retirement. In February 2007, Cloud faced Aaron Norwood and earned a KO in the second round of a scheduled 8 round bout. He followed up with a 1st round KO of a scheduled 10 round bout against Jim Strohl and against Jose Luis Herrera in August 2007 , Cloud again earned a 5th round TKO in a scheduled 10 round bout. Finally, in December 2007, he forced a 3rd round stoppage against Jacob Rodriguez.
However, with the emergence of a young star such as Cloud, goes the decline (or demise) of those veteran fighters that are ranked and possible stepping stones to his rise to the top.
Glen “Gentleman” Johnson, currently ranked #3 among light heavyweights, faces a definite challenge against the much younger Cloud. Throughout his career, Johnson has had some great battles against the southpaw (and younger) and WBC Light Heavyweight Champion, Chad Dawson.
Against Dawson, Johnson has lost twice. Both fights went the distance to 12 rounds with Dawson winning with a unanimous decision each time. In fact, it’s in Johnson’s losses that speak loudly as to his level of competition and ability, but just not enough to come away with the victory. This reveals that Johnson will use this competitive advantage against Cloud and show a little ring savvy.
Johnson is in good company as far as the light heavyweight division is concerned. And by this, I simply refer to the presence of the other 40 something old boxers that are still listed as ranked and active – Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones, JR. There is some obvious matchmaking to be done in this division. Given that Hopkins is really on the verge of retirement and decidedly fights maybe once a year, he should carefully choose his opponent – could it be a potential match with Dawson?
For these 40 something fighters, they should definitely make their ring time count and only go for those bouts that can offer a championship belt. Meanwhile, Dawson will be fighting Jean Pascal also in August for the WBC Light Heavyweight title.
In order for the young fighter to emerge, there will be those that are in his way and he will leave a trail of the changing of the guard – a young talent emerges as the veteran talent that paved the way with a once brilliant career, tries to save his career in his parting fights.
What’s a Bernard Hopkins supposed to do?
Or for Glen Johnson, what are his exit plans and should he simply retire from boxing? Does Johnson have one more fight only to show his skills as aged and lackluster? The answers are not simple, but its painfully obvious that maybe, in order to revive the sport of boxing, the new names and talent such as Cloud and Dawson have to have more exposure, more ring time, but at the cost of and time of those veteran boxers, including Johnson, that are still around for reasons of longevity and skill.
In the end, both traits are truly what makes the emergence of the young star surprisingly uplifting and why we as fans continue to watch with a nod of a head and clear support for the future of boxing.