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Bernard Hopkins & the Light Heavyweight Tournament

By Idris “Drees” Newton

Before we begin, I would just like to say that Andre Dirrell/Carl Froch was a complete and utter robbery, not the worst I’ve seen but a huge robbery none the less. Feels good to get that off my chest, pent up rage over that one was killing my neck.

Okay, I’ll start by saying that I’ve taken a look at the fight schedule this year and I have to say that I’m just, whelmed, not over, not under, just whelmed. It looks like an average kind of year early on, check off a few really “money” (when I say money, I say it metaphorically) kind of fights i.e. Nonito Donaire/Fernando Montiel (Hey! Top Rank got one right!), Timothy Bradley/Devon Alexander and Abner Mares/Joseph Agbeko (Might be the fight of the year).

Sidebar; I don’t think people were quite as appreciative as they should have been in the wake of what Agbeko did to Yonnhy Perez, it was an absolute masterpiece of boxing execution. Perez looked lost for most of the contest because of what “King Kong” pulled off. I, for one, didn’t think he had that kind of skill tucked away, but now we all do, and I have to take my hat off to you sir, quite the showcase.

Abner Mares deserves some recognition as well for a display of grit and heart and an ability to take the fight to Vic Darchinyan that was also unexpected by most. I predict a huge year for the winner of that bout.

Back on track, in the early months of this year, good match-ups are pretty sparse, at the top level that is. Although there are names out there, the matches aren’t anything to “drop our panties” over. The Manny Pacquiao/Shane Mosley bout in early May is on the docket but who cares, I sure don’t we know how that’ll turn out. The youngster, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez will be in action but he doesn’t have an opponent as of yet so why be excited, although I do love to watch him fight. Of course we have Ricardo Mayorga/Miguel Cotto, yawn and that’s all I’ll say about that (I said enough in my previous article).

Besides those guys we also get to see, Guillermo Rigondeaux, Juan Manuel Lopez, Lucian Bute and Sergio Martinez who will all be lacing them up within weeks of each other but against nobodies so, like I said it will be a “Yawn” first half of the boxing 2011.

What can be done to make the second half more exciting you say? Well how about another tournament? Light heavyweight is exploding with talented fighters right now. Chad Dawson, Tavoris Cloud, and Jean Pascal are all young, hungry, strong and very talented fighters. Throw in the undefeated Hungarian Zsolt Erdei and the True Champion of the Light heavyweight class (Bernard Hopkins) and we’ve got ourselves a full year of meaningful and entertaining bouts.

Every guy in this tournament has flaws and strengths, enough of which could have each fight go either way. This is the exact reason why The Super Six World Boxing Classic is so compelling (Besides all the dropouts). The Battles between promoters alone make it a must see, are you aware of “Fight camp 360”. Enough said, its unbelievably engaging, the pre/post fight pressers are reality TV gold. For a fight fan like me who loves everything about fights, even the shady stuff that goes down behind the scenes, its heaven and gives 24/7 a run for its money. So why not give us this kind of soap opera at 175, with fighters this charismatic I have no doubt we’ll be in for a show in and out of the ring.

I’ll start with “Bad” Chad Dawson; he had a flagitious night in his last fight with Pascal who was made to look great in a fight where he was able to do just about whatever he wanted with both hands and a limited defense. Chad almost looked as if he were tired from the opening bell. Throwing an abominably low amount of punches against a fighter who is very open for punishment, Dawson gave the fight away. He was not the same Dawson who beat Tomasz Adamek, he boxed at the highest level and knocked Adamek down who is notoriously difficult to drop.

Behind on the scorecards late in the fight with Pascal, Chad came on strong and given a few more rounds he might have won. Subsequently, the fight was stopped due to a cut over the eye of Dawson caused by a clash of heads when he was taking control of the fight, hurting Pascal consistently and looking close to achieving the knockout. That said, Chad deserves a rematch with Pascal, even if it comes after Hopkins’ revenge of that embarrassment in Quebec. Dawson has a stiff jab, accumulative knockout power, accurate combination punching, and great foot work which he uses to attack rather than run. He has fought all comers at light heavy save one, the volume puncher Tavoris Cloud, who reminds me of a younger Glen “Gentleman” Johnson.

Cloud, is a tough guy, plain and simple, his fight plan is to overpower you, to out punch you, out work you and tire you to a knockout victory. It’s worked 22 times and ended in knockout 17 times, so his execution of that seemingly simple fight strategy would appear superb, a pretty sturdy chin helps as his fighting style lends itself to harm regularly.

It worked against Clinton Woods in route to a two knockdown decision win of the IBF title. Cloud purely bullied his way to victory over Woods in what is has become customary in Cloud’s very young career. A fighter of his ilk would be a strong addition to any fight so to include him in this tournament could have positive impact. I see him continuing to mature and grow in experience and star status through victories over upper echelon fighters. Tavoris’ “seeing red” bull headed style can do nothing else but produce action and excitement and a perfect contrast to a fighter like Jean Pascal who is an unorthodox fighter who delivers punches from awkward angles.

Say what you will about Jean Pascal’s last performance against “B-Hop” (trust me I’ve said plenty) but that “Canadian catastrophe” aside, Pascal in past fights has shown he has heart and desire, strength, a granite chin and a proclivity for getting drawn into slugfests (is that ever an unwelcome tendency) . For example, Pascal/Froch was a back and forth close brawl in which we saw Pascal perpetually hurt but not losing the fight purely because he has tremendous power punching that allowed him to sting the “The Cobra” who is exceedingly difficult to stop via wild power shots when it seemed Froch had him ready to lie down. A power that apparently saved him from a landslide loss to Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins, Hopkins was knocked down twice (questionably or not) in what ended as a draw. A that ruling was deplorable at best, it was clear to glaucoma ridden eyes that “B-Hop” deserved the win.

The Merit of a Hopkins/Pascal rematch need not be explicated any further. Yes B-Hop is on his last legs but you wouldn’t know it based on his last performance, in taking Jean Pascal to the brink of a title loss. All of us rational people know who really won that fight, Bernard went all out from beginning to end in a fight that seemed be over just like that, you know that kind of fight where the enjoyment level is so high it seems to be shorter than a usual fight.

Uncharacteristic for Hopkins who is more times than not involved in some of the most interminable bouts, not the case in this fight, not the case at all. Bernard rehashed his performance against Kelly Pavlik in which he found his youth and brought back “The Executioner” that knocked out the likes of Felix “Tito” Trinidad and “The Golden Boy” Oscar De La Hoya. We can all agree on the fact that Bernard can still “Hang” with the young guns of the field, he can do more than hang he can win, decisively in fact. His age, I believe would not be a factor and I think the same can be said for the younger but still older than the rest of the contestants, Zsolt Erdei.

Zsolt is the Lucian Bute of the group, for the most part unknown to casual boxing fans, very sheltered in his native land, and very, very good. A skilled fighter, with the usual European stiff jab and tight defense approach, Erdei is a methodical technician who breaks down his opponent over time. He is undefeated, although like Bute it is mostly against unknown but still tough opposition. He has won the WBC (World Boxing Council) title at cruiser weight after holding the WBO (World Boxing Association) light heavy weight title and defending it 11 times. A fighter of his caliber deserve a chance to show the world what he is made of, and what better way to do it that in a national televised Tournament with big names and young talents.

A Tournament with the best light heavyweight has to off would definitely boxing on the lips of many fair weather sports fans that have written boxing off as a once big even a year kind of sport. In the age of MMA where we might see a big fight ever two weeks boxing is losing its credibility. Something sorely needs to happen and soon, a tournament in every weight class would undoubtedly solve that problem. The Super Six World Boxing Classic got the ball rolling and the four man tournament at Feather weight is keeping the idea fresh so let’s keep the moss from growing on this stone we call Boxing and continue to nudge it along by adding fresh new faces to a great idea. Thanks Showtime.

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