Sunday, April 29, 2012

Last call for B-Hop

By John McMullen

ATLANTIC CITY (The Phanatic Magazine) - Chad Dawson is bigger, stronger, faster and certainly younger than Bernard Hopkins.

Eventually age takes everything from all of us. Hopkins, however, has been able to cheat Father Time longer than perhaps any other athlete in history.

B-Hop's Fountain of Youth finally ran dry on Saturday when Dawson defeated Hopkins by 12-round majority decision to win the WBC light heavyweight title.

The bout, of course, was a rematch of the controversial October 2011 match where Dawson was originally awarded a TKO win over Hopkins and the WBC 175-pound title when the aged champ couldn't continue after taking a Dawson-induced tumble to the canvas in the second round of their bout at Staples Center.

It's been nearly seven years since Hopkins lost the first of back-to-back middleweight fights to Jermain Taylor.

Considering that the Philadelphia native had just turned 40 back then, it wasn't exactly a stretch to consider that the end of the line for the legendary pugilist. Heck, people had been predicting his imminent demise years earlier.

"They were calling me old when I beat (Felix) Trinidad 11 years ago," Hopkins said.

Instead of walking away after failing to solve Taylor, B-Hop took six months off, moved up to light heavyweight and started picking people off.

First it Was "Rocky 6" star Antonio Tarver. Then it was former flavor of the month Winky Wright. A controversial 12-round split-decision loss to Joe Calzaghe was answered with near shutouts against the highly-regarded Kelly Pavlik and Enrique Ornelas.

By 2010, it wasn't the 45-year-old Hopkins that was washed up, it was former pound-for-pound mythical titlist Roy Jones Jr. Then, A draw against Jean Pascal was avenged with a 12-round decision before Chad Dawson entered Hopkins' life in October of 2011.

Hopkins detractors think the veteran fighter at the very least embellished his injuries back in October after realizing he couldn't stay with Dawson, who will turn 30 in July. The conspiracy theories really started to fly when the California State Athletic Commission later ruled the bout a no-decision and handed the championship back to Hopkins.

If any of you are familiar with the wrestling world, it was almost a "Dusty finish."

"Chad Dawson can say whatever he wants, but I am not going to trash talk this one," Hopkins said before the rematch. " Everyone knows what I am capable of in the ring. They have seen it over 50 times before in the last 20 years."

Well, we didn't see it Saturday night.

Hopkins has changed over the years. It's not like he hasn't adapted to losing certain skills to age but he's no longer a feared fighter -- "The Execitioner" hasn't stopped anyone since Oscar De la Hoya in September of 2004.

He's basically a defensive fighter these days that gets by on guile and an ability to get under his opponent's skin with a pesky style. He's always trying to get in his rival's head and only those who don't take the bait have a chance.

Dawson stay disciplined on Saturday, never skewed from a solid game plan and easily outpointed the veteran with two judges scoring it 117-111. A third, who evidently wasn't watching the bout had it at 114-114.

Defensive fighting is never popular with even long-time "boxing experts" having trouble wrapping their heads around the concept since boxing is at its nature a a violent sport with the winner usually battering the loser.

There is more than one way to win a fight, however, and outpointing your opponent with solid defensive skills is every bit as valid as knocking him out. Simply put, Hopkins may be the best defensive fighter of all-time, a style that's not exactly well-liked by most outside of the Philadelphia-area.

"I've got to give him a lot of credit. He's a future Hall of Famer, he's a hell of a fighter," Dawson said. "But he's a dirty fighter. But if you can get through 12 rounds with him, you can get through anything."

Whether it's right or wrong, that Hopkins' rep now -- a dirty fighter. And since he's no longer a draw, this should be the end for him.

Hopkins certainly has nothing left to prove. His 10-year reign as middleweight king is still one of the most dominating periods of any boxer in history and he was already the oldest man to win a world title.

He's a 47-year-old that was competitive against Chad Dawson, a skillful, top-tier  fighter nearly 20 years his junior.

"I'm a throwback," Hopkins said before dismissing his critics. "I live in a time where it is so microwavable that there is no time to cook, season, chop or marinate any more. I'm the last of a dying [expletive] breed."
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