Regardless of how you spell it, pronounce it, or what you think of history when it comes to Boxing you must think of Bernard Hopkins. Hopkins not only defines it, he continues to rewrite Boxing history.
Hopkins continues to prove to young fighters the need to study the Science of Boxing. Hopkins is the master of the class and continues to teach the Sweet Science of Boxing. On March 9th we were treated to Hopkins’ style of education first hand. A lesson for all young fighters to heed.
When I previewed the IBF World Light-Heavyweight championship fight between undefeated champion Tavoris Cloud and the seemingly ageless two-division world champion and future Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins, I stated the keys to success for each fighter. For Cloud it was critical in my view that he get Hopkins’ respect and establish himself from the outset. Cloud needed to establish a consistent punch output and put smart pressure on the forty-eight year old Hopkins. If Cloud were able to accomplish this, it could have resulted in a difficult night for the challenger.
For Hopkins the keys to success were that he needed to establish the pace of the fight. Hopkins needed to make the thirty-one year old Cloud, a man seventeen years his junior fight his kind of fight from the opening bell. Hopkins’ ability to utilize effective defense, angles and lateral movement were crucial components to his success in this fight. He could not allow himself to become a stationary target for the champion who entered this fight with a career knockout percentage of nearly 80%. Hopkins needed to get off to an early start in this fight and not allow the champion to win the early rounds. In some of Hopkins’ notable losses an argument can be made that one of the things that went against him was that he didn’t really step up his pace until the middle rounds. In closing the preview of this bout I stated that conventional wisdom suggested we were likely to see a competitive fight that would be rough and could be ugly at times.
When the two fighters entered the ring on March 9th at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, the Boxing world was treated to what in many ways amounted to a typical Bernard Hopkins kind of fight. Hopkins controlling the tempo of the fight, not throwing punches at a necessarily high volume but landing the cleaner blows and making his punches count. Cloud meanwhile was able to find sporadic success landing his right hand however was not able to establish a consistent offensive flow as in many of his previous bouts. This can be attributed to Hopkins’ ability to use angles and being able to keep Cloud from planting his feet to throw his punches. Cloud’s inability to neutralize Hopkins and let his hands go worked against him particularly during periods when Hopkins wasn’t throwing much. Cloud also did not seem to throw his jab often enough and that could have set up more opportunities for his offense.
An argument can be made that although the final scores at the end of this twelve round championship bout appeared lopsided in favor of the victor Bernard Hopkins, that the bout round by round was close. In the eyes of this observer Hopkins was able to win this fight by making the absolute most out of what he was able to accomplish offensively while neutralizing and nullifying the younger man’s offense and rhythm. It can be viewed, that if Cloud were able to land more in several of the rounds that this fight could have appeared much closer, at least in terms of the official scorecards. In fights where there are periodic lulls in the action it boils down to which fighter was able to establish ring generalship and land the cleaner punches. In this case that fighter was Bernard Hopkins.
Former Heavyweight champion Larry Holmes ended his fighting career at age fifty-two and was considered to be “The Professor” of the Sweet Science of Boxing. The main focus of the lessons he taught emphasized the jab. Bernard Hopkins with no retirement in sight at age forty-eight can be considered the “Master of the class”. Hopkins’ emphasis and the lesson to be learned by all young fighters is the fight plan and the ability to adjust the plan if needed. Many young fighters develop a solid fight plan but fail to adjust when it doesn’t work.
Tavoris Cloud is a solid fighter. Unfortunately Cloud failed to include the jab as a principal weapon in dealing with Hopkins. If Cloud were able to adjust his fight plan by throwing the jab to get on the inside and go to the body of Hopkins consistently, the result of this fight may have been very different.
To put it in simple terms, if you’re a fan of the Sweet Science of Boxing, Bernard Hopkins is a fighter that emphasizes the craft that is Boxing. This fight was precisely a demonstration of the depth of Hopkins’ skill and an example of why he calls himself “The Executioner.” Bernard Hopkins “Executed” a near perfect fight plan.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
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