The Bernexit of “The Executioner or is it still Alien?”
Bernard Hopkins, 55-7-2, 32 KO, takes on boxing’s newest darling, Joe Smith Jr, 21-1, 18 KO, in a 12 round WBC International light heavyweight title fight from the Forum in Inglewood, California this Saturday, December 17. Perhaps sadly, it will be broadcast by HBO, whimsically entitled “The Final One.”
We can only hope not fatally since Hopkins has been unofficially retired after Sergey Kovalev beat the tarballs out of him two years ago not to mention he’ll be about a month shy of his 52nd birthday. Why Hopkins wants one last fight has to do with his ferociously insecure ego of not wanting to retire on a defeat, that and needing to be coddled with extra “Special” accolades after mostly anonymous beginnings in the first half of his career and a much mottled latter half of his career where he’s been promoted like the mysterious meat item on the corporate menu by obligated announcers lest they offend powerful corporate bosses.
That said, if you’re Ol’ Man Stinker in desperate need of the newest contender to beat, Joe Smith would be it. That is no knock on Smith whose day job has been as a union construction worker in the Big Apple. He may well have many as yet undiscovered talents going for him, but the simple fact is that he’s been a career New York centric fighter in small halls against fellow clubfighters. He’s a good lookin’ kid as far as base level physical fighter attributes, and he obviously packs a punch as he showed in his one round blitzkreig against Andrzej Fonfara, but that perhaps partially the fault of the Fonfara team rightfully underestimating Smith based on his limited record.
I shudder to remember when fellow construction worker and derided journeyman underdog Glen Johnson brutalized big favorite Roy Jones Jr in one of the most horrific beatdowns in modern history. Jones took a savage whooping that left him for all intents quite literally dead on the canvas and took some long minutes before he was able to be carried to his stool and many more minutes before he had recovered enough to leave the ring with assistance. Glen Johnson, unlike Smith, was well experienced at the highest levels of boxing at that point. Joe’s logged a career total of 73 baby rounds to Hopkins’ 506 mostly either easy rounds against nobodies, or stinker rounds against the elite. So on paper it’s hardly fair fight but for that single knockout round against Fonfara.
Let’s at least acknowledge Hopkins’ few best fights where he fought as clean as capable, yet still mixed in with hitting on the break against Felix Trinidad for example. Tito saw the ref wouldn’t protect him and fought in kind until he was buried in Hopkins’ dirt, so all in all it was a equal fight save Tito hopping up two divisions to middleweight where his slugging couldn’t hide his lack of boxing skills. And then there was Hopkins’ crowning achievement in expertly throttling new middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik at a 170 lb catchweight. Hopkins likes to brag he ruined Kelly mentally, but facts are after winning the title Pavlik shattered a window at home in a drunken incident that required surgery to repair the tendons that led to the dreaded staph hospital infection that at one point threatened his life and caused cancellation of a couple of fights. Pavlik could never be the same fighter afterward, going into seizures and seeking treatment for alcoholism, so of course his career ended up prematurely since he was no longer medically fit to fight.
The really good news: Likely the best fight of the night will be when new champ Oleksandr Usyk defends against tricky southpaw Thabiso Mchunu in one of the best cruiserweight matches that can be made. Usyk has been looking mighty impressive for a guy with only 10 pro fights. I suspect this to be high end controlled violence for as long as it last as both can box and punch very well. Both are southpaws which should make the action even trickier.
Meanwhile, nobody can know how the Hopkins/Smith fight turns out because of fighter unknowns going into the bout, but typically, I smell another Hopkins’ stinker, he simply can’t help soiling himself when push comes to shove. Will Smith get the appropriate high end sparring needed, ie the 101 + advanced course of defense against headbutts, low blows, hitting on the break, elbows, and unceasing grappling for such a dirty foe? Does Hopkins still have any reflexes, chin, and heart left after the Kovalev beating? We already know Joe is the hungry one not looking for a mere hand out, but ready to fight for what’s his. Meanwhile Hopkins has long been sleeping on silk sheets in silk pajamas in his mansion before pulling his typical wink-wink mugging act in the ring. Hey, who says boxing can’t be like ‘rassling?
The battle of the trainers is also striking with Smith employing the unknown Gerard Capobianco as opposed to Hopkins dumping his 2nd trainer, Nazim Richardson, just like he did his first, Bouie Fisher, not by letter or to their face, but rather just coldly forgetting they ever existed. He instead hired John David Jackson in replacement, yet says nothing has changed for these preparations. What, he thinks were born yesterday? This is touted as his last fight as written into his contract, but he’s welched against his word plenty and will do so again when convenient. One also has wonder if he is still stiffing waitresses as he was notorious for doing not so far back ago. He smiles the snaggly toothed grandfatherly smile, but this is not a nice man.
Oh, and PLEASE, let us all pray together that ol’stinker ain’t coming out in pink shorts. Roll them dice boys, it’s another boxing crap shoot.