How Much Can Change in Three Years?

by Eric Raskin

Mikkel Kessler, Carl Froch

When Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler renew hostilities on March 25, it will have been three years, one month, and one day since they first fought. In that initial affair, Kessler won a close, unanimous decision in his native Denmark. But a lot can change in three years, and with the rematch set for London’s O2 Arena, Englishman Froch is listed as about a 2-1 favorite.

Standard rematch protocol following a very close, entertaining first fight, which is what Kessler-Froch I was, is to arrange an immediate rematch. That wasn’t an option here because Kessler-Froch I took place as part of the “Super Six” tournament and both men were pre-committed to other future fights. So this could never be like Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward or Israel Vazquez-Rafael Marquez, classic rivalries in which three bouts were crammed into just 12 or 13 months. If there was going to be a Kessler-Froch rematch, there would be time for the rivalry to breathe first.

Maybe that’s not boxing’s standard protocol, but it does happen. There have been plenty of famous fights throughout history that led to a rematch three or more years later.

Probably the most well known case is Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Thomas Hearns. In 1981, they met to unify the welterweight championship. It wasn’t until 1989, when they were super middleweights, that they shared the ring again. Though both were somewhat diminished as fighters by the time they rematched in their 30s, the product was similar: a close, dramatic, action-packed fight. In the first fight, Leonard rallied late to win by 14th-round TKO. He might done the same in the rematch—but it was only scheduled for 12 rounds, so Sugar Ray ran out of time and the bout was ruled a draw.

If the eight years between Leonard-Hearns fights sounds like a lot, that’s nothing compared to the 17 years separating Roy Jones’ 1993 win over Bernard Hopkins and the revenge Hopkins exacted in 2010. When that much time passes, it’s almost certain that circumstances will be wildly different by the second go-round. In this case, Jones was all but spent and coming off a first-round knockout loss just four months earlier, and the rematch was an embarrassment all the way around.

In most cases, however, the result doesn’t change from the first fight to the second. History repeats itself, often more quickly and less memorably.

Julio Cesar Chavez defeated Meldrick Taylor via controversial 12th-round stoppage in 1990 in arguably the best fight of the decade. Four years later, Taylor was no longer an elite boxer and was dispatched in eight one-sided rounds.

When Billy Conn challenged Joe Louis for the heavyweight championship in 1941, he led on the cards before Louis caught up with him in round 13 of a legendary duel. World War II got in the way of a rematch and forced them to wait until 1946, by which time Conn was rusty, old, or both, and Louis dominated the eight rounds that the fight lasted.

Joe Frazier’s first fight with Jerry Quarry, in the summer of ’69, was not exactly summer-of-love-appropriate, as Frazier won on cuts in seven rounds in a bruising Fight of the Year. When they fought again in ’74, the battle was almost as violent as their first but a bit shorter, ending with Frazier’s hand raised in the fifth.

If Frazier had Quarry’s number, so too did George Foreman have Frazier’s. In the iconic “Down goes Frazier!” fight in 1973, Foreman stomped Smokin’ Joe in two rounds to capture the heavyweight crown. Frazier lasted longer when they went at it a second time in ’76, but he was no more competitive, getting wiped out in five rounds.

The general perception is that Froch is closer to his prime right now than Kessler is, which is why the man who lost the first time is favored on May 25. But sometimes time changes nothing and the style matchup assures the same type of fight no matter how many times they do it. If that turns out to be the case with Kessler and Froch, no fight fan will complain.

Bernard Hopkins Continues to Defy Age, One Round at a Time

by Hamilton Nolan

Photo Credit: Will Hart

Bernard Hopkins is amazing in the way that only true stories can be amazing. Not in a grandiose, spectacular way, but in an all too believable series of small steps that adds up to something that seems unbelievable. On Saturday night, before a crowd chanting “B-Hop,” the 48 year-old Bernard Hopkins took a unanimous decision victory-- and a title--over the young, strong, legitimate former light heavyweight champion Tavoris Cloud at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. How? A single moment at a time.

Hopkins’ primary skills at this late stage of his career are slipping punches, stepping away from trouble, grabbing on the inside, and being surprising. Sustained offense and sustained energy are not his specialties. It does not matter. Tonight, he seized the small moments. He let Cloud expend all the energy attacking; and then, when he paused, Hopkins would land one or two or three punches, and move. Every time that Cloud missed a punch or smiled for a brief moment at his mistake, Hopkins would hit him. He did not so much beat up Cloud as make it clear that Cloud did not beat him. That was enough for him to cruise to victory by a margin of several rounds. 

Read the Full Tavoris Cloud vs. Bernard Hopkins Fight Recap on HBO.com.

Thurman, Zaveck, Salgado, Mendez Round out Saturday's Boxing

by Kieran Mulvaney

March 9's HBO boxing broadcasts will be dominated by the question of whether the seemingly ageless Bernard Hopkins can add yet another entry to the record books by defeating Tavoris Cloud and winning a world title at the age of 48.

But two other televised bouts that evening also provide intrigue and promise plenty of action.

Keith Thurman vs Jan Zaveck

Welterweight prospect Thurman has emerged from seemingly nowhere in the last several months to become something of a fan favorite. The reasons for his burgeoning popularity are clear: what he lacks in technical finesse, he makes up for in pure aggression and personality. Nor is he short of confidence: after beating Orlando Lora in Cincinnati last July, he called out no less of an opponent than Floyd Mayweather.

In his last outing, Thurman made a major statement with a dominant fourth-round stoppage of former Paul Williams conqueror Carlos Quintana; but Quintana looked a shell of the man who had faced Williams and Miguel Cotto and announced his retirement immediately afterward. There should be no such qualifications if Thurman maintains his undefeated record against Zaveck, who is an extremely tough test, and arguably the favorite entering this bout. Although Zaveck's last HBO appearance was a losing one, it was a loss that elevated his stock, as he gave Andre Berto a tough contest before being stopped on cuts.

Juan Carlos Salgado vs Argenis Mendez

Mexico's Salgado and the Dominican Mendez tangle for Salgado's junior lightweight title 18 months after they first clashed, in September 2011. In that bout, for the vacant title that Salgado now holds, the Mexican fighter eased away over the first half but had to withstand a furious rally from Mendez down the stretch, punctuated by a twelfth-round knockdown. The storming finish wasn't enough for Mendez to overcome his early points deficit, however, and Salgado took the unanimous decision.

After a no-contest in his first defense, when a clash of heads with challenger Miguel Beltran Jr. led to a cut over Salgado's left eye, the champion scraped home with a majority decision win over Martin Honorio in which two early knockdowns made the difference. Honorio then faced Mendez, who scored a comprehensive decision victory for the right to take on Salgado again.

Note: Salgado-Mendez  will be broadcast from Costa Mesa, California on HBO Latino at 8:30 PM ET/PT; Thurman-Zaveck and Bernard Hopkins-Tavoris Cloud will follow from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, on HBO World Championship Boxing, beginning at 9.30 PM ET/PT.

Hopkins Just Keeps on Ticking, But Cloud Aims to Clock Him Out

by Kieran Mulvaney


It has been almost two years since, at the age of 46, Bernard Hopkins overcame Jean Pascal to regain a portion of the light-heavyweight championship and in the process surpass George Foreman as the oldest boxer ever to win a world title. One year and nine months later, he looks to improve on his own record when he challenges Tavoris Cloud for another light-heavyweight belt in Brooklyn on March 9.

Hopkins' career, for all its technical excellence, has become defined by its longevity and by Hopkins' ability to perform at a championship level long after most boxers have hung up their gloves. But the defeat of Pascal stands, so far, as Hopkins' last win.

Since then, he has stepped into the ring twice, both times against Chad Dawson. The first encounter was abortive, Hopkins crashing to his shoulder in the second round of a no-contest five months after the Pascal victory. The second was definitive: Although one judge oddly saw the contest as a draw, the other two, more accurately, scored nine of 12 rounds for Dawson. It was the only time since his first title fight, against Roy Jones in 1993, that Hopkins had been clearly and incontrovertibly defeated.

So is the journey over, the road at an end? Has Hopkins finally reached the point where even he can no longer overcome the one-two punch of the opponent in front of him and Father Time on his shoulder?

Possibly. But not necessarily.

Read the Complete Tavoris Cloud vs. Bernard Hopkins Fight Overview on HBO.com

HBO Boxing Schedule Packed with Hot Young Stars and Tested Veterans

by Kieran Mulvaney

Next week HBO returns with its second boxing broadcast of the year, a card that kicks off a series of bouts between now and the end of March. Here’s what’s on tap to take us through the first quarter of 2013:

February 16: Adrien Broner vs Gavin Rees
Atlantic City, New Jersey

Adrien Broner has come so far, so fast, and has established himself with such authority as one of the stars of the sport, that it is sometimes surprising to realize how young he is. Still only 23, he is already a two-weight world champion. Fresh off seizing a lightweight crown with the destruction of Antonio DeMarco, he takes on once-beaten British and European champ Gavin Rees in his first defense.

March 9: Bernard Hopkins vs Tavoris Cloud
Brooklyn, New York

Bernard Hopkins began his professional boxing career before Broner was born, and yet he continues to operate at the championship level. He already holds the record for the oldest boxer to win a world title, a record he secured when outpointing Jean Pascal in Montreal in 2011. He was a youngster of 46 then; now a fully mature 48, he takes on the challenge of undefeated light heavyweight titleholder Tavoris Cloud.

The undercard sees the return of always popular heavyweight Cris Arreola, and exciting young welterweight prospect Keith Thurman.

March 16: Timothy Bradley vs Ruslan Provodnikov
Carson, California

After securing a hugely controversial win against Manny Pacquiao last May, Bradley found himself with his nose pressed against the window as Pacquiao eschewed a rematch in favor of furthering his rivalry with Juan Manuel Marquez. And so, 10 months after his last ring appearance, Bradley is taking on little-known but dangerous Provodnikov, a hard-punching pressure fighter. The Desert Storm will need to be blowing at full strength to avoid the upset.

 

March 30: Brandon Rios vs Mike Alvarado
Las Vegas, Nevada

The first fight between these two junior welterweights was the consensus fight of the year in 2012 until Marquez flattened Pacquiao in December. It was a bruising, brutal, back-and-forth slobberknocker that ended in the seventh round when Rios unleashed a flurry that had Alvarado in trouble on the ropes and prompted a referee stoppage. There’s no reason to think the rematch will be any less compelling. Honestly, there’s nothing to be said about it except, in the words of Mills Lane: “Let’s get it on.”

Hopkins, Pavlik Still Going Their (Unlikely) Separate Ways

by Eric Raskin

Kelly Pavlik, Bernard Hopkins - Photo Credit: Will Hart

Nearly every conversation on press row during the undercard for a major fight eventually turns to predictions for the main event. On October 18, 2008, in Atlantic City, the night Bernard Hopkins fought Kelly Pavlik, I had that “So, what do you think is gonna happen?” chat with probably a dozen different people. I remember one of my fellow writers picking Hopkins to win. For all of the others, the debate was whether Hopkins, then 43 years old, would make it competitive and last the distance against the 26-year-old middleweight champ or finally become a knockout victim.

Pavlik, after all, was undefeated in 34 fights with 30 knockouts. And Hopkins was coming off a close loss to Joe Calzaghe in which he ran out of gas, stalled for time, and generally resembled his actual age more than he ever had before.

Of course, we all know what happened in the ring. Hopkins outboxed and befuddled Pavlik at every turn. “The Ghost” was battered both mentally and physically. By the late rounds, the dialogue had shifted to whether Pavlik would last the distance or get knocked out.

Pavlik did go the full 12, but he was never quite the same afterward. Hopkins, meanwhile, soon went on to become the oldest man ever to win a world championship.

It was remarkable what happened over the course of the 12 rounds Hopkins and Pavlik shared, it was remarkable the opposite directions they went, and it’s remarkable where they are now, a little more than four years later.

This past weekend, Pavlik announced his retirement at just 30 years of age. (Disclaimer: It’s a boxing retirement. Its permanence is far from assured.) A few days earlier, Hopkins celebrated his 48th birthday at a press conference announcing his March 9 HBO-televised bout with Tavoris Cloud.

Who could have imagined, going into the Hopkins-Pavlik fight at Boardwalk Hall four years ago, that Pavlik would be retired before Hopkins would? And not just that Hopkins would fight on beyond Pavlik, but that he would still be among the best in his division, engaging in meaningful fights, taking on opponents half his age rather than cashing out with depressing seniors’ tour fights against faded fellow legends?

Hopkins’ longevity is virtually unparalleled in the history of the sport.

But that’s not to say it can’t be duplicated in the future.

To remain an elite fighter deep into your 40s requires extreme discipline and a style built around technical excellence and mental acuity more so than physical gifts. Who among today’s fighters might be the next Hopkins? Two guesses:

1. If he keeps fighting just once or twice a year, don’t be shocked to see Floyd Mayweather still on pound-for-pound lists past his 40th birthday.

2. If he maintains his motivation the way Hopkins has, count on Andre Ward to still be frustrating elite opponents deep into the next decade.

This Time Around, Dawson Leaves No Room for Controversy

By Michael Gluckstadt

Bernard Hopkins, Chad Dawson - Photo Credit: Will HartBernard Hopkins danced, he mugged and he pushed, but he didn't connect. All the head games in the world can't land punches, and tonight, the 47-year-old Hopkins didn't. His opponent, Chad Dawson, shrugged off Hopkins' antics—which included a full-on tackle in the 11th—and outhustled the fighter 18 years his senior for a majority decision victory and the WBC and Ring  Magazine light heavyweight titles.

Before a crowd of 7,705 mostly Hopkins-supporting fans at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, Dawson got the better of most exchanges and landed the cleaner shots. According to CompuBox numbers he connected on 35 percent of his punches, and 48 percent of his power punches, while Hopkins landed just 25 and 30 percent, respectively.

Leading up to the fight, Hopkins had been reticent about the rematch with Dawson—though Dawson had no problem talking about the controversial no-contest at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, which ended with Dawson slamming Hopkins into the mat and separating his shoulder in only the second round. Through the first four rounds in this fight, both fighters were feeling each other out, throwing fewer than 10 punches per round.

Read more on HBO.com

Fighters and Fans Weigh In on Hopkins vs. Dawson II

By Michael Gluckstadt

Bernard Hopkins, Chad Dawson - Photo Credit: Will Hart 

Bernard Hopkins doesn't have anything left to say. But he still has to say it. He kicked off a tense media session with boxing reporters earlier with the weary preamble of a man who's done it all before. "We should all understand this," Hopkins said. "Nothing else needs to be asked about Bernard Hopkins, so don't do press conferences when you know the book on this guy. We can't predict what's going to happen until it happens. So what are you going to ask a guy after two decades and four years?"

Hopkins took the same workmanlike attitude with him to the scales, where he weighed in at 173.5 lbs, glared for a bit, and left the stage. This was just after his opponent Chad Dawson came in at 174.5. Dawson has been decidedly more vocal in the lead up to the fight, a rematch of a controversial no-contest that had originally been ruled a KO for Dawson. Since that night, Dawson has maintained that he had no choice but to slam Hopkins down to the canvas, if only to keep the fighter 18 years his senior from pushing down on his back and wearing him down.  This time, Dawson wants to leave no doubt. "We have a good plan," he said earlier this week. "I am not thinking about a close decision. I don't see it happening that way at all."

Dawson and the oddsmakers see things one way, but Hopkins and the fans see it another. "I wish I were more of an underdog, so that my guys could make some money," he deadpanned. On our HBO Boxing Facebook poll, Dawson earned 65 percent of the 1730 votes cast. On Twitter and HBO.com, the results were slightly more even.

 Here's some more of what you had to say:

  • Hopkins will enjoy this rematch as much as he enjoyed his rematch with Pascal. Hopkins by Decision, with enough energy to do push ups between rounds. V. Varricchio (HBO.com)
  • easy  boring win for dawson, last fight for bernard.  i would hope it aint so but really i rather see him lose this way n quit than get beat up – Shaka Z. (HBO.com)
  • Going the full length, split decision B.Hop! - @PrimeJock_LLC (Twitter)
  • Dawson wins by close decision when BHop comes on late but fails to close. #HopkinsDawson2 - @AtomFry (Twitter)
  • although the first fight was hideous, i am looking forward to this fight.. i believe that dawson looked like he was going to destroy B-hop in the first fight. dawson came prepared and this time he has more to prove.. dawson will be the first guy to knock out B-hop..  B-hop makes history again, but this time in the loosing end. – Manos D Fuego (HBO.com)
  • I see @THEREALBHOP having his moment, with @OfficialBadChad's youth prevailing in a decision. #boxing - @12RounderBoxing (Twitter)

Check out the slideshow at HBO.com.

Hopkins Is No Stranger to Rematches

By Kieran Mulvaney

Jean Pascal, Bernard Hopkins - Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland

When Bernard Hopkins faces Chad Dawson on HBO World Championship Boxing on Saturday, it will be the seventh occasion on which he has fought the same opponent a second time. Of the previous six, one came soon after an initial encounter that Hopkins had comfortably won; one came many years after a bout he had clearly lost; one was an immediate rematch of a fight that cost him the middleweight title; two followed draws; and one, like Saturday’s fight with Dawson, succeeded a bad-tempered grudge match that ended in a bizarre no-contest.

Hopkins is renowned as a cerebral and adaptable boxer, and ring smarts and adaptability have played a key role in The Executioner’s remarkable rematch record of 5 wins and 1 defeat. He’ll aim to improve that against Dawson.

Here’s how events unfolded in his previous second chances:

Roy Jones, Jr. (L12, May 22 1993; W12 April 3 2010)

The first encounter was the inaugural title tilt for both future Hall-of-Famers; despite the excellence of their subsequent careers, the middleweight bout was unremarkable. Their second battle, which didn’t take place until Hopkins was 45 and Jones was effectively shot, was unwatchable, but it enabled Hopkins to secure his long-desired revenge.

Segundo Mercado (D12 December 17 1994; TKO7 April 29 1995)

In his next attempt to win the middleweight crown, Hopkins struggled to adapt to the altitude in Mercado’s native Ecuador and was floored twice before escaping with a draw. In the rematch, closer to home turf in Maryland, Hopkins left no doubt, and stopped Mercado to begin his lengthy championship reign. 

Robert Allen (NC  August 28 1998; TKO7 February 6 1999)

Hopkins’ seventh title defense was an ugly affair; in a bizarre finish, referee Mills Lane pulled the two men apart from a clinch with such force that Hopkins fell through the ropes and onto the floor, twisting his ankle and forcing a no-contest decision. In the aftermath, Allen taunted Hopkins, claiming he had quit; a focused and enraged Hopkins dominated his opponent in the rematch. (The two men fought a third time in 2004, with Hopkins winning convincingly on points.) 

Antwun Echols (W12 December 12 1999; TKO10 December 1 2000)

Hopkins won the first meeting comfortably enough, but Echols’ power rocked the champ once or twice along the way. The rematch was a foul-fest that was highlighted, if that’s the word, by Echols essentially body-slamming Hopkins to the canvas and injuring the Philadelphian’s shoulder in round 6, an act that resulted in the challenger being penalized two points; after a timeout, Hopkins elected to continue, ultimately stopping Echols with a barrage against the ropes in the 10th.

Jermain Taylor (L12 July 16 2005; L12 December 3 2005)

After a record 20 successful defenses of his middleweight title, Hopkins started slowly against the younger Taylor, who built up a big early points lead. Hopkins dominated down the stretch, but Taylor held on to secure a close and controversial split decision. The rematch unfolded much the same way: this time Hopkins stepped up the pressure slightly earlier, but an eleventh-round rally was enough for Taylor to secure another very narrow points win – the only rematch to date from which Hopkins has not emerged victorious. 

Jean Pascal (D12 December 18 2010; W12 May 21 2011)

As with Taylor, Hopkins fell behind early against light-heavyweight titlist Pascal, his cause not aided by two knockdowns, including one that the veteran insisted resulted from a punch behind the head. Once again, Hopkins was rampant down the stretch, but the early points hole was so deep that he could only secure a majority draw. Pascal started the rematch brightly enough, but this time Hopkins took charge earlier, ultimately dominating Pascal physically and psychologically and becoming the oldest boxer to win a major world title. 

Hopkins Has Beaten the No-Contest Rap Before

By Kieran Mulvaney

Chad Dawson, Bernard Hopkins - Photo Credit: Will Hart 

If it all seemed strangely familiar … well, it was.

Scene 1: October 16, 2011, Los Angeles

Bernard Hopkins leaned on the back of opponent Chad Dawson, who was ducking down to avoid a Hopkins punch; Dawson, depending on your perspective, either shrugged Hopkins off him or positively body-slammed him to the canvas. Hopkins injured his shoulder and grimaced in pain, and the referee called a halt to the bout. The California State Athletic Commission ultimately declared the result to be a no-contest.

Despite initially being dubbed the victor, Dawson reacted with contempt and fury at the turn of events, and accused Hopkins of seeking the easy way out.

“I was looking forward to a good fight,” he said. “I trained eight weeks for this ... Yes, he was faking [the injury]. This is a fight I wanted for three years, and Bernard obviously didn't want the fight."

“That was a blatant foul,” countered Hopkins. “That was not a boxing-like move,” added his promoter, Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy Promotions.

 

Scene 2: August 28, 1998, Las Vegas

Hopkins was making the eighth defense of his middleweight title, against Robert Allen. The early going was closely-contested, and referee Mills Lane had his work cut out breaking up a series of clinches. In the fourth round, the two men tied each other up and Allen effectively seized Hopkins in a headlock from which he was reluctant to release him, despite Lane’s best efforts.  Finally, Lane wrenched the two men apart, and Hopkins staggered backward, fell against the ropes and then through them onto the floor below. He injured his ankle, Lane called a halt to the bout and the Nevada State Athletic Commission declared the result to be a no-contest.

Allen insisted that Hopkins was faking. "He bailed out,” said the challenger. “He could have continued to fight. I think he just fell through the ropes and took a dive."

Hopkins laid the blame squarely on his opponent’s tactics. “It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that he's a dirty fighter … He should have been disqualified.”

Seven months later, Hopkins and Allen fought a rematch in Washington, D.C. Hopkins, infuriated by Allen’s jibes and accusations of diving, left nothing to chance. He dropped Allen in the second and sixth rounds and stopped him in the seventh. Five years later, he faced him again, knocked him down again, and beat him again.

“I had to come back and redeem myself,” Hopkins said later of his rematch victory.

Hopkins and Dawson meet for a second time on April 28, in Atlantic City. Hopkins will be aiming to enact his revenge and answer the doubters as emphatically as he did against Robert Allen. Dawson will be aiming to stop him.