In August of 1998, Bernard Hopkins was late in the fourth round of the ninth defense of his IBF middleweight title against southpaw Robert Allen when a break of a clnch by referee Mills Lane wound up forcing Hopkins out of the ring and onto the arena floor of the Las Vegas Hilton.
Hopkins claimed an ankle injury and did not continue, resulting in a no-contest that allowed him to retain his IBF belt. The move led to Hopkins’ taking plenty of heat, including inuendo from Showtime rinsgide commentator and former fighter, Bobby Czyz.
“This is the first time that I’ve ever seen a referee cause somebody to go flying out of the ring, No. 1. No. 2, I watched pretty closely the way this fight was unfolding, and my prediction is that Robert Allen was starting to take charge of the fight. Bernard Hopkins was having some difficulty guaging him. Guaging his southpaw stance, guaging his speed,” said Czyz.
“I don’t know if Hopkins is considering getting back into the ring because he’s just sitting there…A number of times we’ve seen fighters get fouled, and the foul not be as bad as we think or not as bad as they appear to be…What I’m wondring is this: If the fight’s going a certain way, and one of the fighters gets fouled, he makes more out of it.”
Hopkins dominated Allen in their immediate rematch of February, 1999, dropping him in the second and sixth rounds of an eventual seventh-round knockout for the 10th of his middleweight record 20 title defenses.
During a national conference call on Tuesday, Hopkins (52-5-2, 32 knockouts) called the situation with Allen a “carbon copy” of that which the 47-year-old RING light heavweight champion now faces with southpaw challenger, Chad Dawson (30-1, 17 KOs) in their rematch on April 28 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
“It’s like looking in the mirror,” said Hopkins. “To answer the question about the Robert Allen second fight, the similarities are so very close that it’s scary.”
HOPKINS-DAWSON I: THE REPLAY
Hopkins-Dawson I also ended in controversy last October at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Hopkins was diagnosed with a left shoulder separation following a fight that was initially ruled to be a second-round TKO victory for Dawson — and later a no-contest — after Hopkins was shoved to the canvas and deemed unfit to continue by referee Pat Russell.
“It’s very profound that you find that I’m under the same situation,” said Hopkins. “And it’s going to be even stranger when the same results happen.”
Since their first meeting, however, Hopkins has been called “a punk” by the 29-year-old Dawson, who, with his promoter, Gary Shaw, has generally questioned Hopkins’ heart and intestinal fortitude.
“I’m going to keep saying this: Bernard did not want to be in the ring with me that night. Maybe he under-trained and didn’t expect to see what he saw that night, but I’m here and I’m for real and I’m coming to fight. I just know what happened that night,” said Dawson.
“I looked into Bernard’s eyes that night and Bernard did not want to be in the ring with me that night. He may tell you otherwise, and [Golden Boy Promotions CEO] Richard Schaefer may say otherwise, but I’m telling you that Bernard did not want to be in the ring with me that night.”
Hopkins was later reinstated as beltholder by the WBC, which also mandated an automatic return match with Dawson.
“I took the rematch,” said Hopkins, “because I’m a legend.”
But had it not been ordered, Shaw insists that Hopkins would not have taken the return bout with Dawson.
“We never heard anything about his rehabbing or anything else. My only fear is that Hopkins will not go through with the entire fight, and that somewhere in the fight, after he’s getting a beating from Chad, that he’ll find a way to get out of the fight,” said Shaw.
“I worked hard to get this mandatory rematch, or there is not a chance that Hopkins would have gotten back into the ring with Chad. They didn’t want the fight. They lobbied against the fight, but I won on the floor of the WBC convention. That’s why Hopkins is taking it, because without the belt, Hopkins is just an old fighter. So he needs that belt to be someone.”
“Bernard Hopkins did not have to take this fight because the WBC ordered it,” said Schaefer. “Bernard has more world championship belts in his collection than other people have belts to tie their pants. Bernard took the fight because he wanted too. That is why he is a legend.”
Hopkins, meanwhile, simply appears to be absorbing the negativity.
“I believe that I’m the most underrated fighter that has ever walked on the planet earth and has reached this level when it comes to speed, talent, hitting and not getting hit without running and when it comes to the basic fundamentals of boxing,” said Hopkins.
“I believe that I’m the most underrated fighter that has ever laced a pair of gloves on and who has reached the level that I have reached in my 24 years. That’s the motivation for me to keep pushing to prove where I’ve been and who I am.”
HOPKINS HAS WON BIG IN ATLANTIC CITY
In returning to Atlantic City, Hopkins is back at the site where he notched two of his most definitive victories.
Hopkins was the perceived underdog before scoring unanimous decisions over then-RING champ Antonio Tarver in his light heavyweight debut in 2006 as well as in his triumph over previously unbeaten then-undisputed middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik as 170-pounders in 2008.
Hopkins was similarly thought to be in against a favorite before he battered Felix Trinidad on the way to a 12th-round stoppage at Madison Square Garden in September of 2001.
In December of 2010, Hopkins rose from two knockdowns during his draw with RING light heavyweight champ Jean Pascal in the latter’s native Canada. He returned to Canada and dethroned Pascal as RING and WBC champ by unanimous decision last May.
In victory over Pascal, Hopkins, then 46, became the oldest man to win a major title in boxing. Before facing Hopkins, Pascal had vanquished Dawson in defense of his WBC belt by 11th-round technical decision in August of last year.
Hopkins believes he has at least one more big night left in him, hence, the theme of his rematch with Dawson “Once And For All.”
“With an older guy, what do you do? You make him fight harder than he wants to fight. That’s one thing if you’re dealing with your average 47-year-old. But what happens when he matches your same energy and the same speed, and he ain’t breathing hard?” said Hopkins.
“Is he going to use the same excuse that Pascal used and say that I was on some kind of steroids? That I’m drinking some kind of jungle juice. Or that I’m seeing some witch doctor? When they’ve got a plan, and it doesn’t work, you’re going to call it an upset. And you know what? You should, because I’m 47. So look for an excuse.”
HOPKINS HAS LOST ONLY ONCE TO A SOUTHPAW, AND THAT’S JOE CALZAGHE
Hopkins entered the initial fight against Dawson with a mark of 10-1 that included five knockouts and one no contest against left-handers.
Hopkins’ lone defeat against a southpaw during that time had come via disputed split-decision opposite former undisputed super middleweight titleholder Joe Calzaghe of Wales in April of 2008.
Calzaghe retired with a mark of 46-0 that included 32 knockouts and triumphs over former beltholders Jeff Lacy, Mikkel Kessler, as well as, in consecutive RING lightheavyweight title bouts, Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr., the latter being his final bout in November of 2008.
During an interview with RingTV.com in October, Calzaghe gave Dawson the edge over Hopkins prior to their first fight.
“My heart says Bernard Hopkins wins by points. But my head says that Chad Dawson’s going to beat him by points or maybe even by late-round stoppage,” said Calzaghe, who rose from first-round knockdown against Hopkins and Jones. “I hope that I’m wrong, but that’s what I think.”
Dawson believes that he was on his way to accomplishing what Calzaghe thought that he could.
“Joe Calzaghe was a great fighter, but me and Joe Calzghe are two different fighers. We’re both southpaws, but Calzaghe, you know, he’s more using his hand speed. I use my hand speed too, but my punches mean something. My punches count,” said Dawson.
“My punches hurt. Joe Calzaghe was more of a slapper and didn’t have that much power on his punches and he throws a lot of punches. I have every advantage. I’ve got the fire in my eyes. I really wanted to beat Bernard Hopkins the last time, but Bernard had other plans.”
On April 28, Dawson has vowed to finish what he started.
“The way that the fight ended, I can only take it as a confidence builder because Bernard Hopkins I really don’t believe that Bernard Hopkins was hurt. He showed that he really didn’t want to be in the ring with me that night,” said Dawson, who has predicted a victory by sixth-round knockout over Hopkins.
“So that’s a confidence booster for me,”I want to get in there on April 28 and pick up right where I left off. Being the aggressor, making him fight and hopefully we can give the fans what they came to see, which is a real fight.”
Hopkins, for his part, insists that he will rise to the occasion, yet again — just in case you missed it.
“I know what I have to do. Whatever he says he’s going to do, I believe that he’s going to try,” said Hopkins. “That’s when everybody is going to enjoy Bernard Hopkins and see the talent that I’ve always shown, but they just wasn’t paying attention.”
SHAWN PORTER-DASHON JOHNSON ON HOPKINS-DAWSON UNDERCARD
Schaefer said that welterweights Shawn Porter (18-0 13 KOs), of Akron, Ohio, and Dashon Johnson (13-5-3, 4 KOs), of Escondido, Calif., will be on the Hopkins-Dawson II undercard.
Porter is a sometime sparring partner for WBO welterweight beltholder Manny Pacquiao.
VUSI MALINGA-LEO SANTA CRUZ BOUT PLANNED
Schaefer said an IBF bantamweight title bout between South African lefthander Vusi Malinga (20-3-1, 12 KOs) and unbeaten Mexican Leo Santa Cruz (19-0-1 11 KOs) is being considered for two separate undercards.
Malinga-Santa Cruz could wind up on the undercard of the June 2 quadruple-header whose main event matches unbeaten cruiserweight contender Lateef Kayode against former light heavyweight champ Antonio Tarver, or that of the June 23 rematch between Victor Ortiz and Andre Berto.
Photos by Jeff Fusco, Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Promotions
Photo by Tom Hogan, Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Promotions
Photo by Ed Mulholland, Fightwireimages.com
Photo by Tom Hogan, Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Promotions
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com