BERNARD HOPKINS AND THE ELEVENTH PLAGUE

It is not a holiday usually observed by Bernard Hopkins, but Pass Over is what he feels he experienced Saturday night at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas. He would have preferred being rained on by frogs, maybe even a little pestilence. Instead he found himself rained on by the pitter patter of Welsh idol Joe Calzaghe’s little punches. But it rained on him a lot—enough to convince two of three judges that he should be banished from the linear light heavyweight championship and be forced to wander aimlessly in his 43rd year, hoping for the doors of one of the WB’s or IB’s to open wide and give him another opportunity at Boxing’s Valhalla.

Hopkins, who raised some eyebrows when he said in his pre-fight hoopla talk that he could never lose to a white boy, explained that he was merely acting when he said that. It was just his way of getting into Joe Calzaghe’s head. Okay, the bell rings to start the fight and Bernard the Actor finds an even better way of getting into the Welshman’s head as he seeks entry to Joe’s inner cranium with a short right hand. However, Calzaghe’s finely shaped proboscis stops the glove from going any further as he finds himself deposited on the seat of his pants in the very first round and the old Executioner from Philadelphia was now acting like a sprightly 20-year old as he was keeping Calzaghe at an ineffective, in-between punching range, using the ropes as his home base and counterpunching well. Meanwhile, Calzaghe remained on the attack and his punch rate was dazzling but still not finding its mark as his open-the-door-right jab was falling short and at the end of four rounds he was trailing on all cards. The first round knockdown provided a good cushion. Calzaghe was also spending a lot of energy and time trying to avoid head collisions, an art form that Hopkins needs no practice for as he is a Grand Master.

From the fifth round on Calzaghe seemed to find his groove and began putting it all together, slapping away in flurries, outpunching Hopkins, who, although throwing much fewer punches, was definitely carrying the heavier artillery. Forcing Hopkins back on the ropes was like getting a raccoon in a corner. That was his comfort zone. That’s where he bares his fangs, hisses and snarls.

Around the ninth round Hopkins was noticeably tiring as Calzaghe continually seemed to shift into higher gear, punching in greater flurries. It was time for Hopkins to go back to his “acting” career. Midway through round ten, Calzaghe landed a right hook definitely below the belt line but still well above the crotch area. True, you cannot be in another man’s jock strap (or protective cup) but it was inconceivable that the low blow could have caused the distress that was manifested by Hopkins. Referee Joe Cortez, always Fair but Firm, did not assess a penalty point but granted Hopkins as much time as he required up to five minutes. When action resumed, a now rejuvenated Hopkins came back strongly and stole the round, taking an aggressive stance rather than fighting off the ropes. Seeing how well this went, Hopkins resorted to an acting role again in the eleventh round, this time to a rather invisible blow that left Calzaghe with arms outstretched in the center of the ring wondering what was going on. This time Cortez, not unappreciative of Hopkins’ acting ability, but being a little Firmer, had them resume action.

This guy watching the fight who may not understand some of the finesse strategies employed in a prize ring says, “What an actor. He deserves an Oscar!”

“Oscar? Nah, he had him already. Anyhow, Oscar’s fighting in two weeks!”

Anyhow, Bernard the Executioner, gets no awards, not even the decision, which goes to a most exuberant Joe Calzaghe on a split verdict with Adelaide Byrd scoring it 114-113 for Hopkins while Ted Gimza and Chuck Giampa had Calzaghe by comfortable margins of 115-112 and 116-111. I scored the fight 116-112 for Calzaghe but there were so many close rounds that there was substantial division among the press corps and the non-Welsh fans.

Both fighters weighed in at 173. Calzaghe remains undefeated at 45-0 (32 KO’s) and Hopkins falls to 48-5-1 (32 KO’s.)

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