Boxing has a bunch of adages that we fail to believe are rules of principle. One such adage is “styles make fights.” This is a common phrase that wears old after years of saying it. Yet, it never seems to be wrong. Then there is the statement that is even truer, “Most boxers don’t know when to call it quits.” This past Saturday we witness both of these adages at play as a 48 year old Bernard Hopkins took on a young Tavoris Cloud, a fighter who was gifted a win over the well seasoned Gabriel Campillo in a fight that nearly everyone, except the judges, felt Cloud won.
So, which adage would reign true was the big question. The champion Cloud lumbered to the ring with promoter Don King by his side and manager J. Price nearby. He appeared to be everything that you would want to beat old lion. Cloud was strong and focused a calm storm, not unlike Dawson was when he walked out minus the height. Yet, Brooklyn was clearly a Hopkins’ town as he came out to cheers as loud as a jet engine and walked to the ring, potentially for the last time, on that fateful night.
Then it happened. The fight essentially came and went. Hopkins started strong, surprisingly strong, uncharacteristically strong. Cloud looked bewildered. Hopkins’ strategy was simple, move to the right away from Cloud’s power hand and throw three or so punches and then move. Simple, yet the problem was Cloud seemed helpless. As a legend made it his kind of fight, slow, grueling, more of a chess match. Hopkins had Cloud nervous to throw out of fear of getting countered. Though Cloud stated prior to the fight that he would work the body, he seemed content to only target Hopkins’ head.
In the second, third and fourth round, Cloud had moments, in fact, after three; I felt Cloud was up 2-1 on my card. The problem was he would land hard on straight rights on Hopkins. He either believed Hopkins could not take his power or that he would be able to simply overpower Hopkins. Neither of which were the case. It became methodological as the fight hit the middle rounds. Just like in the Campillo fight, Cloud became far too inactive to even compete in the rounds, let alone win rounds. As Hopkins dazzled us with technical footwork, masterful punching, and the outlandish taunting we expect.
In the sixth round, Hopkins hit Cloud with a left hook that opened a cut over the eye of Cloud as the whole arena erupted in applause. The one thing about Hopkins’ fights and especially as he has become the ageless wonder of these last couple of years, is that since exchanges are limited the crowd responds well to the small bits of action. The drama was intensified when Hopkins landed a clean punch, again causing the crowd to roar. With every passing round, the crowd began to embrace Hopkins on his quest for history. With Cloud the crowd seemed to add an extra burden, a deflating feeling of “Is this really happening to me? Am I really inadequate skill wise to Hopkins?”
At the end of the fight, Hopkins was livid – embracing the crowd as Cloud seemed mild mannered and slightly ashamed of his performance. In an odd twist, Bernard Hopkins began to speak to Super Middleweight Andre Ward, who was providing color commentary for the HBO Telecast. This inaudible rhetoric that Hopkins spewed forth was then translated by Ward as, “Hopkins saying he respects me and he would never fight me.” Yet, when looking at the body language of Hopkins after the fight you could tell that he might have been saying more than just kind words to the champion Ward.
Then Hopkins engaged in another bit of word exchange with Don King, his former promoter, who Hopkins felt treated him unjustly and often tried to serve him up to more exciting fighters, most notably Tito Trinidad. Even before the fight, Hopkins took pride in saying he would retire Don King since Cloud was his last notable fighter. In this awkward moment, Hopkins shook King’s hand and then pulled in close to exchange some words. We can only assume that they were not offered with the most pleasant intentions.
In the post fight interview Hopkins explained, “This is what I do! I retire tough guys and then you never see ‘em again!” A true statement, but an awkward statement, given Cloud was still in the ring. He continued on by explaining he was a free agent and HBO or “the other network” [Showtime] should pick him up. On a funny note, this reminded me of back in October in Brooklyn. Hopkins single handedly denied a reporter for asking a question to Danny Garcia when the reporter brought up Harold Lederman’s name [HBO ringside judge]. It was as clear as day that Hopkins, in a stylish orange sweater, was saying “Wrong network buddy!” I was reminded of this at the end of the fight as well, since it seemed clear, Hopkins would prefer to be over at Showtime with the rest of the Golden Boy roster.
The next question is, at what point does Hopkins stop? It appears that Bernard Hopkins is not going to quit on his own and that the ring will, in fact, retire him, which begs the question, will it take one painful loss or one tragic injury to stop Hopkins? Then the bigger issue, what does he do if he retires? It seems as though this is all that Hopkins knows and that if he were to retire, he would feel as though he lost a bit of himself. Unlike Mayweathers and Pacquiaos of this generation, it seems as though money is not the major factor for Hopkins. It’s simply respect and an addiction to boxing which does not seem to be ending in the near future.