(Photo credit: Tim Starks)
PHILADELPHIA — For five rounds, it looked like another aging legend was in danger of being toppled on Wednesday. But where 41-year-old Roy Jones, Jr. got knocked out in a stunning loss to his underdog opponent, Danny Green, 44-year-old Bernard Hopkins eventually outclassed his underdog opponent, Enrique Ornelas, to win a wide decision.
My initial thought watching those first five rounds, which I scored 3-2 for Hopkins, was, OK, maybe he’s finally slowed down. My next thought was, well, maybe he’s rusty after being out of the ring for a year. Then I vacillated back and forth between whether we were just seeing the old Hopkins – not in age, but the Hopkins who looked like an elderly man in a recent stretch of fights as opposed to the new, improved Hopkins who looked so fresh against Kelly Pavlik. Whatever it was, there’s no way a smaller and less skilled Ornelas, even a best-fight-of-his-life Ornelas, should have been hanging with Hopkins if there was nothing wrong with him. Ornelas hit Hopkins with more clean, flush shots than just about anybody has in forever.
In the end, it looks to me like Hopkins was just rusty, or perhaps he was underestimating Ornelas and finally figured out he needed to fight harder. He figured it out and won every other round on my scorecard. He started landing hard, single punches, potshotting Ornelas with nasty counter uppercuts and lead straight rights, and Ornelas couldn’t get out of the way or get close enough to do much harm. Ornelas had success on the inside, but once Hopkins took control of range, it was pretty much over.
Where does Hopkins go next? Well, he said after the fight that he thought the ref stopped the Jones fight prematurely, and as such, “I think I can still fight him.” It’s hard to imagine HBO getting behind the Jones-Hopkins rematch under the circumstances. I guess we’ll find out. If I had my pick, he’d go at Tomacz Adamek, the cruiserweight champ, or Chad Dawson, the other best light heavyweight in the world, and then call it quits.
We haven’t been reminded of Hopkins’ mortality much since last October, when he was so fabulous and timeless, but nights like tonight — where more than 6,000 of his fellow Philadelphians chanted “B-Hop” after he began to dial it in — make you remember that some day, unless Hopkins walks away, time will catch up to even him.