(Bernard Hopkins punches Karo Murat; photo credit: Tom Casino, Showtime)
Bernard Hopkins beat Karo Murat Saturday night on Showtime in a bout notable for more action than you usually see in a Hopkins fight, but even more notable for exceeding the regular high figure of extracurriculars you usually see in a Hopkins fight. There was kissing and referee face shoving and a rule book generally left in tatters.
On the undercard, a close bout between Peter Quillin and Gabriel Rosado ended unfortunately, but not exceptionally, questionably due to a cut that gave Quillin the win, while Deontay Wilder scored his customary knockout but with a little more difficulty than usual.
BERNARD HOPKINS-KARO MURAT
This performance showed that Hopkins, 48 and soon to be 49, is still Hopkins, although this version was more willing to brawl than we've seen in a while. Some of that had to do with Murat, who did put the kind of pressure he needed to put on him to make a competitive showing. I was wrong about what kind of fight this would be, because it was not "ho-hum."
It was, at times, annoying, at other times entertaining, in some measure because all three men in the ring demonstrated such a commitment to activities outside the traditional boxing bounds of two men exchanging punches to the head and body. A litany of antics follows, perhaps — somehow — only partial:
- Hopkins kissed Murat's back and neck. "Kissing is not action" — Showtime commentator Paulie Malignaggi
- Murat punched Hopkins twice while he was on the ground, or tried; Hopkins, as usual, defended himself capably.
- Hopkins nearly gave Murat the full heave-ho through the middle ropes.
- Referee Steve Smoger docked Murat a point for hitting on the break. It's not as if he couldn't have deducted a number of points from either man, it's just that Murat was not as sneaky or varied in his offenses as Hopkins, which maybe is why people don't try to trade foul for foul with Hopkins. Also, Smoger was inordinately preoccupied with Murat.
- Smoger shoved Murat in the face at the final bell, ending a sequence of Smoger shoves of Murat that he employed as often as possible, not just when separating the fighters. When he separated them, he shoved Murat. When the two men were close to each other at the end of a round, Smoger would often shove Murat back to his corner.
- Both boxers exchanged frequent sticking out of the tongue.
- Hopkins walked over to the corner of Murat to taunt his team, not even stopping the taunts while Murat smacked him around.
- Hopkins spun Murat around backwards, held on to him as he walked away with his gloves protecting the back of his head, and then popped Murat in the ribs to no penalty.
- Hopkins head butted, and held and hit. Like he always does.
- Murat introduced low blows in the final round, somewhat because Hopkins was pushing his head down.
It wasn't a good night for Smoger, one of the best refs in the game, who was perhaps ill-fitted with his hands-off style for a Hopkins fight. And when he did put his hands on, he put them on Murat, almost angrily, as though he had lost control of his emotions.
But look, it's impressive that Hopkins can beat anyone at age 48, let alone a guy who would be considered a top 10 contender if not for inactivity, and who fought reasonably well. The toe-to-toe exchange in the 9th round between Hopkins and Murat was almost unheard of for a Hopkins bout. Hopkins did more combination punching than we've seen in years, showing inordinate aggression at times. Still, it was his bread and butter — he's smarter, more versatile, better defensively that pretty much everyone he fights — that won him the bout. Murat, whom the Showtime commentators thought controlled the early rounds, blamed two head butt-induced cuts for losing his concentration. Hopkins said it was by design for him to start slow, not a product of age. Both sound a little like excuses to me, but while the scorecards of 119-108 twice and 117-110 were probably too wide, there wasn't any real doubt about who won.
Hopkins is going to keep talking up this Floyd Mayweather fight and while it would probably be an ugly boxing match it's more interesting than some of Mayweather's other options. Just don't count on it happening. If Mayweather is going to make a junior middleweight, Canelo Alvarez, come down two pounds to 152, he's probably not going to fight at 160 — a meet in the middle task that, despite Hopkins' protestations that he can drop down again, not everyone is convinced he can achieve. Outside of a Mayweather bout, it gets harder to figure out where Hopkins goes next. His two most appealing and challenging light heavyweight foes, lineal champion Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev, are fighting on HBO, while Hopkins is committed to Showtime.
PETER QUILLIN-GABRIEL ROSADO, DEONTAY WILDER-NICOLAI FIRTHA
As cuts go, the one Rosado suffered in the 10th was pretty deep. I understand Rosado's frustration, as he believed himself on the way to winning (more on that in a moment). I understand some fans' frustration, as it was a good fight. Cuts are one of the least satisfactory endings to a bout. But, really, it was a defensible call by the doctor to stop it. I might've liked the bout to continue, but the doctor has to make a decision about the long-term health of a boxer sometimes, and he went the way he went.
That Rosado was fighting on such even terms with Quillin despite Quillin's size advantage — he's a real middleweight, Rosado only has fought there because those are the bouts he keeps getting offered — and despite a 2nd round knockdown said two things. One, Rosado is about the toughest, gamest B-side in boxing; you wonder what he could do in his natural junior middleweight division. Two, Quillin still has some very bad habits, one in particular, that nullify some of his natural physical abilities.
Quillin has a nice combination of speed and power, and he's pretty good offensively. His problem is that he's addicted to getting backed against the ropes. It was a problem against Hasan N'Dam N'Jikam, one that he improved upon against Fernando Guerrero, and now it's back. It's a sickness, addiction. It's a habit you can get away with sometimes if you can take a good shot, but Rosado wobbled him at least once, in the 4th.
At least he had the cushion of some shitty judging that would've bailed him out had the fight made it to the final bell. One judge had Quillin winning all nine rounds, another eight of the nine. Uh, no.
Showtime's team was talking up a rematch. I'd watch. And really, Quillin probably needs more seasoning, the kind that Rosado can give him — at least if Rosado doesn't halt him, which he might. Quillin might dream of lineal middleweight champion Sergio Martinez, and I don't blame him. But Martinez is over on HBO, and Quillin hasn't demonstrated he deserves a shot at Martinez after a showing like this. By the way, we keep talking about what a good year it's been for boxing despite the HBO/Top Rank Showtime/Golden Boy divide, but after a night like Saturday it's clearly beginning to affect the range of match-ups to everyone's detriment. Hopkins has basically no one to fight unless it's Mayweather. Quillin-Rosado II would suit me, but there's almost nothing available to him after that.
In the first bout of the televised undercard, top U.S. heavyweight prospect Wilder stopped Firtha in a bout that offered a little bit of good and a little bad for his future. One, he was rocked a little by a jab in the 1st round. We haven't seen Wilder get hit cleanly much given his propensity for ultra-quick KOs, and we haven't seen him with any especially threatening opposition, so we don't know what kind of punches he can take. That a jab got him a little — concerning. On the other hand, Firtha gave Wilder some much needed rounds before Wilder ended him in the 4th with a huge right. And Wilder handled every other moment of the fight well. He showed off some pretty good defense, and his punches continue to get sharper, not wilder (snicker) like they often have been.