Bernard Hopkins-Karo Murat Saturday on Showtime is a blemish on what big-time network boxing has been up to of late in the matchmaking department, so why are we being given a 48-year-old legend in Atlantic City against a German who's never fought here?
Number one: It's Hopkins. He's proven he can do TV ratings in his dotage, owing to a curiosity about how much longer it can keep up and his ability to talk his way into making people care, with his latest stunt being to declare himself an "alien."
Number two: Murat is the mandatory challenger for Hopkins' light heavyweight alphabet strap, so because of number one and Golden Boy's relationship with Showtime, it's not like the network was just going to turn down a B-Hop fight, and this happened to be the one he took.
Except on the first count, I think he needs an opponent who's compelling in some way to overcome his historical tendency toward fan-repelling spoiling — maybe an action-oriented style like Jean Pascal, which Murat doesn't much have, fighting as he does like a slightly less reluctant, less hard-hitting Arthur Abraham, stalking forward behind a high guard and launching periodic left hooks to the body, one-twos and left hooks to the head. Or maybe the opponent can do it with some controversy, which somehow transformed the Chad Dawson rematch of a pay-per-view disaster into a ratings success; Murat offers none of that kind of drama as yet. The Tavoris Cloud bout with Hopkins did just acceptable ratings, and he offered a more appealing style and profile than Murat.
And on the second count, I don't see the need for alphabet belts in general, but in so far as anyone can make an argument for who "needs" belts, it ain't Hopkins. People who will watch Hopkins' fights don't care what strap he is or isn't defending, do they? But Hopkins, who rebelled so long against the boxing powers-that-be, has some odd code of honor about defending his alphabet straps despite the sanctioning organizations being some of the powers-that-be that do more to hurt the sport than help it.
I'll just come right out with it: Hopkins-Murat enthuses me so little I can't even muster the energy to trash it at length. I had a friend make the case that Hopkins fights' are most entertaining when he's got an opponent coming at him, and Murat will do that, but I don't really think Murat is that guy; he's too cautious. The undercard fight between Peter Quillin and Gabriel Rosado is slightly more interesting, although by now we've learned by now that Rosado is going to struggle against elite middleweights and even non-elite middleweights. That said, last time I was so unenthused about a fight I felt compelled to preview, it was Timothy Bradley-Ruslan Provodnikov, and we know how that produced fireworks, so what the hell do I know?
But Alex McClintock said I'd give you a fuller preview earlier this week, which I had every intention to do, and despite dithering and avoiding it for a while like when I don't want to get up to vacuum, I didn't want to make a liar out of him. Hopkins by unanimous decision — too smart, too little likely to be happening on offense for either man for anyone to distinguish himself enough for the judges not to tilt to B-Hop, Murat too flat-footed and inert and slow to be the one who forces Hopkins into retirement.