Weekend Afterthoughts On The Scope Of Bernard Hopkins’ Achievement, Some Killer KOs And More

If spoil sports aren't your flavor, perhaps a pair of refreshing counter left hook knockouts from the past weekend can cleanse the palate? Edgar Sosa did in Ulises Solis with one in a meaningful flyweight bout, finally scoring a victory over his thrice-rival. Junior lightweight Argenis Mendez, too, got his revenge in a rematch against Juan Carlos Salgado. It was the snazzier of the two counter left blows. It's not available in a way I can share right now, but keep looking for it on YouTube et al in the coming days if you haven't seen it.

Via an alphabet belt mandatory shot, Sosa has a rich opportunity to take out the weakest of all the lineal champions, Toshiyuki Igarashi, or else strengthen him as worthy of the designation. Mendez faces a wasteland of potential challengers for his alphabet belt — the next guy in line, Rances Barthelemy, didn't even deserve (by popular consensus) to win his eliminator against Arash Usmanee.

But what, you ask, of Bernard Hopkins? What of Friday Night Fights? The team has already covered most of the rest of the past weekend's action, but there's always room for more afterthinking.

  • Hopkins' achievement. It's cool that Hopkins, at 48-years-old, beat a legitimate top-5 light heavyweight contender and that's plenty. I'm impressed that a nearly 50-year-old man is viable at all in the ring, even if some aren't for reasons we'll get to later, and is beating fighters time and again where he's the betting underdog. I suppose there's some historical footnote to be made about him winning a belt off Tavoris Cloud, but even supporters of the alphabets know their titles are plentiful in each division and their value is diluted because of it. Hopkins already made history as the oldest true champion before, a record just as likely if not likelier to stand because of how hard it is to win a lineal championship. Another thing he claims to have done this weekend on HBO is to end Don King, for whom Cloud is the last "name" fighter in his stable. King has been on a slow enough fade that this is a damaging blow, but it wouldn't be one if he wasn't already on his way out to such a degree that he only had one significant fighter in his stable. And another thing Hopkins claims to have done is proven that you can win without the aid of performance enhancing drugs if you just take care of yourself. I don't have any reason to believe Hopkins is on anything — although he'd qualify for skepticism from Bill Simmons — but he hasn't "proven" anything at all there. Take some U.S. Anti-Doping Agency/Voluntary Anti-Doping Association tests more likely to catch cheats than what state commissions offer, and then you'll be closer to "proof," B-Hop.
  • Cloud's performance. If you want to be skeptical of Hopkins' win, you can cite how poor Cloud's performance was, and it's not totally off-base. Cloud is a limited fighter, and that's why some of us thought he was made for B-Hop. He did nothing to disabuse us of that. One can contend that as a volume puncher, Cloud didn't throw enough punches to beat Hopkins, but I think that neglects what Hopkins was doing to him. When Cloud swung and missed, one of two things happened: 1. Hopkins popped him, and while the knockout long ago disappeared from Hopkins' repertoire, he clearly hits hard enough to hurt people, as I'm sure Kelly Pavlik and Antonio Tarver would tell you; 2. He missed so wildly that it would be hard for anyone not to get discouraged as a 48-year-old strolled away from you like you were as harmless as you'd become. Maybe Cloud, as a professional fighter, shouldn't get discouraged at all, but it happens. And boxers who get discouraged in there are often getting discouraged against guys like Hopkins — the Klitschkos regularly render heavyweights confounded and disheartened by all the pain, whiffing and combination thereof. They're still TRYING, but they're physically hurting as well as mentally wounded by their helplessness. Cloud also wasn't helped by his long layoff; this was a fighter who clearly needed to be developed after his loss to Gabriel Campillo exposed all the same weaknesses Hopkins exploited, but he was the same fighter, basically, only maybe consciously thinking a bit more in the ring, and he wasn't going to outthink Hopkins. So it comes full circle — the volume punching had plainly visible disincentives, but the alternative wasn't gonna get him anything better. Cloud was doomed from the start.
  • Next for Hopkins. Hopkins is thinking of heading over to the U.K. for a bout with Nathan Cleverly, a boxer of greater sophistication than Cloud, and why not? It's not a great fight, not a bad one, but I'm guessing Hopkins' latest showing is going to do good ratings like he has for his last several. (On The Fight Game Saturday on HBO, Kevin Iole once more made the point that ratings matter less to pay cable outfits like HBO or Showtime less than subscription rates, and he's totally right and it's something well worth remembering, but ratings can be an indicator of a fighter who is helping sell subscriptions.) Lots of people say they dislike watching Hopkins fight, but they do anyhow — he's an interesting story, an interesting figure, and even those who don't enjoy his style will grudgingly admit that they admire his mastery. I'm not saying they're lying, but there's no contradiction between finding someone's fight style unappealing yet still tuning in to find out whether he'll beat yet another youngster and harboring a perverse fascination as he does even amongst many of his critics with his intelligence and craft. Other options for Hopkins: Karo Murat, who apparently is the mandatory for the belt Hopkins won off Cloud (expect Murat to be put off for a long time or for Hopkins to drop his belt rather than take that one); Sergey Kovalev (a popular choice on Twitter, and a more threatening power puncher than Cloud as of right now); and Andre Ward (Hopkins' declaration after the fight that no amount of money could make him fight his pal smacked to me of him setting up a bout with the man, maybe).
  • Keith Thurman-Jan Zaveck. There were those of us more bullish on Thurman before this bout and others who were less so, but most everyone came out more bullish after that performance on the HBO undercard against Zaveck. That's not because some of us were geniuses and others weren't; before this weekend I saw things I liked in Thurman, sure, more than many other people did, but wasn't totally sold myself. No, one of the things that happened here is that Thurman showed us something. His punches were a bit sharper; he had to go 12 rounds, having never before gone nine, and displayed good stamina. Zaveck was a solid, sturdy welterweight ("Fucker got a hard head," as Thurman trainer Dan Birmingham noted in a prospective finalist for Quote of the Year), who landed some nice rights on Thurman, and Thurman handled them well and adjusted to what Zaveck gave him. You have to anticipate Thurman will be better for having fought Zaveck, too. The question is where he goes from here. He's not going to get Floyd Mayweather or Andre Berto, two other Al Haymon clients like himself. He's not going to get Manny Pacquiao or Juan Manuel Marquez or Timothy Bradley, because they're with Top Rank and Thurman is with Top Rank's hated rival Golden Boy. He's not going to get Paulie Malignaggi despite his best efforts, because Malignaggi has been earmarked for Adrien Broner's big leap up from lightweight to welterweight this summer. That leaves him the winner of Devon Alexander-Kell Brook, or the winner of Josesito Lopez-Marcos Maidana — both good ones, especially Thurman vs. the Lopez-Maidana winner (gah, think of all those power punches), but he'd be awaiting outcomes that are a ways off and that could push Thurman into the fall for his next potential appearance.
  • The Rest. The D.C. area's hot streak continued Friday night with a nice, fan-friendly performance by Emmanuel Taylor in a junior welterweight stoppage of Victor Cayo on ESPN2. Taylor's vulnerable and that makes him fun. He has the look of someone who could be a staple of Friday Night Fights, but Star Boxing's news release hinted at a possible title eliminator… Darren Barker didn't have much trouble with Simone Rotolo this weekend, but that's probably because Rotolo's last competitive showing against a quality fighter was in 2007 against Sebastian Sylvester. Barker wants Andy Lee, but with there being so many British and Irish middleweights around, they should get to fighting each other in some combination or the other…. Speaking of British boxers: Curtis Woodhouse may have lost his most recent fight, but he kept the Internet entertained by hunting down a Twitter troll. That fellow had some Weekend Afterthoughts.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.