Bernard Hopkins always did things his way in boxing, from beginning to end. Unfortunately for the man who is among the greatest middleweights of all-time and one of the best light heavyweights ever, his “Final 1” didn’t ends things his way.
Hopkins (55-8-2, 32) was a few steps slower than Joe Smith Jr. throughout their headlining encounter inside the Fabulous Forum in Inglewood, Calif., and he struggled at times to keep up with the man who is 24 years younger. Hopkins tagged Smith Jr. several times with slick counter rights to the face, but the speed and power of the Long Island, N.Y., fighter were too great for “The Executioner” to overcome.
Hopkins was staggered a few times in the fight but the Philadelphia legend never wavered in trying to turn the tables. Several of the early rounds were close, but Smith (23-1, 19 KOs) applied tremendous pressure throughout and forced the future Hall of Famer into precarious positions often. Hopkins did what he could to hang with the young lion, but his reflexes weren’t what they had been and he was getting tagged by punches he normally avoided easily.
But when things seemed to slowly be turning in Hopkins’ favor in the eighth, Smith trapped him in a corner and unloaded a five-punch combo to the head. Hopkins fell clear through the ropes and onto the floor from the flurry and he was unable to climb back into the ring during the allotted 20 seconds allowed per the rules of the sport. He was officially counted out at the 53-second mark of the eighth, even with the help of several ringside officials. Hopkins vehemently protested that he was pushed out of the ring, but several replays showed that it was the volley of punches that did the job; there was no push. The anticlimactic ending was a downer for Hopkins, who ended his brilliant career that began in 1988 on a sour note.
The 51-year-old icon has won world titles at 160 and 175 pounds, holds the record for successful title defenses at middleweight as well as being the oldest man to win a world title. He has wins over elite fighters such as Felix Trinidad, Oscar de la Hoya, Kelly Pavlik, Jean Pascal, Roy Jones Jr. and countless others, but on his very last night in the ring, he fell in controversial fashion to Smith.
Hopkins reiterated to HBO’s Max Kellerman in the locker room after the fight that even though he was disappointed and agitated over how the fight ended, he is staying retired.
In the co-feature, Joseph Diaz (23-0, 13 KOs) remained unbeaten by out-classing Horacio Garcia (30-2-1, 21 KOs) over 10 rounds to win a lopsided unanimous decision. “JoJo” dominated Garcia from the start as he used his superb movement and precise punching to win virtually every minute of the battle. In the end, Diaz was awarded the nod via tallies of 100-90 across the board.
In the opening bout of the telecast, WBO cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk retained his title with a dominant performance over Thabiso Mchunu (17-3, 11 KOs). The Ukrainian dropped Mchunu in the sixth with a left uppercut and then again in the ninth with a flurry of punches. The 2012 Olympian ended things moments later with a left hook, forcing referee Lou Moret to halt the action at the 1:53 mark of the frame. The win allowed Usyk to improve to 11-0 with 10 KOs.
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