B-Hop: Can He Do It Again?
By David Douse (March 13, 2008)  
Almost two years after his showdown with Antonio Tarver mid-June 2006, the seemingly ageless Bernard Hopkins is once again seeking to defy boxing logic, the opinions of most boxing pundits, and the inexorable march of Old Father Time, in taking on a younger, faster, and undefeated opponent. This time in the form of highly popular world super-middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe.

Coming off back-to-back losses at the hands of Jermain Taylor, popular opinion held at the time that Hopkins
was taking on too much in taking on a hard-hitting, faster, and significantly larger [two full weight classes above] world champion in Antonio Tarver who, while no spring chicken himself, was also by some three years the younger man. Hopkins once more seeks to prove that he can upset the odds by defeating a challenger who has what again appears to be significant advantages in his favour, although Calzaghe will be the fighter who is coming up in weight this time.

As with the Tarver fight, the fascination of this match-up lies in whether Bernard Hopkins can continue to overcome what seems to be the odds stacked against him, thus further adding to his already considerable ring legend. So can he do it again?

In early June 2006, in an article I wrote for another website in under the title Tarver Still The Man, Hopkins Still A Hope, I stuck my neck out and said that despite all logic dictating that Antonio Tarver should win their forthcoming fight, that ‘there is a lurking menace within the formidable persona of Bernard
Hopkins that somehow still suggests the former middleweight king has a realistic possibility of taking Antonio Tarver's crown away and adding another amazing chapter to what is an already outstanding record’. As it happens, I was proved correct on that occasion, and now with Hopkins having his 43rd birthday recently behind him, I will again stick my neck out and say that I do believe that B-Hop will emerge victorious on the night and so hand the Pride of Wales his first professional defeat.

That is not to say that I believe that Hopkins is by any means set for an easy victory. Whatever the outcome, I fully expect this to be a hard fought contest which will showcase the full range of talents that each man has to offer.

For his part, Calzaghe will bring greater hand and foot speed, plus enormous punch output per round, to help him in his quest for victory, and it must not be overlooked that Calzaghe has a significant advantage in that he is about seven years the younger man. Certainly, Joe’s recent victory over Mikkel Kessler shows at the very least, though about to turn thirty-six years of age himself, Calzaghe is far from being shopworn and that he still possesses great stamina and endurance. On the other hand, it does seem that Hopkins has slowed somewhat in recent years and now feels the need to conserve himself. Those who favour Calzaghe to win will undoubtedly be focused on what they see as Hopkins inability to fight at Calzaghe's pace for a full three minutes of every round and will surely be expecting to see Calzaghe dominating the contest at long range for a UD win.

Given that Calzaghe has the advantages in these areas the obvious question then becomes " why do I think Hopkins can win?"

For me, despite that B-Hop is now well into his forties, it comes down to the intangibles rather than the more readily measurable factors of speed and endurance such as those which I have mentioned above. Craftiness, experience against a higher level of opposition, an attitude of absolute indomitability together with flat-out toughness are what I believe will carry the day for Bernard. I believe too that Hopkins pure physicality and overall roughness will play a major part in throwing Joe off his stride, and I think that Hopkins use of his streetfighter persona and tactics in the ring will eventually be what will bring him the win.

Certainly, Hopkins will not be able to afford to let Calzaghe get off to a good start. If Hopkins thinks that he can let Calzaghe punch himself out for a few rounds then he will undoubtedly be making a serious mistake. There is no question but that Calzaghe has the capacity to operate at full throttle the whole fight through and Hopkins will fall way behind on points if he goes down this path and thus find himself needing a KO to win. However, I tend to feel that Hopkins will come out firing with the intention of using his greater strength and superior punching power to rough Calzaghe up in the early stages, in the expectation that this will be a new experience for Joe that the Welshman will not be able to cope with. The idea being here, of course, that Calzaghe will then be unable to bring his high-speed style into play and be forced to fight on Hopkins’ terms rather than his own.

In a few short weeks we shall find out whether Hopkins still has the wherewithal to remain dominant or whether it is indeed finally time for him to concede that the moment has come to hang them up. Still, until shown differently, I believe that Hopkins still has what is needed to win and that he will be taking Joe Calzaghe into previously uncharted territory, down into the dark depths where his heart and will and desire will be tested as never before. Despite knowing that fighters who attempt to go on too far have a habit of growing suddenly very old in the ring, Hopkins still presents to me as a hugely formidable fighter with plenty left in him. Indeed, if the rumours of a fight between him and Oleg Maskaev going around last year had come to pass in fact I would have backed him to beat Oleg quite handsomely in the way Roy Jones Jnr handled John Ruiz back in 2003.

Despite my great regard for Calzaghe's ability and achievements, I have a strong suspicion that come April 19th he will be in for the fight of his life and faces being busted up and slowly ground down by a man who, despite advancing years, is simply the most daunting all-around fighter that he has ever faced.

Hopkins by unanimous decision for me, grinding out the same kind of win that he had over Winky Wright, but I would not be surprised to see him achieve a late round stoppage win either.

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