Hopkins stops De La Hoya in the ninth
By Victor Garcia (September 19, 2004) 
Photo © HoganPhotos.com
In what can only be described as one of the most highly anticipated match-ups in boxing history, six-division champion Oscar 'The Golden Boy' De La Hoya of East Los Angeles, California, was stopped in the ninth round by the universally recognized undisputed middleweight champion Bernard 'The Executioner' Hopkins of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The bout was broadcast by HBO Pay-Per-View from the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. The fight made history by being the first contest in which the WBC, WBA, IBF, WBO, and Ring magazine belts were all in contention.

The main event had become more than a boxing match. It was an event all unto itself. A celebrity-laden ringside was alive with anticipation. The audience in attendance was anxiously awaiting the arrival of the combatants to the ring, buzzing noisily with expectancy. The first man to make his way from the dressing room was none other than Oscar De La Hoya, characteristically marching in to the tune of mariachi music. The crowd erupted in loud cheering as soon as it became evident that the underdog was making an entrance.

For his part, Bernard Hopkins followed De La Hoya’s arrival almost instantly. The Executioner’s walk to the ring was atypical in two respects. First, his choice of music was a bit surprising. A solemn Hopkins came out of the dressing room and into the arena to the tune of 'My Way' by Frank Sinatra. The fans offered a mixed reaction when they realized the middleweight king was now making his appearance. In addition, Hopkins was without his trademark executioner’s mask. Apparently, the champion did not believe it was appropriate attire considering the events occurring in the Middle East.

The opening round appeared to be a nothing more than a feeling out period. Both fighters were tentative and economical with their punches. To the surprise of many, the physically smaller De La Hoya used this round to establish himself as the aggressor, coming forward while the slower Hopkins circled the ring.

The pattern was set. The second episode seemed to mirror the action seen in the first. However, it was in this stanza that the 39-year-old champion began to find his range, eventually landing a hard right that caught De La Hoya’s attention. In 'Sugar' Ray Leonard fashion and to the crowd’s approval, the East Los Angeles native attempted to steal the round with a flurry of punches before the closing bell. By this point, it had become obvious that this was to be a tactical boxing match. Hopkins would use his power punches and his jab, while De La Hoya would use his speed and both would do it cautiously.

The pro-De La Hoya audience cheered loudly whenever their man flurried and jeered the Philadelphian when they felt he was attempting to bully the former Olympian. The expectation of something spectacular happening kept fans on the edge of their seats through the early rounds. Unfortunately, the third and fourth were fought at a slow, strategic pace. Still, the clashes seemed to pick up a bit as the two combatants chose to exchange more often.

It was in the fifth stanza where a noticeable change occurred. Hopkins raced out of the corner to meet his challenger in the center of the ring. Yet, neither man fired. Instead, the bigger warrior waited patiently in order to gauge De La Hoya’s reaction. As the round wore on, Hopkins established his more powerful jab, landing it repeatedly. Hopkins now seemed to want to be in control. He carried this air with him into the sixth where he came out bouncing on the balls of his feet. Relaxed, he now started making De La Hoya miss. He was landing the harder shots and was becoming more aggressive, even leading them into exchanges.

Referee Kenny Bayless had missed a low blow by De La Hoya in the fifth but found himself having to warn Hopkins for holding and hitting in the eighth. The harder punching Hopkins showed few of the roughhouse tactics that have marred some of his title defenses. What he did do, however, was back the six-division champion up with a left hook. An undaunted De La Hoya fired back with a combination of punches that seemed to have little behind them.

By the end of the eighth, it was evident that Hopkins had closed the gap effectively, had found a home for his right hand, had established his jab, and had found a way to make De La Hoya miss more often. Hopkins had gained control of this calculated fight. The ninth and final round saw the former convict scoring with power shots against the Grammy nominated former singer. The Golden Boy still looked to be in the fight, although he had seemingly lost control. At one point referee Bayless sternly warned both fighters against using rough tactics. Hopkins would make any further notices unnecessary.

Near the round’s midpoint and while De La Hoya backed up, the Philadelphia fighter threw a three punch combination that ended his opponents dream of becoming the undisputed middleweight champion of the world. The first punch, a short left jab, was blocked. Two left hooks, one to the body and the other to the head, followed. Both landed. It was from the body shot that De La Hoya went down. Wincing, the former Olympian fell to one knee before stretching forward and placing his head on the canvas. He would eventually roll on his back in obvious pain. Someone outside the ring raced over and put their hand on De La Hoya’s shoulder as the referee waved the fight off. It was over. Oscar De La Hoya had been knocked out by a body shot.

The win gives a very ecstatic Bernard Hopkins a 45-2-1 (32) record. A dejected Oscar De La Hoya who was stopped for the first time in his career falls to 37-4 (29).

It should be mentioned that before either competitor had stepped into the ring, some controversy swirled around De La Hoya’s left hand, which had a cut below the ring finger on the palm side. Though the gash only required four or five sutures, a plastic surgeon sought out by the 'Golden Boy' decided to use 11 stitches to ensure that the boxing match would not cause the skin to split again. A problem arose when it was reported that De La Hoya had been administered a Lidocaine shot—an illegal substance in boxing—for the pain before being sewn up. There was some concern that it would show up in the urinalysis. Nevada State Athletic Commission executive director, Marc Ratner, revealed that this particular local anesthetic is normally expelled out of the body very quickly, thus implying that he did not believe the urinalysis would be problematic for De La Hoya.
© Copyright / All Rights reserved: Doghouse Boxing 1998-2004