Scar Tissue Part 15: Dress code violations
By Jess E. Trail (July 28, 2005) 
Photo © German Villasenor
Scar Tissue lives largely in the past. However, there are some events that transcend the limitations of time and space. There are some that have a historical stamp on them the instant that they occur. The recent bout between Bernard Hopkins and Jermain Taylor is one of those events.

The record books will halt the Bernard Hopkins section of the middleweight record books precisely on July 16, 2005 after a 10-year reign and 20 successful title defenses. It won’t have a footnote attached to it, like Louis-Walcott I or Lewis-Holyfield I, whispering accusations of robbery, dirty dealings and such. In this edition of Scar Tissue, I place my own stamp and footnote on this fight. I will speak softly… between thoughts I will be wearing huge wax lips.

It was a close fight. And Jermain Taylor did fight hard. He went after the title without reservation or inhibition. He even smacked Bernard Hopkins around some. That being said, in my mind, according to my analysis, not to mention my 115-114 scorecard, Bernard Hopkins should have won.

It was not one of the worst decisions I have seen. I will readily admit that many rounds were close and difficult to score, especially with the volume on, but I’ll get to that later.

When scoring a fight, the biggest element is effective punches landed. There is also the element of effective aggression and ring generalship. Taylor was pressing Hopkins for the majority of the early part of the bout. He pressed and missed often. Some of his blows were more likely to tag the referee than Hopkins. This brings up a question. If one is rewarded for effective aggressiveness and is largely ineffective while pursuing due to defensive maneuvers by the opponent, wouldn’t that wipe out that edge? And if that fighter throws six wild punches, missing five and is hit by a jab and counter right, he loses the exchange, right? RIGHT. Ineffective aggressiveness is not impressive. Had Taylor’s aggressiveness been effective, he would’ve had an insurmountable lead going into rounds ten, eleven and twelve on my card. I believe that Taylor’s ineffective aggression was Hopkins’ ring generalship.

During this ineffective aggression an odd thing began to happen with the HBO team. Jim Lampley, who is incidentally a terrific commentator for HBO, was nearly screaming with every movement Taylor made. While this phenomenon occurred, another fascinating development played out. Larry Merchant, who is to boxing what Jack Whitaker was to football a couple decades ago, began to verbally dismantle Hopkins. To borrow and expand upon Merchant’s analogy comparing Hopkins to a lion hovering in the jungle brush rather than pouncing, Merchant was the lion that smelled what he perceived to be the dead carcass of Bernard Hopkins’ career and pounced with a verbal savagery usually reserved for the lowliest of pugilistic flotsam. Merchant was showing his proverbial ass just as surely as a southern redneck auto mechanic reveals the real thing. He unveiled a disdain borne of something deep and beyond the realm and reach of boxing viewers. While this occurred, Roy Jones was the only buffer between Bernard Hopkins and complete damnation.

The usual enthusiasm of the HBO team is refreshing and the bluntness of Larry Merchant is endearing to the average no-nonsense boxing fan. However, there is a point at which the entertainment value can begin to suffer. In the case of PPV telecasts like this one, the justification of expenditure is also necessary. In most cases, the PPV rate is actually too much for those who are shelling it out. No one appreciates a propagandist, but sometimes the Cosellian honesty can go too far. At this rate, I can see an upcoming telecast in which the first visible scene involves a full screen view of Larry Merchant saying with a look of sardonic wit, “We have a battle for the Championship of Incompetence tonight and… well, you just basically flushed fifty bucks down the proverbial shitter.”

It may not be fair to provide harsh critique of the performance of Jermain Taylor and of the HBO team. However, from Taylor I expected a game plan with a larger decision tree or with sub plans and contingencies. It appeared that the only plan was to outwork the forty year old Hopkins. The problem with that approach is that Hopkins is the most finely tuned, well-conditioned forty year old on the planet. It was Taylor who was huffing and puffing at the end, hurt and puffy-eyed. He looked like the loser, like the administrator of a plan that had come just short of success.

As a qualifying thought, Taylor fought the recognized pound for pound best fighter in the world closer than any other challenger. He fought hard enough, in summary, to get the nod in a close fight that should have gone the other way. I don’t believe that the challenger has to do more than win barely to win the title. I just think he lost by a slim margin.

As for the HBO team, the combination of the articulate Lampley, the philosophical Merchant and the insightful and smooth Jones is a good program that didn’t live up to the usual expectations for me. They generally enhance what is normally a pretty good show. This time, possibly excluding Jones, they needed to pull up their proverbial pants in the back. And Larry Merchant thinks he is the only one who can produce masterful and deeply moving allegory, simile and analogy.

I now introduce my newsletter called Roadwork. It is devoted specifically and exclusively to the past of the sport. If you are interested in taking a monthly nostalgic journey with me, you will find in the current issue the entirety of my interview with Ron Lyle as he discusses Muhammad Ali, his fights with Foreman and Shavers, Joe Bugner, Jimmy Young, Oscar Bonavena as well as his current obsession, The Denver Red Shield Boxing Program… and more. There are also articles on the never-ending Ali-Louis debate, Mike Tyson’s legacy and the Shavers-Norton fight. I also have a heavyweight all-time ranking that includes my top ten and one change that I have made after years of being torn between two that were a virtual deadlock. The change was not taken lightly and is highly unlikely to ever be reversed.

ROADWORK, the nostalgic newsletter is available in e-newsletter format, directly into your inbox. It is $3.00 per month in e-copy. For those who don’t like to print documents but prefer to have it in their hands, it is available in hardcopy for a higher price, due to printing and shipping costs. Hardcopy is $5.00 per month.

A year subscription is provided at a discounted rate as follows:

E-copy: $25.00
Hardcopy: $48.00

A subscription is payable through Paypal to Checks or money orders are also accepted, payable to Jess E. Trail at 635 North Main St, Marion OH 43302.

Also See: Scar Tissue Part 1: Louis vs. Ali
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 2: Holmes vs. Frazier
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 3: Liston vs. Foreman
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 4: Imposters unmasked
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 5: Going after Goliath
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 6: Marciano vs. Holyfield
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 7: Brutality borrowed
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 8: A hook for the books (Weaver vs. Tate)
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 9: De La Hoya vs Duran
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 10: The Minister of Defense (Wilfred Benitez)
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 11: Felonies in disguise
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 12: The End of Absolutes
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 13: Cream
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 14: Speaking of Ron Lyle
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