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De La Hoya vs. Hopkins: A Dream Match That May Turn into Reality

Feb 19, 2004  By Jason Unpingco
Recently, Oscar De La Hoya has been quoted as saying he wants to fight Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins towards the end of this year. Say what you want about this fight actually materializing. Somebody might mention Oscar De La Hoya is buying a little more time for Bernard Hopkins to get a little older before actually getting into the ring with the ruthless “Executioner”. Somebody else might say Bernard Hopkins’ no nonsense purse negotiations will make Oscar De La Hoya simply walk away and forget the whole idea. Whatever happens with that idea this year, the thought of these two ring warriors make a catastrophic dent to the idea that says boxing is a dying sport.

While both of these boxers are older, their accomplishments and still being dominant in their respective weight classes (in Hopkins case, total domination) is modern day history in the ring. Oscar De La Hoya, coming off his disputed decision loss to Shane Mosley, is hungry to place his name in boxing history by being a six-time world champion in six different weight classes. Hopkins, coming off a brutal one-sided decision against William Joppy, has already made boxing history by breaking Carlos Monzons Middleweight Championship defenses record and knocking out future Hall of Famer Felix “Tito” Trinidad.

De La Hoya is one of the top fighters in his era. He has the chin, superior speed and boxing skills. We’ve seen flash knockdowns throughout his career, but not once have I seen him get staggered or get beat into submission. But the boxing skills is what makes this fighter one of the current pound for pound fighters in the past few years. His excellent left jab, well put combinations, hand speed and footwork is proven over and over with every bout so far. Even his most criticized bout with Felix Trinidad, where
De La Hoya ran the last three rounds from the always dangerous Tito, showed his hand speed and combinations were stopping Trinidad in his tracks and bloodying up his nose.

De La Hoya also has a huge heart in the ring which many people seem to overlook (an example is Felix Trinidad calling him Chicken De La Hoya before and after their fight in 1999). A perfect example is when The Golden Boy fought the tough Ike “The Bazooka” Quartey in 1998. It was a close fight and both fighters suffered flash knockdowns.
De La Hoya knew what he had to do and even though he was physically tired, ended the twelfth and final round with a flurry that had Quartey back against the ropes. This not only confirmed his victory in that bout, but also showed how his heart would hold him up in his bout with the stronger and younger Fernando Vargas (which De La Hoya wound up knocking out in the eleventh round in 2002).

All of these traits are going to be needed against Bernard Hopkins. Hopkins has been Middleweight Champion for (believe it or not) the last nine years and is one tough cookie. In his career defining fight, Hopkins was not intimidated by the aura of the fearsome and younger Felix Trinidad in 2000. He not only outboxed Trinidad decisively, he also was the first to knock him out (which basically sent the younger fighter into retirement). Hopkins has fought alley way brawls with tough sluggers like Antwon Echols and has been in a boxing match with Roy Jones, JR., who is a bigger, stronger, unorthodox version of De La Hoya. He is a true professional fighter who’s dedication to boxing is evident by him always staying in shape and at his fighting weight when he isn’t in the ring.

Hopkins can box and keep it safe in his fight with De La Hoya, although I doubt he’ll be shifting around a lot in this fight (De La Hoya is the smaller man and doesn’t have the methodical stalking style or one punch power of Felix Trinidad). Unless Hopkins employs a counterpunching style early in the fight, I expect him to come out boxing and roughing up De La Hoya with his energy sapping body shots.

However, De La Hoya is different than most of the fighters Hopkins has faced.
De La Hoya’s footwork is superior to Felix Trinidad’s and will not be coming at the 160lb champ most of the time. Using his jab, I expect De La Hoya to box circles around Hopkins. Despite Hopkins’ toughness, De La Hoya has the skills to keep the old lion off of him.

The question for De La Hoya is how long can he use his boxing skills to keep away from Hopkins roughing him up? The question for Hopkins is how can he deal with the jab and lateral movement of De La Hoya? These are exciting questions that can only be answered in the ring. There is no doubt that Hopkins is sitting on top of the 160lb hill, smiling and taunting De La Hoya to come up and meet him. And there is no doubt that De La Hoya will be more than happy to oblige. If and when they do get in the ring this year, the sun will be shining on the sport once again as these two historic warriors look at each other from across the ring before the bell signals the match to begin.

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