The Executioner Falls Just Short

By Francis Walker
Updated: April 20, 2008

Bernard Hopkins came up short against Joe Calzaghe in a very close and competitive fight. Hopkins' one-punch and clinch style wasn't enough to beat Calzaghe, who himself did not win decisively.

Bernard Hopkins came up short against Joe Calzaghe in a very close and competitive fight. Hopkins' one-punch and clinch style wasn't enough to beat Calzaghe, who himself did not win decisively.

NEW YORK — Bernard Hopkins’ fight with unbeaten Welshman Joe Calzaghe was exactly the way he wanted it to go. Hopkins boxed, pressed the action, and was able to tie Calzaghe in the clinch. Hopkins even scored an easy first-round knockdown, but it wasn’t enough to pull away with the “W.”

Hopkins (48-5-1, 32 KOs), instead, was on the short-end of a 12-round split decision loss to Joe Calzaghe (45-0, 32 KOs). One judge scored the bout 114-113 (Hopkins), 115-112 (Calzaghe), and a decisive 116-111 for Calzaghe.

“The world knows, the fans know, other than the Brits, know I won this fight,” Hopkins said. “Look at my face. I don’t have any bruises. I busted him up. I hit him with short right hands and I controlled the pace like a true veteran.”

“I think it was an execution of the old school,” Hopkins added. “Hopkins vs. Calzaghe: Battle of the Planet,” was televised live from the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas on HBO.

The consensus belief going in was that if it were a close fight, Calzaghe would be awarded with the decision. Calzaghe is 36 years old and was fighting in the United States for the first time.

There is a lot of international money generated from the United Kingdom. Boxing is an overwhelmingly popular sport overseas in Europe, as opposed to here in the United States where boxing takes the backburner to the NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL, and NCAA.

How good would it look for the sport of boxing if a 43 year-old ex-convict from Philadelphia like Hopkins, arguably one of the greatest middleweight champions in boxing history with 20 successful defenses, to defeat Calzaghe, an undefeated world super middleweight champion of more than 11 years with 21 consecutive title defenses in his first bout here in America?

Hopkins’ best chance at beating Calzaghe was to knock him out — which would have been the impossible. But the impossible nearly happened, as Hopkins dropped Calzaghe in the first-half of the opening round with a left-jab, straight-right combination.

“He caught me in the first round,” Calzaghe said. “I think I slipped.”

Hopkins was successful in neutralizing Calzaghe’s hand speed and combination-punching. Hopkins moved very well on his toes, he jabbed and was careful when throwing his right hand. Hopkins simply wasn’t in position for Calzaghe to tee-off with four, five-punch combinations.

“He was very defensive so I just had to be patient,” Calzaghe said. “I started to loosen up in the fourth round. I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty.”

There were a lot of arm locks, elbows, holding and hitting. Calzaghe hit Hopkins with a low-blow in the second round. In round four, he threw a punch behind around his body at Hopkins, who was standing close behind him after an exchange in the clinch. Hopkins then hit Calzaghe with a punch upside his ear; prompting a warning from referee Joe Cortez.

Cortez even had to throw Calzaghe onto the canvas in an attempt to separate the two fighters after both men were holding and hitting to end the sixth round.

Interestingly, Hopkins would land no more than one or two punches at a time before fighting inside the clinch.

“I was pacing myself for the long haul,” Hopkins said. “I had him down early. I busted him up. I did what Freddie Roach told me. Just take him into deep water, pick him off when I want to, and let him run into the shots because, he comes straight forward.”

Calzaghe tried to press the action, throw chopping and slapping punches. However, in the 10th, he found himself in a headlock and hit Hopkins with a low-blow. Cortez warned Calzaghe, but wasn’t going to take away any points.

The clinching and infighting continued until the final bell.

Calzaghe defeated Hopkins based on the fact he was able to get more punches off. It was a difficult fight to score, but fighters that at least throw more punches in attempt to initiate the action will be given the benefit of the doubt.

O’Neil Bell loses IBF eliminator

O’Neil Bell became the first fighter since Evander Holyfield to unify the undisputed world cruiserweight championship by knocking out Jean-Marc Mormeck (KO 10) in January 2005 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Since then, things have gone downhill for Bell. He was stripped of the IBF title after he couldn’t make a mandatory defense because of a toothache. He lost his WBC/WBA mandated rematch with Mormeck in the Frenchman’s hometown in March 2007.

Mormeck was in trouble for the last four rounds and Bell couldn’t finish him.

The 33 year-old Jamaican received another opportunity to position himself for a world championship fight at 200 pounds. Bell (26-3-1, 24 KOs) had to do was defeat former WBC light-heavyweight champion Tomasz Adamek (34-1, 23 KOs) in his native Poland, but failed.

In the opening round, Adamek surprisingly floored Bell with a straight left-right combination to his head. Bell was able to box with Ademek competitively, but really didn’t land anything significant to hurt Adamek. However, Adamek kept landing the straighter punches using the basic “one-two punch” sequence.

The fight was stopped at the end of the seventh round when Bell quit on his stool.

“Bell was the most dangerous opponent I’ve faced,” said Adamek. “I trained hard and showed what I can do. This was my best performance. I am looking forward to the title fight.”

Adamek, instead of Bell, will have an opportunity to win a world title when he faces IBF cruiserweight champion Steve Cunningham.

Kevin Johnson hands Terry Smith straight loss

Heavyweight contender, 28-year-old Kevin Johnson (19-0, 6 KOs) remained unbeaten following a 10-round unanimous decision win against veteran Terry Smith (30-5-1, 18 KOs). Johnson boxed and jabbed his way to a widespread victory on the judges’ scorecards: 97-93 (twice) and 96-94.

Smith was regarded as the most recognizable opponent on Johnson’s resume. Smith has a lot of experience that include two 10-round losses to former heavyweight title challengers Jameel Mcline and Calvin Brock.

However, Smith, loser of three consecutive fights and four of his last six overall, simply couldn’t challenge Johnson the way spectators had hoped.

Johnson has fought professionally since 2003 and has been very active in recent months. Smith was Johnson’s sixth opponent in thirteen months.

Johnson, a single parent, is currently ranked No. 9 by the World Boxing Association and No. 18 by the World Boxing Council.

John Ruiz Avoided???

John Ruiz (43-7-1, 29 KOs) is looking to become a heavyweight champion once again, but it appears as though no one wants to have any part of him. Well, that’s at least what Ruiz believes.

“After so many years of not being respected,” Ruiz said, “it’s exciting to know and feel that I’m finally being recognized as one of the top heavyweights in the world. I’m glad. It’s been a long time coming. I’m ready to clean-up the heavyweight division and I’m willing to fight any of the reigning champs or other top contenders.”

Ruiz, the only Latino to ever win a world heavyweight title, is a two-time WBA heavyweight champion. Ruiz has fought some of the biggest names in the heavyweight division including a trilogy against Evander Holyfield.

However, Ruiz has suffered some key losses along the way which is biting at him right now. In recent years, whenever he had to step-up to the plate he always came up short.

People laughed at Ruiz when he allowed a tentative Roy Jones, Jr. to outhustle him for his WBA heavyweight title in March 2003. Jones became the first former middleweight champion in more than 100 years to win a heavyweight title since Bob Fitzsimmons.

After Ruiz regained the WBA heavyweight title following a 12-round “Battle of the Clinchers” with Hasim Rahman in December 2003, he lost it to a much slower but much bigger 7-foot-3, 325-pound Nikolai Valuev in December 2005. In an elimination bout, Ruiz was outhustled by Ruslan Chagaev in November 2006.

Coincidentally, Valuev and Chagaev will face each other in a rematch in May for the WBA title. Valuev lost the WBA title to Chagaev (L 12) in April 2007.

Under new trainer Manny Siaca, Sr., Ruiz believes that he has improved.

“I can’t wait for my next fight,” Ruiz added. “I’m so much more confident fighting this time around, throwing more punches and combinations, just being more aggressive in the ring. I’m motivated more today than I ever was in the past.”

“I changed my whole team and it’s really made a big difference, especially having Manny Siaca, Sr. as head trainer. I’ve learned so much from Manny. We’ve been working hard and it’s paying off.”

Ruiz may have taken more risks during a recent 12-round unanimous decision win over Jameel McCline in March. However, in pressure situations, some fighters revert back to the fighter they were before. Ruiz, in high profile fights with Holyfield, Rahman, and even Andrew Golota there were a lot of clinches — too many cinches.