Hopkins’ “FINAL 1” ends with horrid KO loss to Joe Smith

Updated: December 18, 2016

“THE FINAL 1” was billed as the career-finale of Bernard Hopkins. Everyone was certain that Hopkins would end his career with a decisive victory over Joe Smith, Jr., that the build-up to “THE FINAL 1” was all about celebrating Hopkins’ legacy and rightfully so.

Hopkins’ career-finale proved to be disastrous, as Smith pulled off the improbable upset. Smith 23-1, 19 KOs) ended Hopkins (55-8-2, 33 KOs) career by knocking him through the ropes and onto the arena floor for a knockout victory at the famous Forum in Inglewood, CA on Saturday.

Hopkins has never been stopped before in 65 professional fights – a feat that he was extremely proud of. Hopkins may have lost fights before, a few perhaps by controversial decisions. Hopkins was even thrown from the ring in fights with Chad Dawson and Robert Allen, as well as picked up and thrown onto the mat by Antwun Echols.  But never has Hopkins been stopped.

Congratulations Mr. Smith, you’ve done something that no other fighter has been able to do – issue a TKO record on Bernard Hopkins resume.

“It feels great, it’s the best feeling in the world to accomplish something I set out for and wanted to do,” Smith said. “I had seen him every time I threw the right hand, he was throwing the left. I had seen him fall, and I kept hitting him until I saw him go out, and I landed that left hook until he went out. I knew he had time to go out, but I hit him with four or five clean shots and they were good shots on the button. I knew he was a true champion, and if he didn’t get injured he’d be back here. I came here to do my job, and this is my coming out party too. I had to finish him, it was either my career was going to end, or his was going to end, but I needed mine to continue. I’m going to get back in the gym and train hard for my next opponent. I’m up for anything. I have lots of respect for Bernard. He is a true champion. Lots of people love Bernard and still will because he’s a true champion.”

Deep into round eight, Smith pressured Hopkins into the corner behind clean and effective punching. Hopkins, who made a career out of fighting against the ropes to slip punches, was cleanly hit by six unanswered punches that caught Hopkins clean and flush in the face that literally knocked him through the ropes and onto the famed Forum floor.

Hopkins returned to his feet, but suffered from an ankle injury, although he landed cleanly on his back. The fight was stopped with 53 seconds remaining in the eighth.

In boxing, a fighter has until the count of 20 to return to the ring before he’s counted out for an official knockout loss. What a terrible way for Hopkins to end a rather lengthy and extensive career. This is not how Hopkins envisioned his career ending.

“I was throwing the right hand and a combination and then using the rope as an offensive as I’m known for, and making a mess,” Hopkins said. “He got frustrated, and I might have gotten glazed with a left hook and next thing I know he was throwing me out of the ring. I injured myself and hit my head first and hurt my ankle. I knew of the twenty seconds, but couldn’t stand up on my feet because my ankle was injured, I said I could walk but I couldn’t box. I had a choice to make, but I guess the referee made it for me. I know if I hadn’t made a mess and gotten knocked out of the ring, I would’ve come back like I’m known for and would’ve had my chin. The reason I said I’m upset they are giving Smith the TKO is because the momentum threw the ropes, I didn’t dive through the ropes. This is my last fight, I promised it would be and you come to that point in life where it is final and I’m happy with my retirement. I know the fans will know I went out as a solider, fighting the toughest, baddest opponents. I’m not saying I agree, I’m not in denial-Joe was a tough, heavy hitting fighter.”

Hopkins, the ageless wonder, is the oldest fighter in history to win a world championship. Hopkins also holds the record for most consecutive world middleweight title defenses with 20. Hopkins also won multiple world titles as a light-heavyweight. Hopkins even unified the WBA/IBF/IBO light-heavyweight titles before losing them to Sergey Kovalev in November 2014.

Hopkins simply should have stayed retired. Asking Hopkins to end his career against a young-gunner like Smith, fresh off a first-round annihilation of Andrej Fonfara in June, was a bit much. Especially since Hopkins hasn’t last fought in more than 25 months.

As tough as it was for Hopkins to end his career so disappointingly, it was equally elating to watch a fighter as young and as hardworking as Smith. Let’s remember, Hopkins, with the clout he has at HBO Sports and Golden Boy Promotions convinced everyone that at 51, he shouldn’t be counted out as one of boxing’s most recognizable and worthy fighters.

Hopkins quietly told insiders that he’s longing for one more fight to end his career. HBO bought into Hopkins. Golden Boy Promotions bought into Hopkins. The boxing media bought into Hopkins. The general public bought into Hopkins because, for many years Hopkins has proved everyone wrong.

The Felix Trinidad fight made people a believer in Hopkins. His KO of Oscar De La Hoya (and current business partner) to unify the WBC/WBA/IBF and WBO middleweight championships perhaps cemented his legacy as the best middleweight of his generation. The slick and impressive boxing exhibitions against Antonio Tarver, Kelly Pavlik, Tavoris Cloud, and  Jean Pascal so late in his career convinced people that even at age 51, Hopkins has the skills, the experience, and the know-how to beat someone as young, strong, hungry, and impressionable as Smith.

Joe Smith is from Long Island, NY. He started his professional career in 2009 and has fought exclusively in the Tri-State area. Smith was never built-up to be a superstar in fact he has a job working in construction.

Smith is simply you’re average Joe. Never one to talk much, Joe Smith simply went to work, trained in the gym, and always answered the phone call from one of the local New York boxing promoters looking to book him for a fight.

Even after Smith knocked out Fonfara, a former WBC light-heavyweight title challenger, inside one round in June, he was still your average Joe. But after answering the phone for the biggest fight of his professional career, for a chance to end the legend that was Bernard Hopkins on HBO, the Heart & Soul of Boxing, Smith is no longer your average Joe.

Joe Smith, like it or not, is a serious light-heavyweight contender with devastating knockout power in both fists.

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