Saturday night in Los Angeles, ring legend and Light Heavyweight Champion of the World, Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins and his stiffest challenger in the division, former Light Heavyweight Champion, "Bad" Chad Dawson, fought to a bizarre two round affair. On a card that had some real fireworks in the preliminaries, but the main event left the folks at Staples Center shaking their heads.
PRELIMINARY BOUT SUMMARIES:
Paul “Magic Man” Malignaggi (29-4, 6 KOs) Versus Orlando Lora (28-1-1, 19 KOs)
The first televised bout on the HBO Pay Per View Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson Light Heavyweight Championship card opened up with the former IBF Light Welterweight Champion of the World, Brooklynite Paul Malignaggi. Malignaggi, trying to successfully continue his move up in weight to the Welterweight division against the bigger, harder hitting Orlando Lora from Mexico. Despite Paul being the bigger name and having much more notable opponents on his dossier such as Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton, and Amir Khan; One would still have to worry about the move up in weight for the light hitting Malignaggi against a guy like Lora who is a natural Welterweight and can punch like one too. None the less the supremely confident Malignaggi always comes to win, and can befuddle his opponents without hurting them because of his well polished boxing skills and speed.
A very good showing for Malignaggi. Paul came in dictating the pace as soon as the bell rung for the bout to begin, using his jab effectively and very often. However, after some easy going in the first, Malignaggi was badly buckled from a right hand by Lora that landed flush on the former Champion. It looked as though despite Malignaggi’s advantages in speed, skills, and even experience that he could have hell on his hands. Again, Paul is a good fighter, but he does not possess any knockout power, and Lora showed in the first that if enough of those right hands land he may be able to put Paul away. Regardless Malignaggi’s heart dwarfs his punch, he responded like a champ from the second round on. Arguably winning every round from then on using his jab over and over again, being much too fast for the slower plodding Lora. Nevertheless Orlando Lora did have his moments in spurts and when he was able to exchange with Paul it was obvious his blows were much heavier, he would be a lot more effective getting Malignaggi to fight that type of fight. Yet Paul did not budge however he controlled the fight by hitting and not getting hit often. Working his jab upstairs and down and whenever Lora would get in some thudding shots, usually to Malignaggi’s body, Paul would respond in combinations, usually shooting out one-twos repeatedly to fend off Lora from getting momentum. The judges at ringside saw a one sided bout,with the scores being 100-90, 99-91, and 98-92; Nobody in the arena contested that outcome. Lora showed himself to be a rugged Welterweight, and a guy with a punch you certainly do not want taste too many times. Unfortunately his flaws lied with his hand and foot speed leaving him in no mans land against the much quicker Malignaggi. Lora is tough, but one would have to worry about his chances of being stopped if he were to fight a fighter of Paul’s caliber that could punch as well. Throw him in there with a guy who “likes to get hit” and he will more than likely give you your money’s worth. As for the victor, Malignaggi, this marks his third successful attempt in the Welterweight division since moving up a little under a year ago. Paul’s skills and speed are of no need of concern, it is actually something to behold that the man cannot hurt the fighter in front of him, and usually is significantly smaller in size, but finds a way to frustrate and outbox his opponents. Malignaggi’s was a World Champion, and that is a testament to the statement just previously made. However, that title was seven pounds south of the division he is at now and he was not knocking guys out either at Junior Welterweight or having the advantage in size. So it will have to be quite the mountain to climb for Paul Malignaggi to capture a World Championship in the Welterweight division. Still he has shown his guts plenty of times, so one would expect he will give it his best going forward and you can not ask anymore from a fighter than that. With the victory Malignaggi’s record now stands at (30-4, 6 KOs.) Orlando Lora suffered just the second professional defeat in his career, now dropping to (28-2-1, 19 KOs.)
Kendall “Rated R” Holt (27-4, 15 KOs) Versus Danny Garcia (21-0, 14 KOs)
Coming into this bout, Kendall Holt’s name was much more recognizable than Danny Garcia’s was. Holt, from Paterson New Jersey, is a former World Champion, capturing the WBO Junior Welterweight Championship in 2008 in a rematch with Columbian KO artist, Ricardo Torres. However after one successful title defense, Holt would go on to lose three of his next five fights. This would be considered a crossroads fight, Holt is a former World Champion, and has fought multiple Championship fighters, but is not coming in with a lot of momentum in his career. Danny Garcia, a Philadelphia fighter, is undefeated, but has not faced the kind of competition Holt has. So this fight is to answer questions posed for both boxers: Is Holt still World Champion material? Does Garcia’s record have more to do with his competition than his talent?
The boxing world did get some questions answered out of both men. First off no, Garcia’s record is not an unblemished one just because of the level of competition he’s fought. Garcia showed the will and poise of a champion, when in the first half of the bout he appeared to have been behind on points and lacking the craft that Holt had. Nonetheless, Garcia kept his efforts going and it paid off, as he out hustled and beat Holt in the second half of the fight convincingly. Holt may indeed be the more talented fighter, faster, more coordinated, and probably has better one punch knockout power. However it seems as though he had some mental lapses and that is what costed him this fight along with Garcia’s desire. During the first half of the bout, in which Holt had the upper hand, he appeared to be loading up on the left hook, and was not throwing a lot of shots, but he was rendering Garcia ineffective for the most part and was landing the left hook well from time to time, with good power in the punch. Holt’s slickness, advantage in speed and craft looked like it would carry the day, but as said before Holt appeared to have some kind of mental lapses and was not fighting to his full capabilities particularly in the second half of the fight, and in the championship rounds Holt become less and less active as Garcia kept his foot on the pedal to pound out a decision. Garcia is a good fighter. He is not going to blow you away with flash, or speed or punching power, but he is good technically and he fought his heart out, it was an impressive display by Garcia to keep his undefeated record against a fighter who had more experience than him and probably more talent. With this victory, along with the win before this fight against veteran Nate Campbell, Garcia has shown he can fight some name fighters. Putting Danny Garcia in there with other fighters in his position would be very intriguing. As for Holt, he showed that he does still have punching power, speed, good skills and coordination. But some fighters come along and it is how they are mentally that holds them back not physically. This could very well be the case with Holt. Do not write him off yet, because a mental problem can be fixed if he does in fact have mental lapses, but if he remains the same as he was against Garcia, it is very unlikely he will reach the heights in his career he did before. Garcia was awarded with a Split Decision victory by the scores of 117-111 twice for himself and a scorecard of 115-113 for Kendall Holt.
JORGE LINARES (31-1, 20 KOs) VERSUS ANTONIO DEMARCO (25-2-1, 18 KOs)
This fight was expected by many to be the action fight of the night. Jorge “El nino De Oro” (The Golden Boy) Linares, originally from Venezuela is now unusually residing from and training in Tokyo, Japan. Linares was coming up against, the extremely-tall-for-a-Lightweight, Mexico’s own Antonio DeMarco. DeMarco’s only loss in the past four years was to the late explosive punching Edwin Valero, and in that bout Tony DeMarco had a good showing for himself. That would be DeMarco’s first attempt at the WBC Lightweight Championship, herein Linares, DeMarco has a second chance to capture a World Championship. For Jorge Linares, the favorite, who at just 26 years old has already captured World Championship in two weight divisions, was attempting to make it three if he could defeat DeMarco and become the WBC Lightweight Champion. Linares was pegged by many in the boxing world to be potentially one of the very best fighters pound-for-pound on the planet, and since losing in a shocking first round TKO loss to Juan Carlos Salgado in October of 2009 the sentiment of that thought had declined. Still, plenty in boxing circles believe Linares still has some gifts that are special and that he can still attain true greatness in his career. If he were to win this fight and become a three division World Champion at just 26 the sentiment that he could be a great fighter may definitely rekindle. Both men have a lot on the line, and neither guy is long in the tooth either, DeMarco is only 25 himself.
Lets just say the people who were expressing this would be the fight of the night were right on the money. In a fight almost reminiscent of the unforgettable 1990 Junior Welterweight Championship bout between Julio Cesar Chavez and Meldrick Taylor, DeMarco and Linares left the crowd at Staples Center on their feet applauding what each man gave in the ring. Linares, similar to Taylor in that classic bout with Chavez, was dominating essentially the whole fight, being too fast, with too much impressive,lighting fast combination punching for the slower DeMarco. Throughout the first seven rounds the crowd on hand was being dazzled by Linares’ work, displaying incredible combinations with blistering speed and showing superior coordination and skills to the much bigger, harder hitting Tony DeMarco. Although, just as said before, like Chavez-Taylor, one of DeMarco’s punches would shake up Linares as DeMarco could continue to walk through all the shots Linares was throwing from all angles. DeMarco was being dominated in the first seven rounds in terms of not winning on the cards, but here and there his shots were moving Linares whenever he managed to catch Linares. The drama was really sparked though in the championship rounds, as Linares was now suffering a bloody mess on his face due to a nasty cut on his nose, despite Linares corners’ best efforts, the blood was not stopping. Through the blood, Linares really let out the warrior in him, which could very well be why he did not come away with the victory instead of the lopsided win he seemed headed to. Linares had the fight won on the cards already by the 9th and 10th rounds, but to his credit he choose not to coast and began slugging and slugging some more with DeMarco with blood gushing out of his nose. Antonio DeMarco responded like a shark that smells blood in the water, and was all over Linares in the 10th, and 11th rounds. Linares refused to back off and the two starting having exchanges that turned the crowd into a frenzy, but Linares was beginning to really look bad. Not only was his face a mess, but DeMarco’s shots were really beginning to shake up and stun Linares. In the 11th, DeMarco really broke through, tagging Linares with a left and a right that sent the incredibly gutsy Linares into the ropes. Linares was in retreat and found his back on the ropes and went into a shell, DeMarco continued to pound on Linares as he tried to cover up on the ropes and the referee called a halt to a bout in a jaw dropping turn of events. What looked to be a great display of the special talents of Jorge Lineras turned into one of the most memorable boxing comebacks in years. Antonio DeMarco who all night was getting tagged by some great shots thrown by Linares fought like a brick wall and kept coming, and in the end his harder punches ruined Lineras’ face and then finally stopped him. Some in the crowd felt there was a dispute however, Linares was assuredly well ahead on the score cards, and had still not suffered a knockdown. The other side of that is very plausible, Lineras was indeed suffering some terrible cuts, and it is not good for a fighter to ever take too much punishment, especially for a fighter as talented as Linares who could always live to fight another day and be successful. DeMarco was also beginning to really hurt Linares too, the blood was not just for show by the time the two were in the 11th, Linares was in serious trouble, DeMarco could very well have put him off of his feet had the referee not brought the Championship bout to an end. It is cliche, but sometimes cliches are spot on, and one of them applies to a fight like this: there really were no losers between the two. Yes, Linares suffered defeat and DeMarco is the WBC Lightweight Champion but both men left it all in the ring and you can not hope for anymore than that. A rematch would be sure to have boxing fans glued to the screen once more. DeMarco surprised the boxing world, and showed the guts of a Champion, hence why he went home with the title in his possession. Linares impresses with his talent, and he’s a young man with a great demeanor. Maybe Linares is cut from the same cloth of fighters like Marvin Hagler or Antonio Margartio who suffered defeats in their careers multiple times before attaining their peaks as a fighter. Only time well tell, as for Tony DeMarco, many in boxing would still perhaps not regard him as a true elite fighter, but he’s just surprised a lot of people so it’s far from impossible that he can surprise a lot of people again. Boxing won when the final bell was over, because fights like that is what makes the sport so special.
BERNARD “THE EXECUTIONER” HOPKINS (52-5-2, 32 KOs). VERSUS “BAD” CHAD DAWSON (30-1, 17 KOs).
PRE FIGHT PAGEANTRY:
As always in boxing, the challenger has his ring walk and is introduced first. So when Chad Dawson came walking through the Staples Center he looked much more intense and fierce than he had in the weeks leading up to the fight where his disposition was a very calm one and he didn’t engage Hopkins much in the verbal sparring leading up to the fight which some would see as Chad being too passive for the biggest fight of his career. But with the big lights on Chad looks ready to go. The crowd isn’t giving him much affection as they seem to be here to get a glimpse at the newly crowned oldest Champion in boxing of all time. Once Chad is in the ring he awaits Hopkins, whose showmanship is adored by the audience, Executioner mask on and all. Just before Bernard Hopkins enters the ring he does his annual cut throat with his right hand going across his neck. Once in the ring, Bernard gets nearly universal applause and it looks like everyone here tonight wants to see the old legend have another memorable performance.
This fight was viewed as a possible “Changing of the guard.” bout. Chad Dawson was a top pound-for-pound fighter two years ago, and a lot of people in boxing believed that despite Bernard was still fighting at an amazing level well past his forties, that he did not want any part of the big,fast,intelligent, and skilled Dawson. But alas, just when it seemed that Chad was beginning to have his peak and was going to dominate the LIght Heavyweight division, he lost to Jean Pascal in a fight he was the favorite in, thus making Pascal the Light Heavyweight champion. After that upset, Dawson wanted a rematch, but Bernard Hopkins was waiting in the wings and swooped in on a fight with Pascal. What ensued for Bernard was a fantastic performance for a forty five year old. Bernard managed, after being knocked down twice within the first five rounds, to dominate the second half of the fight against a man in his twenties that was much physically stronger than he was and faster. In the end though, he only received a disputed draw, so a rematch was given to Bernard, who with supreme confidence this time around genuinely told the media and Pascal himself he will undoubtedly pull off becoming the oldest man to win a World Championship in boxing. After overcoming being stunned early, Hopkins won in a clear cut fashion and pumped out some push ups as well, but all kidding aside it was a remarkable performance that took away the great George Foreman’s feat of being the oldest Champion ever in boxing. Dawson in the meantime won a Unanimous Decision against Adrian Diaconu. Retirement for Bernard Hopkins has been expected, and reasonably so he’s accomplished so much and at his age some pose the question: Why? Why keep fighting when you have already made yourself a hall of fame fighter for years now? Bernard Hopkins is greedy, in a good way: he gets greedy about his legacy, it seems he thinks, yes I know I’ve accomplished more than enough to be considered a great Champion, but maybe I can add even more icing on the cake to make it look real good. So, to the credit of Bernard Hopkins he’s taking on a guy (whose actually the favorite) seventeen years younger than himself, is extremely talented, and possibly even bigger than Bernard as well as being able hold his own in a technical fight, which very few fighters are capable of. Would Dawson be able to put it all together and reclaim his status as an elite, pound-for-pound fighter by gaining the biggest victory of his career? Or would the old fox, the teacher, Bernard Hopkins find a way to add some more icing to the cake one more time?
More so than disappointment, Bleachereportboxing being on hand to cover this bout sympathized for the crowd on hand, as Los Angeles does not get a big Championship fight too often. The fans in attendance all seemed very knowledgable and were aware of the gravity of what Bernard Hopkins means to boxing, there were many local families who had brought their children to get a look at some boxing in downtown LA. The crowd on hand stood and applauded the undercard bout, stayed intrigued during some of the bouts that were technical fights, these were some real fight fans and it was just too bad they couldn’t get treated to great main event between a legend and a very talented fighter in his prime. Hopefully the folks on hand do not get too bitter about the sport and will attend the next fight at Staples Center, but it is hard to argue with their discontent, as they booed both combatants and numerous chants with obscenities. The fight itself was a short one, ending in the second round in bizarre fashion, which in boxing unfortunately is not extremely rare. Bernard Hopkins almost always loses the first round, or even the first few rounds of his fights, but he also almost always comes out on top. So in the first round Chad Dawson seemed to be more active and won on his energy and effort, as Hopkins was moving side to side and looking to measure Chad and feel him out. In the second round there was still very little action, but no sign of dominance from either man, but certainly Dawson appeared to be very focused this night and ready to take the title. But Bernard is a great fighter and has never lied down and let a man get a victory over him without him giving a great effort. What was about to ensue will never know as Dawson found Hopkins on his back late in the second round and with his shoulder threw Bernard to the canvas where Bernard landed on his left shoulder. Here is where some chaos takes place: The California State Athletic Commission has ruled this bout a second round TKO victory for Chad Dawson. However: a punch must be scored for a fighter to win by a stoppage, not a tackle, or a shove, it has to be a boxing move. Hopkins was pleading to the referee after the foul that what Dawson did was dirty and he wanted Dawson to have some sort of consequence. The referee asked Bernard, “Bernard can you continue?” Bernard replied, “With one arm, yeah.” The referee disagreed waived the bout off, and at that time Chad Dawson was awarded a second round Technical Knockout of Bernard Hopkins and had become the new Light Heavyweight Champion of the world. Hopkins was up in arms in disagreement, and Dawson showed a lot of anger towards Hopkins suggesting Bernard was packing it in rather than genuinely suffering an injury. A week later the WBC ruled against the California State Athletic Commission’ ruling and gave Hopkins his Championship back. But as always in boxing how is this for unorthodox? The California State Athletic Commission is still mauling over their decision so it’s very possible that they may keep their stance on the TKO and give Dawson a victory and Hopkins a loss. But the WBC has already ruled that Hopkins keeps the championship. So that means Hopkins may receive a loss by TKO and still be champion, and Dawson can receive a win but not have the World Championship. And situations like this in our great sport remind us of the glaring flaws we have in this sport. We need a one governing body, unified boxing commission. With one set of rules and one World Champion per division. Boxing is a great sport that millions of fans of love, but it is time to not hold it back from how much better the sport can really be. As for the fight itself, Dawson was still very pleased with his victory despite his anger in the post fight interview. He also declined the notion of a rematch and felt Bernard faked his way out of the fight. Bernard said thats nonsense and it was later revealed he did in fact separate his shoulder from his collarbone and suffered an injury. Too Dawson’s credit it looked like he very well could have won without any bizarre happenings. But Hopkins is a marathon guy, he’s thinking of how he’s going to get you figured out within the twelve rounds and make his adjustments to win the fight, he has patience. So although one can understand that Dawson would much rather fighter Pascal to avenge his only loss. He has to realize he really hasn’t convincingly beaten Bernard Hopkins, who was giving him an unnecessary opportunity in the first place. And Hopkins is a good money fight still anyways. It wouldn’t be good if Chad made Bernard wait around for a fight between himself and Pascal and then give him his rematch, he’d be a full year older. The truth is the world didn’t see enough in that fight to assuredly know who the better man was, and just for that reason alone Chad should give Bernard his rematch. Bernard is a legend, he gave Chad a great opportunity, it’s only right for Chad to give Bernard his shot. If he were to defeat Bernard in a rematch than a fight with Pascal would be a helluva fight. A fight that if Dawson could be successful in after beating Bernard Hopkins, he’d have maybe punched his ticket into the hall of fame. If Chad unfortunately doesn’t give Bernard a rematch (if Bernard indeed wants one.) Than a fight with Pascal is still a great fight, make no mistake about it. But if Hopkins can get another shot at the talented young buck and pull another big victory, it’d be another testament to his greatness and would prevent Chad from taking a huge leap towards his own greatness.