Bhop and Prospects

Photo by Al Applerose

Bernard Hopkins Crashes Out of Ring, Prospects Burn Bright in L.A.


By David A. Avila

An historic weekend ended with middleweight great Bernard Hopkins crashing through the ropes to the floor. The aged Philadelphia fighter went literally out on his shield to end his career.

“I’ll be 52 in a few weeks,” said a somewhat groggy Hopkins. “I have no regrets.”

After setting a middleweight record with 20 consecutive title defenses (since broken by Gennady Golovkin) Hopkins moved into the light heavyweight division and remarkably won a world title there and kept it until running into Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev.

On Saturday night at the Inglewood Forum, the Phillie fighter ran into another bruising knockout puncher in Joe Smith Jr. This time he could not escape.

For seven rounds Hopkins had evaded the hard-swinging bombs Smith was unleashing. In the fifth a right cross connected but Hopkins barely shrugged.

“I can take a punch,” Hopkins said.

After both won and lost rounds the change in complexion was apparent in the seventh round when Smith opened up with a five-punch combination. Hopkins avoided some blows but a few connected.

It was a close fight with Hopkins able to land those quick right leads and combinations. But the more the fight ensued the more apparent it was that Smith was getting a bead on the old warrior.

Smith moved in aggressively in the eighth round and caught Hopkins along the ropes with another five-punch combination. Hopkins fell through the ropes and slid all the way to the floor head first. It was a tense moment as a small crowd gathered around Hopkins on the floor. Up in the ring Smith rejoiced and jumped on the ropes with his fist raised.

The crowd booed Smith. It seemed inappropriate with Hopkins on the floor. More than 6,000 fans arrived at the Inglewood Forum to pay respects to the Phillie fighter who remained loyal to Golden Boy Promotion’s chairman Oscar De La Hoya. That act by Hopkins gained him even more followers who seldom see loyalty in this age of self-gratification.

Two years ago a mutiny took place with dozens of fighters leaving De La Hoya’s side with offers of money from a new promotion company. Hopkins remained despite offers of a lucrative contract. Fans love Hopkins for his act of loyalty.

Smith, 27, rejoiced at first then quickly realized his mistake and held back his joy of winning by knockout against one of the greats.

“It stinks that I ruined his party, but it was my coming out party,” said Smith a New York construction worker when not boxing. “I was here to improve my future and I can’t regret that.”

After the fight while Hopkins was talking to the media from a stage, Smith walked up with his team and hugged the Philadelphia warrior. He then asked Hopkins to autograph his WBC International title belt. The pen they used didn’t work so Smith ran into a person below the stage to borrow another marker. Back he scrambled to give the pen to Hopkins. It was a touching moment. That’s boxing.

Smith tried keeping his glee at winning under control out of respect. But he knew he had accomplished something that no other person could claim.

“I knew I was one of the hardest hitters,” said Smith. “Kovalev couldn’t stop Hopkins, (Adonis) Stevenson couldn’t stop Fonfara. I did it.”

Smith was able to knock out both.

What’s next in store for Smith?

Hopkins resumes his work with Golden Boy Promotions one of the most powerful promoters in the world. A few years back it didn’t seem that would be possible. But it’s the end of a career for one of the greatest middleweights of all time.


Final One under card

Jojo Diaz

Jojo Diaz (23-0, 13 Kos) defended the NABF featherweight title with a shutout of Mexico’s Horacio Garcia (30-2-1, 21 Kos) after 10 rounds. It was a convincing victory over a stablemate of Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. The Mexican fighter had plenty of skills but was neutralized by the blazing speed of Diaz’s fists and angles.

Diaz doesn’t run around as before when he was a decorated US Olympian. Now he sets in the pocket and dares an opponent to fire. If he moves it’s just enough to give him options and get out of possible traps. He’s one of the best featherweights in the world in a division filled with talent.

During the post-fight press conference Diaz said that Golden Boy has told him that talks with Great Britain’s Josh Warrington (24-0) and Gary Russell Jr. (27-1) have been initiated and are possibilities for him in 2017.

There’s also another former Olympian from Mexico now living in Lake Elsinore, Calif. named Oscar Valdez. He holds the WBO featherweight world title and is signed with Top Rank.

“I’m ready,” said Diaz of South El Monte, Calif.


Jason Quigley

They keep putting better opponents in front of Ireland’s Jason Quigley and he keeps knocking them off like chess pieces.

Quigley (12-0, 10 Kos) needed less than three minutes to knock out Puerto Rico’s Jorge Melendez in their middleweight clash. The Irish middleweight has eye-catching speed and serious pop in those fists. He kind of reminds me of Golovkin during his early days in California. Golovkin hits harder but Quigley has that same surprising speed and accuracy.

He hits where he aims and that’s a big plus in prizefighting.

When Melendez made a mistake and lowered his head, he was immediately caught with a chopping right on top of the ear followed by a quick left hook. Melendez wobbled from the blow. From that point on Quigley sensed the weakness and slipped into high gear with a barrage of blows and combinations. Down went Melendez three times before the referee stopped the fight at 2:24 of the first round.

Quigley works with trainer Manny Robles and their crew includes another Irish fighter in Michael Conlan. They also have two world champions in Oscar Valdez and Jessie Magdaleno plus light heavyweight Vyacheslav Shabranskyy. It’s a winning gym and all of the fighters have the same aggressive style. It suits him perfectly.

“Me and Manny Robles (trainer) were ready to go all ten rounds if necessary,” said Jason Quigley. “He (Robles) wanted the knock out more than I did – (Melendez) was coming forward and risking heavy punches to his own detriment. We are 110% ready for anything that is coming in the future.”


Ryan Garcia

The tall and lean lightweight from the high desert town of Victorville, California has scary good tools and reminds some, mainly me, of a tall lean teen from East L.A. now heading Golden Boy Promotions.

Ryan Garcia, 18, was recently signed to Golden Boy Promotions after considering a number of powerful boxing companies. Eventually the teen signed with Oscar De La Hoya’s company who he idolized since first putting on gloves.

In his opening foray under the Golden Boy banner he banished Mexico’s Anthony Martinez with a right cross and quick left hook to end the fight at 2:00 of the second round.

“I was a little nervous,” admitted Garcia who exudes confidence otherwise. “He was awkward. I couldn’t land my check hook.”

After figuring out the never-before-knocked-out Martinez with a quick evaluation, he delivered Martinez’s first stoppage loss. 

“I’m going to look back at the tape and just keep on improving and taking off my Golden Boy career,” Garcia said.