By Cliff Rold
For six rounds, it sucked.
It was really just, well, terrible. Challenger Karo Murat might have won 3 of the first four rounds through sheer hustle, but none of what was going on was entertaining.
Then, in round seven, Bernard Hopkins dug in, Murat swung back, and suddenly there was a fight going on. It lasted most of the rest of the way. Fists, fouls, and a referee having a bad night made for an odd piece of theatre and another day in the office for an old man who isn’t getting any younger but isn’t ready to go away yet either.
Let’s go to the report card.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Hopkins B; Murat B/Post: B; B-
Pre-Fight: Power – Hopkins B; Murat B/Post: B; B-
Pre-Fight: Defense – Hopkins A+; Murat B/Post: B+; C-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Hopkins A+; Murat B/Post: A+; B
Hopkins is 48 years old.
Think about that.
Karo Murat wasn’t just a sanctioning body top ten guy. All the various top tens in the media also had him somewhere in the top ten. That doesn’t mean he’s a great fighter or anything, but he’s a good solid win for anyone in the Light Heavyweight division.
He will be barely be a footnote in the career of Hopkins and yet this was still an interesting outing for “The Executioner.”
At 30 years old, he was the man who looked like he struggled to the finish line at times. He was the man who was rocked a few times. Yet the evidence in the ring suggested he might not have belonged in the ring with the Hopkins of even five years ago. He made it a decent scrap on this night and still lost decisively.
Hopkins doesn’t have the speed he used to, can uncork his best power shots and not score a knockout anymore, and it doesn’t matter. Outside of certain names at the elite level, he is still almost as impossible to beat as ever.
Even for the elite, he’s a pain in the rear to fight.
In round seven, he went on the offense against Murat and never really looked back. Murat might have hustled enough to win the ninth, but outside that it was a strange go. Murat had some decent rally points but he seemed to lack stamina to sustain late.
To his credit, there looked liked a couple moments where he might quit as the fight wore on. He didn’t and turned to fire back. It made for some fun exchanges as he worked through a cut as well.
Now to the fouls…
…man, there were a lot of fouls. Hopkins hit Murat in the back at the beginning of the fight. There would be more from both men. There were rabbit punches, attempted flops that referee Steve Smoger ignored both ways, punching on the break both ways. Murat in the final round landed at least a half dozen cup shots and finished with a double (yes, double) head butt.
Smoger only seemed to call it one way.
Always an action fan’s ref, Smoger made himself a little too apart of the action on this night and was unprofessionally aggravated by Murat. He’s been around long enough to know Hopkins is no innocent and yet he acted like Murat was initiating all the fouls. He put his hands on Murat more than once, shoving him in the face at the close of the fight.
A double head butt merits a stern warning. That was over the line. Pernell Whitaker shoved an over intrusive ref or two in his day (and got away with it). Wonder what he might have done with that?
All of that was ultimately a sideshow to the main event. Hopkins talked about moving down for Floyd Mayweather but one should probably hope that’s a pipe dream. Nothing about that sounds watchable. Hopkins struggled for activity late in his Middleweight run as he boiled down. Mayweather, given his speed, would be a lopsided favorite.
Then again, if the HBO/Showtime divide can’t be bridged, what else can Hopkins do? He might have an IBF belt, but if he wants the real Light Heavyweight title back, it’s in Montreal. Adonis Stevenson beat the man who beat Hopkins for the lineal crown. Hopkins can call the other Light Heavyweight champions frauds, but his belt is a fraud compared to what Stevenson holds.
If anyone can thaw the Cold War enough to make a fight happen, Hopkins should be able to. Stevenson has said he wants it. Does Hopkins really want to tangle with someone who has the size, speed, and power of Stevenson at this point?
He’s 48 years old. He can say no and it doesn’t really matter. It’s nice to be in a place where the only thing a fighter can do is add to his legend. Beating Murat didn’t do much of that but it was at least a reminder of how rare a force Hopkins really is.
Report Card Picks 2013: 44-24
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com