By Cliff Rold
Picking against Bernard Hopkins can leave one equally in two states of mind at the end of another of his post-40 wins: stupid and in awe.
It was clear at signing that Cloud is the sort of guy Hopkins would have owned in years past. He wasn’t a Chad Dawson where the speed deficit and style match favored the younger man on a technical level. To pick against him against Cloud assumed an aging that hasn’t been proven in the ring yet. That makes it stupid to have picked against Hopkins is the first place.
Then there is the awe. No, it wasn’t a great fight. No, it wasn’t as impressive in terms of record-setting performance as the win over Jean Pascal two years ago. Pascal was the legitimate Light Heavyweight champion. Cloud was coming off a fight he should have lost.
Significantly, while Hopkins holds a Light Heavyweight belt, it is Chad Dawson who maintains the spot as the Light Heavyweight champion, having wrested the crown from Hopkins last year. It says a lot about how great Hopkins is that so few could be found to care. For Hopkins, every win is about the enhancement of a legend.
He’s bigger than titles.
He was a whole hell of a lot better than Tavoris Cloud.
As stupid as picking against Hopkins can make one feel, there’s always the fun of getting one right. Last week, the pre-fight report card picked Bradley and said, “Provodnikov has been far too written off in this bout. Sure, he’s an underdog, but he’s tough as nails and has yet to be embarrassed by anyone. No, his foes haven’t been the same level as Bradley’s, but this is his one big shot. Expect him to leave it all out there. Bradley is a little too good to lose, but Provodnikov will show he belonged in the ring before hearing that a closer than expected decision got away.”
Talk about a whole lot of understatement in hindsight.
Let’s go to the report cards.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Cloud B; Hopkins B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Cloud B+; Hopkins B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense – Cloud B-; Hopkins A/Post: C; A
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Cloud B+; Hopkins A/Post: C; A
The most amazing thing about the fight may have been that, after a commanding eighth round, it was the younger man who seemed the more spent of the two. Cloud never quit trying, and he had some moments in the last two rounds, but it was already too late.
Knowing he had an older man in front of him, Cloud came out respectful and measured. He let the older man get comfortable and then he got eaten alive. Hopkins set the pace and played with the younger man, a clinic of subtle shoulder shrugs, feints, and precision shots.
There were plenty of close rounds, but it was a night where the drama of the fight was as important as the punches themselves. Hopkins fought like, looked like, the winner and Cloud didn’t do anything to change that impression. He didn’t dig deep and leave everything he had to avoid defeat.
And Hopkins requires a little more than that.
He’s as great a fighter as modern boxing fans are ever going to see.
Bradley-Provodnikov? That might have been as great a fight as we see in 2013.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Bradley B+; Provodnikov C+/Post: B+; B-
Pre-Fight: Power – Bradley B-; Provodnikov B/Post: B-; A
Pre-Fight: Defense – Bradley B+; Provodnikov C-/Post: C-; C-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Bradley A; Provodnikov B+/Post: A+; A+
Timothy Bradley is a little bit lucky to still be the WBO Welterweight titlist today. Lucky, and brave, and redeemed from a sin not of his making. His decision win against Manny Pacquiao was widely decried, and not at all his fault. Fans who wanted to see the warrior inside him got in on Saturday.
And one of the best T.V. fighters of the last few years finally got a bigger stage.
Ruslan Provodnikov has been making excellent fights for years, and coming up the hard way. This is how it is supposed to be. Learn the craft, improve, get a shot, and show ass when it gets there. For some reason, Provodnikov’s imperfections had some thinking this wasn’t a real fight.
Is no one worthy of a shot at the big stage without some well-connected set-ups for more money and less professional growth?
Provodnikov came up just a hair short (114-113 on this card after a second watch) and oh but for the days of the fifteen round fight. Provodnikov owned the first two rounds, the sixth, and the last two. In a street fight, he won.
With rounds, it’s tougher but there were swings and those who favored Provodnikov as the winner have every right to feel that way. He deserved a knockdown in the first round and, with it, all other things being equal, would have had a draw.
A draw would have made the obvious clearer. This instant classic deserves a rematch and both warriors deserve every accolade they are receiving.
The impact of the last two HBO events, and others, is seen in the latest ratings update.
Report Card Picks 2013: 7-5 (includes a site prediction for Vargas-Omotoso)
Light Heavyweight: Hopkins, who just one fight prior was still the lineal champ of the division, maintains his number one contender spot. Cloud, in what was in the ring his second straight loss, slides down a couple spots.
Welterweight: Keith Thurman cracks the top ten with a win over Jan Zaveck. Provodnikov earned a top ten slot as well. As fellow editor Jake Donovan pointed out, Victor Ortiz hasn’t won a fight at 147 in going on two years and is currently not on his way back to the ring. When he is done “Dancing with the Stars,” he can earn a spot back. For now, he’s out and Provodnikov gets a place at the table.
Jr. Lightweight: Argenis Mendez leaps up to number two off a strong win over Juan Carlos Salgado.
Flyweight: Edgar Sosa picks up a couple of spots with a vicious one-punch knockout of Ulises Solis. Sosa, at 33, might just have enough to win one more title before he’s done.
The full results of note and impact on the ratings are a click away.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]