By Thomas Gerbasi
BROOKLYN – Bernard Hopkins did it again. At the age of 48, he fooled a younger, stronger, and faster opponent – in this case Tavoris Cloud - into fighting his fight, doing his bidding, and losing his belt, winning a 12 round decision over Cloud Saturday night at Barclays Center to take the IBF light heavyweight title and break his own record as the oldest man to win a major world boxing championship.
“The 40 and up club still rules,” said Philadelphia’s Hopkins.
Scores were 116-112 twice, and 117-111.
After little offense and plenty of wrestling in the opening minute, referee Earl Brown immediately made his presence known, stopping the clock and warning both fighters. That didn’t deter the two from grappling when they got within grabbing distance though, with nothing in the way of effective punching coming from either combatant.
Not surprisingly, the boo birds arrived early after a slow start to round two, but as the round progressed, Cloud began to get off some hard shots which forced Hopkins to respond, but the biggest cheers were reserved for something that broke out in the crowd at the end of the round.
Hopkins went on the attack in spurts as round three commenced, with Cloud eagerly firing back and trying to goad “The Executioner” into more exchanges. Hopkins remained patient though, tagging Cloud with potshots from various angles.
Settling into a groove in the fourth stanza, Hopkins was Hopkins, fighting when he wanted to, catching Cloud with single shots, and roughing up the champion on the inside. And though Cloud would fire back when pushed, he just wasn’t landing with any effectiveness or frequency.
Round five saw both fighters get in their share of hard shots, with Hopkins holding the slight edge, and in the sixth, Hopkins’ tactics began to frustrate Cloud, who began firing wide hooks in an attempt to swing matters in his favor more decisively. With less than a minute left, the ringside physician was called in to look at a cut over Cloud’s left eye, and that was the push the Floridian apparently needed, as he went on the attack after being cleared to continue, scoring with hard shots as he pinned his foe to the ropes.
With the bout too close to call heading into its second half, the crowd began chanting “B-Hop” to spur their man on, but it was Cloud aggressively stalking and throwing punches, even though it was only Hopkins drawing a reaction from the Brooklyn crowd for whatever he did, not a good thing for Cloud’s prospects on the scorecards in such a competitive fight.
Hopkins showed off some brilliant defense and counterpunching in round eight, but with Cloud landing a hard right hand and being the aggressor throughout, you again had to wonder how the fight was being scored.
The ninth and tenth were two more Hopkins-esque rounds, with the former middleweight and light heavyweight champion fighting at his own pace, leaving Cloud to eat counters and chase.
Showing a greater sense of urgency, Cloud threw more punches in the 11th as he tried to bully Hopkins, but he wasn’t able to deter the veteran from his game plan in the slightest, and in the 12th, Cloud wasn’t fighting like someone trying to defend his title, leaving Hopkins to do his thing once again, delighting the crowd and making history in the process.
With the win, Hopkins improves to 53-6-2 with 32 KOs and 2 NC; the 31-year-old Cloud loses for the first time, falling to 24-1 with 19 KOs.
Rising star Keith Thurman went the 12 round distance for the first time in the HBO World Championship Boxing co-main event, and even though the knockout artist from Clearwater, Florida wasn’t able to take out former IBF welterweight champion Jan Zaveck, he did more than enough to win a shutout unanimous decision and the WBO intercontinental title.
Scores were 120-108 across the board for Thurman, who ups his record to 20-0 with 18 KOs and 1 NC; Ptuj, Slovenia’s Zaveck falls to 32-3 with 18 KOs. It was Thurman’s first decision win since November of 2009.
“He’s truly a veteran of the sport and it was a great boxing lesson for me,” said Thurman.
Zaveck fought aggressively in the first round, stalking behind a high guard that he would drop when winging hooks at Thurman, who made him pay with face-reddening jabs and power shots that earned him the frame.
There was no let-up to the action throughout the second and third rounds, with Zaveck staying close and firing off shots that may not have hurt Thurman, but they got his attention. Thurman was the more effective of the two though, with his shots knocking Zaveck back a step or two with each swing.
Thurman’s thudding shots continued to draw oohs and aahs from the crowd in the fourth and fifth rounds, and for good reason, as Zaveck appeared to be slowing down under the increasing assault. In the sixth though, Zaveck seemed to get a second wind, even tagging Thurman with a wild overhand right. Thurman was unbothered by the shot, with his lateral movement and sharp combinations keeping him far in the lead as the bout approached its midway point.
It was more of the same in rounds seven through nine, with Thurman in complete control of the bout even though Zaveck gamely chased him and made it a fight, albeit a one-sided one.
And despite Zaveck’s courageous effort, it was clear by this point that he didn’t have the power to hurt Thurman, leaving the Floridian in a position to continue teeing off on Zaveck without any concern for any incoming fire.
By the end of round ten, a series of hard right hands finally had Zaveck in trouble, but he was able to make it to the bell, and after a minute’s rest he was back at it in rounds 11 and 12, finishing on his feet, even if not with a victory.
A solid action fight between lightweights Michael Perez and Lonnie Smith met an abbreviated end, with an accidental head clash opening a cut on Perez’ head that forced a halt to the bout and a visit to the scorecards, where a majority draw resulted.
Scores were 66-66 twice and 67-65 Perez.
After a first round spent posing more than fighting, Newark’s Perez got on the board in a big way in round two with a left uppercut that put Smith on the canvas. Smith rose to his feet and almost got caught again with the left uppercut before Perez started focusing on his overhand right. By the end of the round though, Smith was back in the fight and tagging his opponent with flush shots.
The action continued to heat up in the third and fourth rounds, with both fighters getting their licks in both from long range and in close. But by the fifth stanza, Perez’ face was starting to show the wear of battle and Smith looked to be breaking him down.
In response, Perez started the sixth by boxing more and using his jab, which worked well enough until he let Smith get in close to land his thudding hooks and maul him in the trenches.
In round seven, a clash of heads opened a deep cut on Perez’ forehead, with referee Shada Murdaugh bringing the New Jersey product to the ringside physicians, who recommended the stoppage of the fight. After Murdaugh initially raised Smith’s hand in victory, the fight was rightfully sent to the scorecards moments later, with the draw verdict rendered.
Perez’ record now sits at 18-1-2 with 10 KOs; Las Vegas’ Smith moves to 14-4-3 with 10 KOs.
Junior middleweight prospect Eddie Gomez made short work of Tijuana’s Javier Gomez, winning by first round TKO.
In his opponent’s face from the opening bell, the Bronx’ Gomez got his foe against the ropes and staggered him with a flush left hook. The fight was basically over there, as Gomez staggered and wobbled before hitting the canvas. He rose on unsteady legs, prompting referee Arthur Mercante Jr. to stop the bout 77 seconds in.
Eddie Gomez ups his record to 13-0 (9 KOs) with the win; Javier Gomez falls to 14-11 with 10 KOs.
2012 United States Olympian Marcus Browne stole the nickname of his opponent, Cincinnati’s Josh “The Pitbull” Thorpe, in light heavyweight action, going on the attack at the bell and not letting up until the bout was stopped at 2:42 of the opening round.
Browne, now 3-0 with 3 stops, put Thorpe (1-3) on the canvas with a ferocious body assault with a little over a minute left, and after a follow up barrage, referee Pete Santiago called the fight, giving the popular Staten Islander his first pro victory in New York.
Given a rousing reception by the still arriving Barclays crowd, Brooklyn’s Frank Galarza didn’t disappoint in his junior middleweight bout against Los Mochis’ Guillermo Ibarra, stopping his foe in the second round.
In control from the start, Galarza overwhelmed Ibarra from every angle, eventually using a cumulative barrage of shots to send the Mexican to the canvas in round two. Ibarra rose, but a second knockdown prompted referee Arthur Mercante Jr. to stop the bout at the 2:19 mark.
With the win, Galarza improves to 9-0-1 with 5 KOs; Ibarra falls to 7-2 with 4 KOs.
Debuting Brooklyn junior featherweight Claude Staten Jr. didn’t get a knockout in his first pro bout, settling for a shutout unanimous decision win (40-35 on all three cards) over New Orleans’ Mike Hill (0-2) in a sloppy four rounder made that way by the awkward Hill, who hit the deck in the opening round courtesy of a left hook.
Unbeaten New York City cruiserweight Steve Bujaj hurt Zeferino Albino with the first punch he threw - a left hook to the head - and though things didn’t get much better for the Philadelphian throughout the rest of the four round opener, he did gamely go the distance before losing a shutout decision that dropped his record to 4-16-3 with 2 KOs. It was the 13th unbeaten opponent Albino had faced in his career.
Scores for the 9-0 (6 KOs) Bujaj were 40-36 across the board.