By Lyle Fitzsimmons
So, we’re about two months from the big day. I hope all is going well on the frozen tundra up north. Down south, I can speak for at least one 5-year-old who’s anxious for your arrival.
As for me, I’m not asking for all that much this year. Health, happiness, prosperity… you know, the usual schpiel. But if you can work a couple extra things into the sack this time around, I added a few more items to the wish list after the weekend in Atlantic City.
Actually, they’re all sort of wrapped around one present that all of us boxing fans got a little more excited about after either visiting the Boardwalk or plopping down in front of our televisions on Saturday night. His name is Bernard Hopkins. And the manner in which he disposed of his latest foe in the ring has many of us looking forward to the next time he performs.
So for my own sake, I made a list of the five people I’d most like to see him meet the next time he fights. I’m not sure how much pull you have with the Richard Schaefers and Stephen Espinozas of the world, but if you could give them a nudge in any of these directions, I’m sure we’d all appreciate it. Thanks, and I look forward to seeing you in December. Best, Lyle.
My Bernard Hopkins Wish List
Lucian Bute: A near-miss from a couple summers ago in Montreal, when B-Hop was in town to defeat Jean Pascal. They put Bute’s face on the video screens and the crowd went nuts. Bernard talked about him at the post-fight presser. But it never came off because Hopkins got tangled up with Chad Dawson and Bute got rolled by Carl Froch. I bet it’d still be fun, though.
Sergey Kovalev: Not that long ago, ol’ Bernard seemed well on his way to locking horns with Nathan Cleverly, a fight that Oscar De La Hoya said was “very possible” in 2013. Then, the Russian known as “Krusher” took care of Cleverly, who then opined that said Russian would overpower the old man, too. Mark me down as one who’d like to see him try.
Gennady Golovkin: Hopkins was the middleweight champion for what seemed like 20 years. Triple-G has been a champion of one sect or another for the last two, but the fervor he prompts from fans and media makes it seem like longer. I, for one, would love to see if the irresistible force could overcome a cagey object who operates on a much higher level than he’s faced.
Carl Froch: I was jonesing for this one back in May because it’s got all the things that make for a compelling event. A loudmouth like Hopkins. A tough guy like Froch. An intoxicatingly beautiful woman like Rachael Cordingley. Put them all together and it can’t help but be interesting, whether in Las Vegas, New Jersey or Wembley Stadium. Sign me up to make the trip.
Adonis Stevenson: I leave the lineal title debates to those with the energy to do the research. As for me, I worry more about the champions of consensus. And lest we forget, Chad Dawson was considered “the man” at 175 after beating Hopkins last year, which means the burly Stevenson earned that label upon starching “Bad” Chad. Forget HBO and Showtime. For the sake of the fans, just dispense with the Cold War and put it on the Oprah network.
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As much as I appreciate the love I receive on message boards and in the occasional email, when the tone of the correspondence changes from “hey, you suck” to “hey, we ought to meet somewhere so I can kick your a*s,” I feel compelled to let some folks in on the joke.
If you read last week’s column about Mike Alvarado and thought that I was actually calling the guy a coward for checking out after 10 ridiculously brutal rounds against Ruslan Provodnikov a few days before, here’s a news flash… you didn’t get it.
Maybe that’s my fault for not delivering the piece clearly enough. Maybe it’s yours for reading what you wanted to read, rather than what was actually written. Either way, I welcome any of the people who took issue with the piece to go back and review anything I’ve ever written and find me one instance where I’ve legitimately referred to anyone who laces a pair of gloves and steps in a pro ring - man or woman, champion or journeyman - as a coward.
Here’s a hint, folks. It’s never happened. And it never will.
The piece was meant specifically as a poke at those people who have the opposite mindset. The people who labeled Alvarado a quitter. The people who label Victor Ortiz a quitter. The machoer-than-thou types who may occasionally be the toughest guys on their block, but who are far more often the guys who prefer to hide in anonymity and lob verbal grenades at people who’ve accomplished things they’ve neither the skill nor the guts to attempt.
Make no mistake, I’m no Floyd Mayweather or Wlad Klitschko. I concede that the extent of my athletic prowess is light years short of the lowest-ranked fighter on Boxrec. But I’ve been around more fighters than most. I’ve spoken to more fighters than most. I think I have far more insight from that experience than most. And what’s just as important to me, I’m here every week and I don’t hide behind a screen name. I sign my work.
So, if you disagree with me, fine. That’s your prerogative and I won’t lose any sleep over it. But at least try to approach it like a grown up. And if you can’t even do that, just save us both the trouble and don’t bother reading. We’re obviously not worth each other’s time.
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBO/WBA middleweight titles – New York, N.Y.
Gennady Golovkin (champion) vs. Curtis Stevens (No. 15 IBO/No. 13 WBA contender)
Golovkin (27-0, 24 KO): Sixth IBO title defense; Fourteen straight stoppage wins (48 rounds)
Stevens (25-3, 18 KO): First title fight; Fourth fight in 2013 (3-0, 2 KO)
Fitzbitz says: “Golovkin has developed a reputation as the most fearsome 160-pounder around, and a pit stop against the untested Stevens should do little to dissuade that notion.” Golovkin in 5
Vacant IBO cruiserweight title – New York, N.Y.
Ola Afolabi (No. 1 contender) vs. Lukasz Janik (No. 32 contender)
Afolabi (19-3-4, 9 KO): Fourth title fight (0-2-1); Eighteenth fight in United States (13-1-3)
Janik (26-1, 14 KO): First title fight; Fourth fight scheduled for 10 or more rounds (2-1)
Fitzbitz says: “London-born vet has proven just a fraction short of the cream of the crop at 200 pounds, so picking up a belt against a lesser foe here shouldn’t be an issue.” Afolabi by decision
Last week's picks: 3-0
2013 picks record: 61-32 (65.6 percent)
Overall picks record: 524-184 (74.0 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA “world championships” are only included if no “super champion” exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz. Tags: Bernard Hopkins