by Cliff Rold
Both men lost the last time they stepped into a boxing ring. Only one of their records reflects a setback.
Neither can afford another.
Bernard Hopkins, at 48, loses nothing in the long run with any in-ring losses at this point. He’s a living legend who can only add to his place in history. That said, another defeat could make it difficult, in a sport where top stars fight so seldom, to continue to get cracks at the young lions out there.
Cloud, an exciting battler whose career has been plagued by inactivity, won on the cards but lost in the eyes of the fans versus Gabriel Campillo. This is his first fight since. If he follows a perceived loss with an actual loss, particularly to an elder statesman, it would be easy to let his inactivity continue.
He’s already often out of sight and mind. A win is a must to create some demand to see him more than once a year.
Let’s go to the report card.
Title: IBF Light Heavyweight (2009-Present, 4 Defenses)
Previous Titles: None
Weight: 173.8 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 174.7 lbs.
Hails from: Tallahassee, Florida
Record: 24-0, 19 KO
Rankings: #2 (BoxingScene, Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, ESPN, Ring), #10 (SecondsOut), Unrated (BoxRec)
Record in Major Title Fights: 5-0, 1 KO
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 4 (Julio Gonzalez TKO10; Clinton Woods UD12; Glen Johnson UD12; Gabriel Campillo SD12)
Current Title: None
Previous Titles: Lineal/Ring World Middleweight (2001-05, 6 Defenses); IBF Middleweight (1995-2005, 20 Defenses); WBC Middleweight (2001-05, 7 Defenses); Ring/WBA Middleweight (2001-05, 6 Defenses); WBO Middleweight (2004-05, 1 Defense); Ring Light Heavyweight (2006-08, 1 Defense) ; Lineal/Ring/WBC World Light Heavyweight (2011-12, 1 Defense)
Weight: 174.4 lbs.
Average Weight - Five Most Recent Fights: 174.25 lbs.
Hails from: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Record: 52-6-2, 32 KO, 2 No Contests
Rankings: #1 (BoxingScene, TBRB, Ring, BoxRec); #2 (SecondsOut); #3 (ESPN)
Record in Major Title Fights: 23-5-2, 13 KO, 2 No Contests (including Ring Mag. Title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 17 (Roy Jones L12, UD12; Lupe Aquino UD12; John David Jackson TKO7; Glen Johnson TKO11; Simon Brown TKO6; Keith Holmes UD12; Felix Trinidad TKO12; Carl Daniels RTD10; William Joppy UD12; Oscar De La Hoya KO9; Jermain Taylor L12, L12; Antonio Tarver UD12; Winky Wright UD12; Joe Calzaghe L12; Kelly Pavlik UD12; Jean Pascal D12, UD12; Chad Dawson NC2, L12)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Cloud B; Hopkins B
Pre-Fight: Power – Cloud B+; Hopkins B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Cloud B-; Hopkins A
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Cloud B+; Hopkins A
Neither man is really fast of hand (Hopkins’ grade doesn’t reflect what would have been his better peak speed). Even a few years ago, the surgical Hopkins would likely have been able to batter someone whose game is unveiled in the straight lines Cloud employs.
Right now, it could work against him. Hopkins is an expert at frustrating the offense of others. Cloud is a physically strong character that continues to work over the course of rounds. His hands are heavy. His output is excellent. Cloud usually throws around 60 punches a round when he’s warmed up, mixing up a long right hand, short left hooks, body digs, and an underrated left jab.
Hopkins throws about half to 2/3 of what Cloud does. If he tries to be too precise, he risks thinking his way out of the fight on the cards. If he decides to maul, he’s testing his 48-year old legs against the strength of Cloud. Either way, it’s not his best option. He needs to find a way to bring Cloud’s offensive output down.
It’s a tough assignment. Campillo beat up Cloud another way. He made him miss and matched Cloud’s output, tagging him with a steady drumbeat of punches. Hopkins might have done something like that years ago but he hasn’t shown that sort of offensive commitment in a long time. Can he come up with it one last time?
Campillo has made Cloud a tad underrated coming into this fight, at least as much as his early career knockout numbers over less than stellar foes gave him an overrated look early on. Hopkins was rocked good in both fights with Pascal. Cloud can do the same and will keep coming all night.
One can never discount a ring genius like Hopkins, but based on the way he’s fought in recent years, it’s tough to see an easy path to victory this weekend.
It's hard to pick anyone to stop Hopkins, though it was almost the choice here. Against Pascal, Hopkins was rocked in both fights. Pascal is faster than Cloud; he's not as consistent or relentless. Cloud is too easily discounted for his struggles with Gabriel Campillo, but Campillo beat him up with voluminous offense as much as defense. Hopkins beats guys by making them slow their offense down. This fight could have some serious mauling, but Cloud's short punches and steady work rate will be too much for the judges to ignore.
Cloud is the choice on points.
Report Card Picks 2013: 5-4
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]