By Keith Idec
ATLANTIC CITY — Bernard Hopkins wasn’t just the more aggressive, entertaining fighter in the ring Saturday night.
The ageless legend, notorious for bending boxing’s rules, was the cleaner fighter, too. The 48-year-old Hopkins refrained from complaining about Karo Murat’s audaciously dirty tactics during their 12-round fight for Hopkins’ IBF light heavyweight title at Boardwalk Hall, but Hopkins’ trainer condemned Murat’s approach and asked officials to better protect Hopkins from blatant rules violations in future fights following Hopkins’ unanimous-decision win.
“I was a little taken aback by some of the tactics [Murat] applied,” Naazim Richardson said. “And I’ll say this again. I know y’all are probably tired of hearing this, and I don’t care how people take this. I’m not whining. I’m not crying. My athlete can fight accordingly.
“But I’m really getting tired of the fact people feel they can come in and do what they want to my athlete because people said he’s a dirty fighter. Nobody produced any disqualifications. You’ve never seen any points taken from this man. But people just put out there that he’s a dirty fighter, so everybody [who] comes to the table feels like they can do whatever they want to him and it’s OK. He’s supposed to just take it because he’s a tough guy.”
Veteran referee Steve Smoger deducted a point from Germany’s Murat (25-2-1, 15 KOs) in the seventh round, after Murat hit Hopkins as Smoger attempted to separate them from a clinch.
Following the point deduction, Smoger told Murat, “You’re on the edge of getting thrown out of here. That’s enough of your shi-.”
In the sixth round, Murat hit Hopkins twice when Hopkins (54-6-2, 32 KOs, 2 NC) was on the canvas after Murat clumsily tackled him into the ropes. An unintimidated Murat also threw numerous rabbit punches during the fight, hit Hopkins after the bell to end the fifth and 11th rounds and tried to hit Hopkins again after the bell that halted the 10th round. Murat also put Hopkins in headlocks and front fackelocks several times, hit Hopkins very low in the 12th round and intentionally tried to head-butt Hopkins as the bell rang to end the fight.
“There’s rules in place for this,” Richardson continued. “But like I said, my guy deserves to be protected like every other athlete deserves to be protected. I thought Smoger did the job he could do, dealing with a guy like that. Smoger’s a vet, so he’s able to handle it. And like I say, my guy’s going to bite down on his mouthpiece and going to fight back. But Murat showed up with some tactics that really weren’t necessary.”
Hopkins, perhaps realizing how hypocritical it’d sound if he complained about an opponent’s dirty tactics, dismissed Murat’s repeated rules violations as part of boxing. He also made sure in the ring to never indicate that Murat’s tactics bothered him.
“I wasn’t going to give my opponent the satisfaction to see that, even if he was doing something that he knows he was not supposed to do,” said Hopkins, who became the oldest fighter in boxing history to successfully defend a recognized world title. “And like I said, [there’s] fighting and then [there’s] boxing. Things happen, so I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction and [let him] get some more energy mentally and be able to think he’s getting to me or I’m complaining. So I never said nothing to him.
“But I knew I was just going to continue to tag him and continue to do something. That’s Naazim’s job, to say something to the referee or say something at the press conference, as he’s saying now. But, you know, to me, I know that it’s going to be what it’s going to be sometimes. Things happen. And my whole thing is I’m going to win the fight.”
Hopkins didn’t criticize Murat when he was asked specifically about Murat throwing two punches at him when he was on the seat of his trunks, either.
“There are rules, but when you’re in that ring and you’re fighting, it’s a fight, man,” Hopkins said. “And sometimes guys’ energy, I don’t think he done it on purpose. … He looked at some tapes and he figured if he roughed me up or whatever the case might be, that he would get an advantage somehow. But, I mean, it didn’t bother me. Steve Smoger, I think, well, I know he did a great job. Certain things he seen. Certain things he didn’t see. But that’s the name of the game. You’re only wrong when you get caught. This is boxing.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.