This week's version of our Boxing Notebook celebrates the fantastic career of boxing's ageless wonder, Bernard Hopkins. In classic Hopkins style, the Philadelphia defensive master will close his career Saturday night in a title bout at the Fabulous Forum that could be yet another instance in which he has taken a risk, shocked the experts, and defeated a significantly younger opponent. For more on Hopkins and the other news in the sweet science, check out our Boxing Notebook below:
Hopkins plans to go out with a bang Saturday night
Placing an exclamation point at the end of a decades-long career, former two-division world champion and future Hall of Famer Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins (55-7 2, 32 KOs) will take on current WBC International Light Heavyweight Champion Joe Smith, Jr. (22-1, 18 KOs) this Saturday, December 17 on HBO World Championship Boxing.
"The Executioner" sat down with Doug Fisher from Ring TV, and discussed some of the pivotal moments in his extensive career where Hopkins has defied the odds stacked against him and thrived on being the underdog.
Below are some highlights of the exclusive Q and A session, in which Hopkins gives an in-depth look into his boxing career.
DOUG FISHER: You're an all-time great - you dare to be great. You've been out of the ring for almost two years now, over 50 years old, at a place in your career where nobody would fault you if you wanted to make your last hoorah an easy one, yet you have decided to go up against Joe Smith, Jr. - someone who is ranked in the light heavy weight division, who has a powerful punch. A lot of people have asked you 'why get in the ring with someone 17 years younger than you?' Why?
BERNARD HOPKINS: "I dare to be great. This fight is no exception. Yes, I have had some time off, but not in the way I feel where I wouldn't be able to take him down. Because this is my last fight it has to be with a guy like Joe Smith Jr., who presents a very serious threat not only to my legacy, but also to my health. But I recognize that in order to get the sendoff that I want, I want to show people in boxing and around the world that age is not a factor. I just have that one thing to prove. This will be the Final 1."
FISHER: You have broken all types of records - even your own. Do you still need a guy that is perceived to be a threat to be motivated at this stage of your career?
HOPKINS: "I do - and that's why I need someone like Joe Smith, Jr. who is a prime candidate and a threat. I say legacy, and I say that based on my wins and losses. I know I have the strength within me to do a final one based on my legacy. My legacy is what moves me, what keeps me aware of anything that doesn't say 'W'. It keeps me aware of anything that takes away whatever percentage away from that legacy. I am a proud champion. I am a competitor. You must go in the ring with that mentality. One fight doesn't change 28 years of hard work or to being a future Hall of Famer or not being legendary.
This fight is different and the fans have to know this is not a salesmanship. I think I have gone on to sell a lot, and I think I have delivered more than I have sold. This is the last memory of Bernard Hopkins in the ring. Yes, we can talk about the past fights, about the past legacy, about the past belts, the unification, the attempt to unify the light heavy weight division. But they will remember the last chapter of the book the most. This book was good when it started off, it got greater in the middle, but the end - that's what stays in your mind when you go to sleep at night, and when you tell somebody about this book named Bernard Hopkins, "The Executioner" Hopkins, This is a real profound statement to the world, not only just boxing, that I am and will be recognized for always being different. There will be no more punches being thrown in the square ring."
FISHER: You received your nickname "The Alien" because of your age, its other-worldliness that is not human, but the nickname the executioner was given to you when you were in your prime run, when you were knocking guys out. Is that the mindset you are going in with this fight?
HOPKINS: "I haven't had a knock out since Oscar De La Hoya. I haven't had a knock out in almost ten to twelve years. Being on this drought, of TKO-ing or KO-ing my opponent, about to face this guy from Long Island, that to me is something to get my juices flowing, and it's a risk, I am running to fire, I am running to the challenge in and outside the ring."
FISHER: There aren't many elite boxers who are esteemed to be the underdogs in a fight. You were the 3-1 underdog for Felix Trinidad, 3-1 underdog for Antonio Tarver, 3-1 against Kelly Pavlik, 3-1 underdog against Jean Pascal, among many of your other fights. How does that affect you in this fight?
HOPKINS: "I was born into the underdog title. January 15, 1965, in an era that was not so nice to colored people, I was born to Shirley Hopkins. To be born on January 15 on King's day, in America and avoid somehow the trash can because I was black - I was born in the underdog time in America. I was born in the underdog, adolescence I was born into that trap and I fell into that trap. When the underdog comes out with only a jail house GED and the education that he has, with only the support I have and have had to come home to. That foundation has built this story. In the nine years that I had after I got out, that built the foundation as to where I am today. I came through this thing not having a chance through the statistics."
FISHER: When you got out of Graterford prison, did you make a promise to yourself that you were going to get yourself educated, get yourself ahead, regardless of being a professional boxer, successful or not? Did you believe you could become a world champion at that level?
HOPKINS: "Did I foresee this in my future? No I did not. My entire objective was to look that far into the distance, but to stay out of trouble. Knowing that I had to see the parole man twice a month, having to do my drug tests when years of temptations came every week was very hard. Back in the 80s and 90s, it was all about the fast money, it didn't matter if you were on the west coast or in the east coast. I came out of prison just wanting to fight, stay out of trouble, and in 1988 and lost to a forerunner. I wanted to get into the mix fast, so that I would not get distracted."
FISHER: After your first loss to Mitchell, you took a year off. You found Huey Fisher and a couple of odd jobs. How did that year off look for you?
HOPKINS: "I worked at the Penn Tower Hotel in the kitchen, and then I worked a roofing job. That year and some months were really crucial. From the years '88 to '89 to '90, all the guys that I grew up in my neighborhood were in the fast money - I could have taken that road. But I made the decision to dedicate that special time in the gym with Huey Fisher through Rob Merrick. The two of them formed a company called 'Arise in Boxing', and from that, and meeting Huey, and having some amateur experience in boxing jail - that was my biggest resume. When Huey first met me, his reaction was, 'Ooh, you're a little heavy.' And I wasn't heavy I was just six foot weighing in at 185. Fisher looked at me, and saw that I could make 160."
FISHER: Huey Fisher was done with boxing by the time you started training with him, he was fed up. How was your experience training with him?
HOPKINS: "It takes a man who doesn't want to do boxing to have that eye to see every little thing that you are doing wrong. When he looked at me and saw a light heavyweight, I didn't know 90 percent of the boxing intelligence I know now. Huey Fisher really saw it before anyone else did."
FISHER: What are your top three biggest moments in boxing?
HOPKINS: "In 2001 - the circumstances, the underdog, the flag went down, a lot of hype, two weeks after 9/11 - Felix Trinidad. That was a historic moment in a lot of ways. Next would be the De La Hoya fight. Right behind De La Hoya would be Pavlik which happened in between the Trinidad and De La Hoya fight and made them respect me even more. Pavlik and just defeated someone who had a better record than me, and when I got into the ring with him, that artwork on display - man! This fight, people were very open and vocal about what they thought was going to happen to me. He was the middleweight champ who was undefeated - I was the 3-1 underdog. I wanted to take on the challenge and shut him down. That's why you got to do with the young boxers."
FISHER: Was there any point last year, 2015, where you decided to give up the idea of singing the last song, where you finished your transition into becoming a full time broadcaster?
HOPKINS: "If I wouldn't have taken a fight the end of this year, or at the beginning of next year, the years would have just passed and I wouldn't have gotten back into the ring. My thing is, the fight happened, the fight is the way I wanted it, the way I wanted to go out. I deserve to go out like Kobe Bryant. This is taking a page out of respect of the book for athletes who put in the points for their teams. Whether there was a title or no title, this is the final one. Every round that goes by, that's important to my legacy that I go out the way that I want to be remembered. You write your own exit. Come December 17, that is exactly what I am doing, writing my own exit."
Terence Crawford finishes off overmatched John Molina
Rising star Terence Crawford ended 2016 as he began it -- undefeated. But that was the only thing that remained the same in another breakout year for one of boxing's top pound-for-pound stars. Crawford (30-0, 21 KOs), of Omaha, began the year making his debut at Madison Square Garden on February 27, where he stopped Top-10 contender Hank Lundy in the fifth round, successfully defending his WBO junior welterweight title for the second time in four months.
On July 23, It was off to the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas to headline his first pay-per-view. It was there that Crawford whipped the Freddie Roach-trained WBC super lightweight champion Viktor Postol in a title unification battle of undefeated world champions. Crawford sent Postol to the canvas twice en route to a lopsided unanimous decision. Besides unifying the titles, Crawford also won The Ring belt symbolizing his position as the division's lineal champion, adding his name to a list that includes Hall of Famers Nicolino Locche, Antonio Cervantes, Aaron Pryor, Kostya Tszyu, Ricky Hatton, Manny Pacquiao, and Danny Garcia.
Last Saturday at CenturyLink Center Omaha, against one-time world title challenger and No. 1 contender John Molina (29-7, 23 KOs), from Covina, California, Crawford put on a masterful performance, making Molina look like a plodding and clumsy amateur.
Molina stalked Crawford much of the night, throwing and missing his shots, while Crawford avoided all damage and peppered him in return.
Despite enjoying a nearly four-pound advantage after failing to make weight, Molina was blitzed by Crawford throughout the fight before it was stopped by the referee in the eighth round, effectively ending the year the same way he began it, with a knockout performance.
Erislandy Lara to fight Yuri Foreman on January 13
Super welterweight world champion Erislandy Lara (23-2-2, 13 KOs) will take on former world champion Yuri Foreman (34-2, 10 KOs) in a world title showdown that headlines Premier Boxing Champions on Spike on Friday, January 13, from Hialeah Park Racing and Casino in Miami.
"I'm very excited to be making my return to the ring in front of my Cuban fans in Miami on Spike on January 13," said Lara. "Yuri Foreman is a former world champion who is dedicated to this sport and will be looking to win another world title. I expect nothing but the best from him. On fight night, I'm making another statement and going for the knockout! After this fight, it's time to unify the division, then move up to win the middleweight titles."
The 33-year-old Lara has the ability to deliver punishment while taking very little of it in return. Lara has notched victories over Austin Trout, Alfredo Angulo, Ishe Smith, and Freddy Hernandez. As an amateur, Lara won numerous titles including a national championship at welterweight, and also participated in the 2007 Pan-Am games. Most recently, Lara outclassed top contender Vanes Martirosyan in May in a rematch of their controversial technical draw in 2012.
Lara, a slick southpaw, will be making his fifth defense of his title, but he will be challenged by an experienced Foreman, a former 154-pound champion in his own right, who has fully recovered from physical ailments that almost derailed his career.
An ordained rabbi, Foreman moved to Brooklyn from Belarus at a young age and found solace inside the legendary Gleason's Gym. Foreman was sensational in winning the first 27 fights of his career before he defeated Daniel Santos in November 2009 to capture a super welterweight world title. After losing to Miguel Cotto in 2010, Foreman won the last four fights of his career before retiring in 2013.
Since deciding to return to the ring late last year, Foreman has picked up victories over Lenwood Dozier by decision and Jason Davis by second-round stoppage.
"I'm thrilled to be fighting for the world title," said Foreman. "I'm really looking forward to showcasing my skills and talent and becoming a two-time world champion. At this stage of my career, it would be a tremendous accomplishment. Lara is very crafty and many elite fighters have had trouble dealing with his style, but I have studied him and am very confident that I will defeat him by presenting him with something he's never seen before."
Televised coverage begins at 9 p.m. ET with former super middleweight world champion Anthony Dirrell (29-1-1, 23 KOs) battling Hungary's Norbert Nemesapati (24-4, 17 KOs) in a 10-round bout.
Dirrell has seen more adversity than most throughout his career as his time in boxing has been seriously jeopardized twice, first in December 2006 when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and was sidelined for 20 months, and again in May 2012 when he broke his lower left leg and left wrist in a motorcycle accident.
The Flint, Michigan-native never let that hold him down as he kept winning fights and working his way up the professional ranks. In 2014 he won his first championship when he defeated defending champion Sakio Bika. His road back to a 168-pound title has seen him dominate former title challengers Marco Antonio Rubio last September, and Caleb Truax in April.
"You have to prove you're special, no matter how many titles you win. If you use that to stay in the game then you become special and an icon surpasses legend. Common man, special man. Which one do you want? Which one do you want? I want the special, you are that before you become that. If you want to work your way back down to common man, there's a lot of people down there. I'm not going to predict that I end his [Joe's] career. One day if he recovers mentally then he might have something to salvage and go forward. I'm a career stopper to most of my opponents that talk like him. Yes, I'm honored to be respected as Joe mentioned, too. I listen to words."
Joe Smith Jr., on Hopkins:
"He is a legend, but Saturday night he's just another opponent. I'm looking to stop him, be the first person to stop him in his entire career."
"[T]he sweet science has nothing to do with power. It's not like I can't hit; I'll beat you up."Promoter Bob Arum, on whether he would bet on his fighter Andy Ruiz:
"I don't put money on fights. I do give Andy a great chance to win this fight. I always tell people, the best way to lose money is to bet on a fight."Trainer Freddie Roach on his fighter Jesus Cuellar being trained previously by Robert Garcia:
“He does know my fighter well and I’ve tried to improve my fighter a lot and he said he never learned anything over there, but every day he learns in my gym. I just don’t think he’s the same guy that Robert is used to seeing and I think he’s improved a lot in a lot of different areas and I think he’ll show it in the fight.”Brian McIntyre, trainer of Terence Crawford, on Manny Pacquiao:
“We keep hearing about a future fight with Manny Pacquiao but there doesn’t seem to be much interest from his team, especially since Freddie Roach got a good look at Terence from Postal’s corner. What they need to do – Koncz, Roach and Manny -- is to hold hands and pray and ask for divine intervention directing them to a fight with Terence."
“Oscar was man enough to accept Manny’s challenge. It’s part of the cycle of life in boxing. Handing off the torch to the successor. Manny should be man enough to do the same thing. There is no excuse. Manny nd Freddie say Manny walks around at 140. Both are world champions. Both are Top-10 pound for pound fighters. It’s a natural. But it takes two to make a fight. Terence only lacks the opportunity to take over the spot that Manny and Floyd Mayweather used to hold as the pound for pound star of the sport."
“Manny is a great fighter but he is limited. Manny is a machine and to beat him you need to offset him. Once an envelope gets stuck in a sorter it jams. That’s what Terence will do to Manny. Offset him. Because once Manny is offset, he cannot adapt."
"I achieved my first goal of success in the first part of my life. That was rougher than boxing. If you know anything about Bernard Hopkins' history, if you go into details about the inner city Philadelphia guy, who was in the penitentiary from age 17 to 25, and survived, you'd realize I became champion a long time ago."Sullivan Barrera:
"I believe this fight is the most important fight of my career. This fight will demonstrate that I am among some of the top fighters out there. My fight with Andre Ward has built me, and has given me the maturity to step back and think clearly. I needed that loss to win this fight."UK boxer James DeGale:
“Growing up, Joe Calzaghe, and Prince Naseem Hamed, they're the ones I used to watch and I’d think, 'I can't wait to do that.’ Calzaghe's one of my favorite fighters. He's a bit similar to me. He's a southpaw, throws a lot of punches. He's another one who didn't get the full credit he was due until after he retired. But that's how boxing is."
Star Boxing Promotions signs Michael Farenas and Marc Pagcaliwangan
Filipino fighters Michael "Hammer Fist" Farenas (41-5-4, 33 KOs) and Marc "El Gwapo" Pagcaliwangan (9-0-1, 7 KOs) have signed promotional contracts with Joe DeGuardia's Star Boxing. Both fighters, who are managed by SMG and Platinum Timing (owned and operated by Germaine Gillies), are scheduled to make their Star Boxing debuts in early 2017.
A former world title contender, Farenas, who started his career as a bantamweight, will now be campaigning at lightweight. Trained by Marvin Somodio at Freddie Roach's Wild Card gym, the Philippine-born Farenas won his last two fights, but has not been in the ring since October of 2015.
"I'm very pleased to be fighting under the Star Boxing banner," said Michael Farenas. "I want to thank my co-mangers, Bill and Germaine, for believing in me. I know I have a lot of fight left in me and I know that I'm fighting at lightweight (135 lbs.). I'm a stronger fighter today and I'm looking forward to a new beginning with my new team in place."
Pagcaliwangan, who is of Philippine decent, but born in Ontario, Canada, will be campaigning at super-bantamweight. His last fight was in April of 2015, so he too will be looking to stay busy in the upcoming year.
"With all my fights, having been fought in Canada, I'm really looking forward to making my USA debut with Star Boxing," said Marc Pagcaliwangan. "I have a solid management team now so I know I'll have all the proper support to make my march toward a world title. I plan to relocate to Oxnard, CA, in the beginning of 2017 and start training with my new coach Robert Garcia. I can't wait to get back in the in the ring."
Golden Boy signs 2012 Olympian Marlen Esparza
Marlen Esparza of Houston, Texas, the 2012 Olympic Flyweight Bronze Medalist, has signed a multi-year deal with Golden Boy Promotions, company CEO Oscar De La Hoya announced.
Esparza, who was also won the amateur World Championship in 2012, is the first-ever female boxer to sign with Golden Boy.
"I recently told my fans that I was going pro, and I am happy to announce that it will be the world's best promotional company - Golden Boy Promotions," Esparza said. "I am excited to get back into the ring as soon as possible and start climbing the ladder towards winning a professional world title."
Beyond her incredible success as a boxer, Esparza has already crossed over into mainstream stardom. She has an endorsement deal with CoverGirl cosmetics and has appeared in Spanish-language television ads for Coca-Cola and McDonald's among others.
"Before she ever steps foot into the ring as a professional, Marlen Esparza has already established herself as a rising star," De La Hoya said. "At Golden Boy Promotions, we pride ourselves on developing fighters and transforming them into the best of the best. We look forward to doing the same with Marlen."
Lucian Bute to fight Eleider Alvarez on February 24
Former IBF super middleweight world champion Lucian Bute (32-3-1, 25 KOs) will face WBC Silver light heavyweight champion Eleider Alvarez (20-0, 10 KOs), Friday, February 24, in a 12-round light heavyweight bout at Vidéotron Centre of Québec City.
Alvarez will put his WBC mandatory challenger position to champion Adonis "Superman" Stevenson (28-1, 23 KOs) in danger with an end of April date for this world title fight having already been reserved.
Bute has also set his goal to challenge Stevenson. The veteran southpaw plans to clearly demonstrate that he deserves another world title shot, taking on the No. 1 conternder in undefeated Alvarez.
"The last six months have been tough for me," Bute explained. "After the Washington situation was settled, I was happy to finally sit down and discuss my next fight. I accepted as soon as I was offered the fight. We're talking about an undefeated guy ranked number 1 by the WBC. It's quite a challenge. I tip my hat to Alvarez for putting his position in peril."
Joseph Diaz to face Horacio Garcia
December 17th, Joseph "Jojo" Diaz, Jr. (22-0, 13 KOs) will look to defend his NABF Featherweight Championship for the fourth time this year, as the former 2012 U.S. Olympian steps into the ring for a 10-round slugfest against Horacio "Violento" Garcia (30-1-1, 22 KOs) as the co-main event of Bernard Hopkins's final fight at the "Fabulous" Forum in Inglewood, California.
Below is what "Jojo" had to say:
Q: How big is it for you to be co-main event on the final fight of Future Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins?
JD: "It's huge, it's a dream come true and a blessing. When I was little, I would watch Bernard Hopkins fight and I really admire his story of fighting in prison and becoming a professional fighter from there and later a world champion. Just knowing I'm the co-main event on such a big card with the legend of Bernard Hopkins-a future Hall of Famer, will not be something I will take for granted and I will showcase to the world who Joseph Diaz, Jr. is. While this is the end of an era for Bernard Hopkins, it is the beginning of my career also."
Q: Describe yourself as a fighter.
JD: "I feel I am an elite fighter and I can do anything because I am an all-around fighter and can adjust to any opponent. If an opponent wants to box me, then I will be able to cut him off and be the aggressor. If the opponent wants to be the aggressor, I am able to create my angles and box a little bit. I feel that overall, I am the full package and because I can move around and create my angles or bang on the inside. I have the speed and power, but I know I'm not the best fighter and still have room for improvement. That's why I'm in the gym 24/7 to perfect my craft."
Q: How special is it to have your father as your trainer and experience the success together?
JD: "It's very special and it's very touching, because ever since I was a little kid, my dad has been my best friend. We used to play baseball together and he would be my coach trying to be make sure I was the best baseball player I could be. Even though my dad would work over twelve hours a day, he would come home every day and be very energetic with me. He would always want to be there for me, and I really appreciate that. If it weren't for my dad, I wouldn't be where I am today. He has kept me off the streets, away from bad influences and on the right track doing my homework and at the gym. He has made me a caring family man, and I really appreciate him for that. It's very touching and a blessing having my dad as my trainer because he sacrifices more than people could imagine. I want to take the time to thank him and let him know we are in this for the long haul."
Randy Caballero signs with Golden Boy
Former world champion Randy "El Matador" Caballero (23-0, 14 KOs) has re-signed a multi-year promotional contract with Golden Boy Promotions, the company announced. Caballero, who is 26 years old and from the Coachella Valley, is a former IBF Bantamweight World Champion who started his career with Golden Boy Promotions in 2010. He is currently ranked 11th in the super bantamweight division by the WBC.
"I'm very excited to be back with a great company like Golden Boy Promotions," said Caballero. "We made a great team in the past by winning a World Title, and I'm sure we will have a great future together. I will soon become a Two Time World Champion! Thank you to the Golden Boy team."
Usyk versus Mchunu Scouting Report
On Saturday, undefeated WBO Cruiserweight World Champion Oleksandr Usyk (10-0, 9 KOs) will make his first defense against Thabiso "The Rock" Mchunu (17-2, 11 KOs) at the Forum in Inglewood. This exciting match-up will open the HBO World Championship Boxing telecast beginning at 10:00 p.m. ET, headlined by Bernard Hopkins versus Joe Smith Jr.
Below is the scouting report for this bout:
By Staff of TheDailySportsHerald.com and news services