The operator of sprawling ranch, Ryan likened it to roping a baby calf.
The closest Philadelphia fighter Bernard Hopkins has likely been to cattle are the slaughterhouses made famous by that city’s most famous fictional fighter, but the analogy was somehow appropriate in his utter domination of Kelly Pavlik, on Saturday in Atlantic city.
The 43-year-old out-boxed, outfoxed, pounded, staggered and cut Pavlik, 26, en route to an easy decision. He closed the show in grand fashion, outfighting the younger man on the inside in the 12th while making time for windmill and bolo punches for an extra dose of showmanship.
Hopkins wasn’t done when the bell rang. He advised Pavlik to make the most of his abilities and gave tips on what he needed to improve.
In the post-fight interview with HBO’s Larry Merchant, Hopkins gave shout-outs Barack Obama and his hometown Phillies, both of whom he asserted would win the major tests confronting them in the coming weeks.
Hopkins won by scores of 119-106, 117-109, and 118-108. The last two cards were charitable to Pavlik.
In the weeks leading up to the fight, there were lists compiled in the boxing community about the best performance by a boxer over the age of 40.
Some offered Archie Moore coming back from three knockdowns in the first round in a legendary fight against Yvon Durelle of Baie-Ste-Anne, N.B., at the Montreal Forum in 1958. Another pick was George Foreman’s one-punch eraser against Michael Moorer in 1994, some 20 years after he famously lost the heavyweight belt in Zaire against Ali.
Hopkins himself was cited for rebounding from two subpar efforts against Jermain Taylor by easily dethroning light heavyweight champ Antonio Tarver in 2006.
Hopkins on Saturday trumped them all. He was never remotely bothered and fought an active pace for most of the 12 rounds, which he didn’t really have to do against the lethargic Tarver.
Tim Smith, boxing writer from the New York Daily News who has covered a number of sports in his career, took it a step further.
“[The] crowd of 11,332 … had witnessed one of the most masterful performances ever from an athlete over 40 years old,” wrote Smith.
It was clear that Hopkins would have to be about 53 before a North-South fighter who doesn't move his head like Pavlik defeats him.
That being said, Pavlik’s power and will are such that he will probably beat over 90 per cent of the men he faces, unless the one-sided loss gnaws away at him.
Hopkins admitted afterwards that he likes the element of danger and being counted out, both factors in effect to varying degrees against Pavlik, Tarver and Felix Trinidad. The proof is in the pudding – they are probably his best three performances in a career full of impressive fights.
Talented but non-threatening Joe Calzaghe of Wales, whom Hopkins dropped en route to losing a narrow decision in April, just didn’t get the American’s juices flowing that way.
It was an ignoble defeat for the confident Pavlik. About the only thing that could be said in his defence is that his best victories have come at 160 pounds, two weight classes lower than the limit for the Hopkins bout.
He succinctly described himself as being made to look like a “sub-novice fighter.”
Not much can be said in defence of Pavlik’s trainer Jack Loew and some unnamed punk from his entourage, however, as they classlessly hurled epithets at Hopkins after the final bell rang. It was an ugly moment in an otherwise sterling hour.
Hopkins has a way of getting under people’s skin, though. After learning how to box in prison, he lost his pro debut in the late 1980s and spent another several years dealing with what Larry Holmes described as “boxing politics.”
Those experiences have produced a massive chip on his shoulder and made him insufferable at times, and on an aesthetic level, his ring craftiness has led to a few real stinkers. But every few years, still, he produces a gem.
So it seemed a bit absurd that on the same night more young men were undoubtedly watching the more popular MMA, featuring a fighter whose popularity arose from a reality show. Sorry guys, but you can’t get any more “real” than Bernard Hopkins.
They often call boxing an old man’s sport, and on Saturday night that was a good thing.
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