Sunday, May 24, 2015

Hopkins wins, but takes his lumps

Bernard Hopkins sticks his tongue out at Roy Jones Jr. in the 10th round of their light-heavyweight bout in Las Vegas on Saturday.
Bernard Hopkins sticks his tongue out at Roy Jones Jr. in the 10th round of their light-heavyweight bout in Las Vegas on Saturday. SAM MORRIS / Las Vegas Sun
Bernard Hopkins sticks his tongue out at Roy Jones Jr. in the 10th round of their light-heavyweight bout in Las Vegas on Saturday. Gallery: Hopkins wins, but takes his lumps
LAS VEGAS - Though he had thrashed Roy Jones Jr. in a lopsided unanimous decision, Bernard Hopkins looked like a beaten man.

The weathered champion from Philadelphia felt like one, too, after taking two shots behind the head and another below the belt. Sure, he had earned a bit of ice-cold revenge on his biggest remaining rival in boxing, but at what cost?

"I started seeing spots," said Hopkins, who made a record 20 middleweight title defenses before becoming every larger-weight fighter's nightmare matchup well into his 40s. "My head is killing me still."

The final rounds Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center had an air of finality about them, culminating in the sight of two longtime greats punching themselves into exhaustion.

Hopkins' business partner, Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schafer, is among those who hope the fight will persuade the 45-year-old fighter to consider hanging up his gloves - and the bout's brutal result might send Jones into retirement as well. Although Hopkins still has the savvy to survive against nearly any opponent despite his diminished power, the 41-year-old Jones appeared to have little left except a propensity for punching Hopkins behind the head and below the belt.

Hopkins appeared to get little enjoyment out of avenging his 1993 loss to Jones - and he subsequently collapsed in his dressing room, finally overwhelmed by Jones' questionable blows and the nearly quarter-century spent in a brutal sport.

Nobody really took much joy from this long-overdue bout near the end of two impressive careers - certainly not the frustrated Jones, who got another confirmation of his skills' departure, and not even many of the the crowd of just 6,792 in the half-full arena, who booed sporadically and got excited only by various dirty blows.

A few years ago, the matchup would have been a heavily anticipated meeting. In 2010, everyone was simply grateful Hopkins didn't seriously hurt Jones - and that Hopkins apparently was fine after a precautionary trip to the hospital.

Boxers are infamous for not knowing when to retire, and these two champions are threatening to test the patience of friends, families and fans who worry they won't realize it's time to go.

Although Hopkins has never been seriously outclassed in a fight, he hasn't knocked out an opponent since 2004.

Most observers agree Jones has been in precipitous decline since his mid-30s, and the loss was the sixth in 11 fights for the former pound-for-pound champion. Hopkins didn't have the punching power to seriously hurt Jones, who was stopped in the first round of his previous bout, but Jones might not be so lucky against a harder-hitting foe.

"I'll go home, talk to my team, and if we decide to call it a day, we call it a day," Jones said, refusing to apologize for his tactics in a fight filled with veteran wiliness.

If the bout was these veterans' final fight, at least it contained some entertainment value - even if it was mostly derived from Jones' questionable tactics. A shot behind Hopkins' head during a clinch in the sixth round sent Hopkins, who has been legitimately knocked down in just one fight in his career, to his knees for nearly 3 minutes.

Hopkins eventually shook it off and finished the final 10 seconds of the round with the fight's most impressive work, punishing Jones on the ropes in a flurry that kept going well after the bell.

"I was just really mad," Hopkins said. "I have a lot of respect for Roy, but he was trying the whole night to get me to retaliate with some of those punches he was throwing."

The late hits and the ensuing scuffle involved security guards and resulted in Jones' son apparently jumping into the ring and then getting thrown out of the building.

Associated Press
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