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Hopkins: “I am That modern-day George Foreman”

By “Big” Nate Anderson: Comparing himself to former two-time heavyweight champion George Foreman, who recaptured the heavyweight title late in his career at the ripe old age of 45, light heavyweight Bernard Hopkins (48-4, 32 KOs) had this to say in yesterday’s press conference to promote his April 19th bout against undefeated super middleweight Joe Calzaghe (44-0, 32 KOs):

“I feel truthfully that with the little mileage I have on my body at 43 and having not been beaten up in my 52-fight career, I can fight until I’m 45 if I choose to do that. Here I am, two years from being 45. At this late stage in the game, Bernard Hopkins is still in the position to market himself. I am that modern-day George Foreman.”

What Hopkins fails to see, however, is that Foreman was a totally different type of fighter than he is. Foreman, while old at 45, still had much of his crushing power of his youth. Obviously he wasn’t as powerful or as active as in his youth, but he still had enough overall strength to stop Michael Moorer, a fighter that had moved up from light heavyweight to the heavyweight division. By taking on Foreman, even an older version, Moorer was facing easily the hardest puncher in his career with no preparation ahead of time. Foreman made it even harder on him because he mixed the power of his shots, almost like a baseball pitcher throwing off speed pitches.

Foreman varied the power in his shots until late in the fight when he suddenly revealed his total strength, and when he did that, Moorer wasn’t ready to take those kind of shots. In contrast, Hopkins has never been a knockout a puncher. Though he does have good power, he’s not the type of fighter that can blast out his opponents like Foreman did. Instead, Hopkins relies more on working good on the inside, landing flurries and then clinching his opponents to keep them from firing back with their own shots. In addition, he picks off punches well with his guard and isn’t easy to hit cleanly because of it.

He’s a mixture of John Ruiz and Ricky Hatton, in that he lands and holds a lot like Ruiz formerly used to do, while at the same time he’s quite good at inside fighting. On the inside, Hopkins tends to maul his opponents like Hatton, wrestling with them, landing uppercuts and hooks to the head, and keeping them from landing their own shots with regularity. He tends to crowd his opponents, especially if they’re good at fighting at a distance, and then winning hard fought battles on the inside. It’s a style that is completely different than Foreman’s, yet it’s been very effective for Hopkins during the course of his career.

That said, it’s hard to imagine Hopkins being able to use that fighting style to defeat a fighter with both the skills and speed of Calzaghe. It’s plausible that Hopkins can get away with crowding Calzaghe, a move to take away his fast hands. But, I forsee Calzaghe having learned from his fight with Sakio Bika, who used a similar smothering attack against Calzaghe and gave him a lot of problems. Many of the difficulties were of Calzaghe’s own doing, though, for he seemed to want to try and slug it out with Bika in order to impress the fans at ringside.

Instead of staying on the outside, Calzaghe let Bika crowd him on the inside and took a lot of unnecessary punishment because of it. Finally, at the urging of his father, Enzo, Calzaghe turned the fight around and started boxing from the outside in the later stages of the fight. This was a hard lesson for Calzaghe, to be sure, but it also gave him a look at what Hopkins will likely be trying to do against him in their bout.

As for Hopkins’ comparison’s to Foreman, I think he’s way off the mark. Foreman was an exceptional case of someone with extraordinary power, someone that was the Tyson of the 70s, and who was able to retain a certain amount of that power even into his mid-40s. It shows you what kind of power Foreman had in his youth. Unfortunately, Hopkins has never been that kind of fighter, and has won his fights in an entirely different way.

That’s not to say that Hopkins can’t win a title at 45, because if you take Calzaghe out of the equation, Hopkins would still appear good enough to beat some of the light heavyweights, perhaps all of them. None of them, aside from Chad Dawson, have the kind of recognition that Hopkins might be looking for, however. This would be than Hopkins would be forced to take a very risky fight against the young Dawson, or another fighter from a different weight class such as super middleweight.

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