Hopkins vs. Murat: An Empty Victory
By Jay McIntyre: For Bernard Hopkins, Saturday was an unnecessary fight with an unnecessary lack of sportsmanship. He was expected to win, and many people felt that Karo Murat would be merely a ‘speed bump’ as Hopkins pressed onward through his career. A perfunctory turn out from Hopkins should have been sufficient to win a lopsided, though uneventful decision. Indeed, that would have been preferable to what was witnessed last night.
The sad reality, is that while Hopkins is a great boxer, oftentimes this expertise is overshadowed by his willingness to engage in unsportsmanlike behavior. In my previous article “My Two Cents: Hopkins vs Murat”, I expected that Hopkins would use the clinch, his footwork and his cleverly timed straights to outperform and outpoint Murat. While all of these things happened, and he ended up winning a decision, there were other dubious (though not unsurprising) tactics he employed to help edge out the win.
For his own part, Karo Murat performed with a vitality and pressure that I have not seen before. He punched with greater volume, abandoned the wooden, upright guard that he has employed in the past and pressured Hopkins with a greater superiority than anyone (including Hopkins) could have expected. It is quite probable that Hopkins resorted to his old bag of dirty tricks in an effort to try and unbalance the mindset of Murat who fought with great success early on.
The truth is that had Hopkins tried to fight a clean fight (unlikely, I know), he would have taken more damage and potentially lost what could have been a hotly contested battle. Murat was getting the fight he wanted in the first several rounds and Hopkins was unable to control the fight at his pace. Paying close attention to the fight one would notice that the tide was slowly turned in Hopkins’ favor as he began to toss out one unsavory trick after another. This began the second round with a kidney punch when Murat tried to walk away from the clinch. In the fifth round, Hopkins kissed the back of Murat’s head several times as Murat tried to walk away from yet another clinch. By the end of the fifth Murat looked both discouraged and at loss as to what to do when walking back to his corner.
The referee seemed content to allow Hopkins to deface the sanctity of the sport and there was nothing Murat could do about it. In the sixth, Hopkins led with his skull (which was not the first time in this fight) and entered into the clinch whereby he was tossed to the ground and Murat fired several shots to his downed adversary. The referee was largely dormant and yet, ironically on this occasion he warned Murat for hitting a downed opponent. It is worth noting that later on Murat was docked a point for hitting off the break, meanwhile, not once was Hopkins called for any of his indiscretions throughout the fight.
What should have been just another boxing fight ended up as a sordid affair where the more well established fighter insulted the sport which he has been a part of for most of his life. I can see why Hopkins is willing to fight in the lower weight classes. His last knockout was against a much smaller fighter (Oscar De La Hoya) in 2004, and he will be able to bully and clinch the smaller fighters with great effect. The bigger money fights are also in the lower weight classes where his business partner Oscar De La Hoya has a reasonable stable of talent. If not, Top Rank and HBO have some great talent as well.
At the end of the day, Bernard Hopkins is still a great boxer, but he is also a boxer that demeans himself every time he resorts to the gimmicks of the shameless. Indeed if fighting honestly is something he cannot adopt then perhaps you can’t teach an old dog new tricks after all. Pursuant to that, if this is how he intends to continue to win fights, maybe he should consider retirement rather than being the curmudgeonly old trickster that is known as a law breaker in the ring. He may have won the decision, but he lost the respect of many boxing fans through his particular methods.