Hopkins-Smith Jr. and Usyk-Mchunu – Official weights
By Dan Ambrose: Bernard Hopkins (55-7-2, 32 KOs) weighed in successfully at 174 pounds for his fight against WBC International light heavyweight champion Joe Smith Jr. (22-1, 18 KOs) for their fight on HBO Boxing this Saturday night at the Forum in Inglewood, California. Smith Jr. weighed in at 175lbs.
Hopkins, 51, did a lot of talking to the 27-year-old Smith Jr. during the face off after the weigh-in. It looked like Hopkins was trying to get into the head of the Long Island fighter to unnerve him and gain an edge for the fight.
Hopkins seemed satisfied when Smith Jr. turned away to end the stare down. Smith Jr. has not seemed nearly as aggressive as Hopkins during the press conferences. Smith Jr. is not that type of guy to do a lot of trash talking or to use intimidation. If Hopkins wants an opponent that would create more fire and interest from the boxing public, he picked the wrong guy.
Hopkins’ selection of Smith Jr. is likely more about him seeing weakness that he can potentially exploit in this fight. It makes Hopkins look good if he can beat Smith Jr., as the World Boxing Council has him ranked at #2 in their top 15 rankings. However, Smith Jr. was seen as just an opponent for his last fight against Andrzej Fonfara last June.
Smith Jr. wasn’t highly ranked, and he was just seen as a guy that had an inflated ranking and would be a good win for Fonfara. Smith Jr. surprised Fonfara by knocking him out in the 1st round after the Polish fighter got careless with him and was badly hurt. Smith Jr. is still an average fighter in the eyes of a lot of boxing fans. His high ranking with the WBC has got him the Hopkins fight.
Smith Jr. is someone that should be ranked much lower than #2 in my eyes. Smith Jr. does not as talented as many of the fighters that are ranked below him like Artur Beterbiev, Oleksandr Gvozdyk, Vyacheslav Shabranskyy, Juergen Braehmer, Yunieski Gonzalez, Marcus Browne, Erik Skoglund, Thomas Williams Jr., Jean Pascal, Isaac Chilemba and Sean Monaghan.
Many of those fighters if not all of them would likely beat Smith Jr. It doesn’t matter though. Hopkins will be able to brag if he beats Smith Jr. on Saturday night by telling the boxing fans on HBO that he beat a highly ranked guy rather than him being a fighter that really should be rated a lot lower than he is.
Even with the careful selection of Smith Jr. rather than a better fighter, Hopkins could still lose the fight on Saturday. Hopkins is 51 now, and he hasn’t fought in over two years since his loss to Sergey Kovalev in 2014. That’s a long time to be outside of the ring. More importantly, Hopkins incredibly old to be fighting anyone, even a guy with a ranking that is inflated like Smith Jr. Hopkins is about to turn 52 in January. When you get that old and you’ve been out of the ring for as long as Hopkins has, anything is possible. Hopkins might think he’s still got it based on his recent training camp, but he might be deceiving himself. Hopkins looked badly faded in his loss to Sergey Kovalev two years ago. Hopkins looked old in his loss to Chad Dawson in 2012. He also looked bad in the first Dawson fight in 2011, which resulted in a no contest after Dawson dumped Hopkins onto the canvas in the 2nd round. Hopkins injured his shoulder and couldn’t continue fighting.
Hopkins is supposed to be retiring after the Smith Jr. fight. However, there are some boxing fans who think that Hopkins could change his mind about retiring if he schools Smith Jr. badly and beats him as easily as he did Kelly Pavlik in 2008. A win over Smith Jr. might make Hopkins think he can beat one of the light heavyweight champions. It would be a bad idea for Hopkins to go beyond Saturday’s fight to try and compete against one of the champions at 175, because he clearly isn’t in the same league as the current champions Andre Ward and Adonis Stevenson.
Hopkins would have problems with those guys, and it would bad news for him to have his career end in a loss, especially a bad one. If Hopkins were to target WBA ‘regular’ light heavyweight champion Nathan Cleverly to fight him for his title, he would be seen by a lot of boxing fans as cherry picking the weakest of the 175lb champions to win a title. Hopkins is pretty much cherry picking by fighting Smith Jr. instead of one of the better contenders in the division.
For the co-feature weights, WBO cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk (10-0, 9 KOs) weighed in at 199.5lbs for his first title defense against #9 WBC, #12 WBO, #14 IBF Thabiso Mchunu (17-2, 11 KOs). This fight might wind up being the best fight on the entire card, because it involves two very good fighters. The 2012 Olympic gold medalist Usyk is in his prime, as is the 28-year-old Mchunu.
The boxing fans are going to see a very good fight with Usyk having to solve the riddle or Mchunu, who has fast hands and is hard to hit. No one has ever dominated Mchunu from start to finish before despite him having been beaten on two occasions by Ilunga Makabu and Zack Mwekessa. Both of those losses for Mchunu were knockout defeats.
The official weights for Saturday’s card:
Bernard Hopkins 174 vs. Joe Smith Jr 175
Jo Jo Diaz 126 vs. Horacio Garcia 125.8
Oleksandr Usyk 199.5 vs. Thabiso Mchunu 198.6