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Azad Championship Report - Satchel Paige Would Be Proud

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Legendary hurler Satchel Paige, who Bernard Hopkins has referenced more than once as a role model, would be proud of “The Executioner.” Once again, Hopkins riddled a (much) younger foe in the prime of his athletic life on Saturday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, taming Tavoris Cloud over 12 rounds to capture the IBF light heavyweight crown. Yeah, Hopkins isn’t looking back because something could be gaining on him.
 
But it hasn’t caught him yet.
 
No, Hopkins isn’t the most spectacular or exciting fighter in the world. He’s not the kind of fighter who will necessarily entertain you while you are watching him but he is the kind you appreciate and marvel at in hindsight for his achievements. Remember the big deal about Jack Nicklaus winning the Masters – his sixth - at age 46? Well, this guy’s coming up victorious in world-class prizefights at age 48. Yeah, I guess playing the course at Augusta National is fairly tough but it sure beats having guys throw punches in your direction.

Hopkins is the man who simply won’t go away. He’s burned more bridges than General Sherman going through Atlanta yet here he is in the year 2013 (more than a decade after he “arrived” as a marquee name by dominating Felix Trinidad in 2001) and he’s become a bit of a folk hero. Yes, the angry man from Philly, who believed the system was rigged against him for so long, is now part of the establishment and is someone who - if not necessarily liked - is universally respected for his ring acumen. Even his enemies - and trust me; this is a long list - grudgingly laud him. They simply have no other choice.
 
Every young fighter should heed his example. There is being disciplined and then there is being Hopkins - who hasn’t a taste of alcohol since before his stint at Graterford Penitentiary. No boxer has taken his craft as seriously as he has this past generation. And his success is based on basic fundamentals (from tucking in his chin to the proper angling of his shoulders to economical and deft footwork) and living the life of a modern-day gladiator, 24/7/365. It’s why he has outlasted the likes of Roy Jones and James Toney, who, for many years, overshadowed him. But these two future Hall-of-Famers, for as good as they were, simply didn’t have his dedication and discipline to the craft. They may have had more pure natural talent, perhaps, but nobody has gotten more out his God-given tools than “X.”
 
Yeah, maybe success and economic security have softened or mellowed Hopkins a little bit. But make no mistake about it; there’s still a hard edge to this man.
 
By every rationale, Cloud, who is 17 years younger than Hopkins, should have won this fight. Instead, like many other Hopkins opponents, he got sucked into his pace and tempo. Hopkins is the Venus flytrap of boxing. While foes like Cloud come into these contests believing they can simply outwork and outhustle Hopkins, early on they are neutralized, nullified and then smothered. Soon after, they are slowly discouraged. It happened to the hard-punching Tallahassee native, who, for some inconceivable reason, never tried to step on the gas pedal, allowing Hopkins to fight in spurts and methodically win rounds at an economical pace. Cloud needed to play checkers because you don’t play chess with boxing’s Bobby Fischer.
 
It says here that nobody has played ball control and manipulated the clock this well since the 1990 New York Giants.
 
No, Hopkins is not unbeatable (don’t forget; he was coming off a clear loss to Chad Dawson last April) but if you’re not a multi-dimensional boxer with a high ring I.Q. who can move a little bit, you will be systematically dismantled by the old man. But as he showed against Joe Calzaghe (way back when he was so young at 43) and Dawson, it takes elite fighters to topple him.
 
There is talk of Hopkins being perhaps the greatest “old” boxer of all-time. That might be stretching it given that a guy like Archie Moore was much more active in his 40s. Back in those days, there was basically one world champion. There was no cherry-picking to be had for Moore. And as Cliff “Notes” Rold (@RoldBoxing), a noted historian of the sport, tweeted at me on Sunday morning regarding the “Ol’ Mongoose,” “Still bad ass enough to draw w/ [Willie] Pastrano in 62. Ended career w/ KO of the father of Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase.” Moore was 46 at the time.
 
Hopkins has made it clear he will fight on. You get the feeling he will fight till the age of 50 - and beyond. “Cloud is a gutsy young champion,” said Hopkins after his conquest of Cloud. “I told him I would only be around for four or five more years and he will definitely be a champion again. But I’ve got a history. I’ve got a history of destroying young champions and you never see them again!”
 
That remains to be seen but we know Hopkins, like his one of his idols, Paige, will keep on pitching.

“Age is a case of mind over matter,” Paige once said. “If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.”
 
THE HANGAR
 
It was a very good show put on by Goossen Tutor from top to bottom at the OC Hangar. The featured attraction was supposed to be the heavyweight contest between Chris Arreola and Bermane Stiverne before that fight was postponed. But what took place on Saturday night was really entertaining.
 
Juan Funez made a successful pro debut and went a tough four rounds versus Jose Garcia. It’s probably the best four-rounder I’ve seen in quite awhile. Honestly, maiden voyages in this sport aren’t really supposed to be this arduous. Later on, Argenis Mendez looked absolutely scintillating in capturing the IBF 130-pound title by halting Juan Carlos Salgado in four. He started fast by decking Salgado with a chopping overhand right in the first and then finished him with a laser-like left hook in the fourth inning. Years ago, Mendez was considered a can’t-miss prospect but was largely an underachiever as a pro. But on this night, he looked like an elite fighter. Word is he won’t be holding this belt for long as he will be moving up to lightweight.
 
Then in the fight of the night, Javier Molina banged away with Joseph Elegele and came away with the hard-fought, eight-round verdict. Both young men let the leather fly and this contest featured some heated back-and-forth action as they went chest-to-chest for much of the fight. This was a big win for Molina, who fought with a certain intensity and fire not seen before.
 
BRONER
 
Well, it was announced on both coasts (by Adrien Broner, who was at the Hangar) and Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer after the card at the Barclays Center that on June 22nd, Broner will be bypassing the whole 140-pound scrum and moving up to face WBA welterweight beltholder Paulie Malignaggi.
 
Yeah, the way he jumped the loaded junior welterweight division now makes him Bob Beamon - because that makes that historic jump in Mexico City look like a game of hopscotch.
 
FINAL FLURRIES
 
I thought the most recent edition of “The Fight Game with Jim Lampley” was its best yet. It dealt with a sensitive topic (Floyd Mayweather’s defection to Showtime) and wasn’t afraid to talk about it at length. If it wants to be taken seriously as a show, it has to speak on these kinds of issues that may not be comfortable for the network...And c’mon, Showtime; give Lampley’s show a few clips! Honestly, that’s shortsighted and you’re only hurting guys like Leo Santa Cruz, who need all the exposure they can get...I’m not as high on Keith Thurman as others but his balance looked much improved this weekend versus Jan Zaveck...If Hugo Centeno can develop some strength in his legs and start to punch downhill, he can go places...It looks like Leo Santa Cruz will be facing veteran Rafael Marquez on the May 4th pay-per-view undercard...Another great Paige quote: “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?”...I hope nobody ever forgets the guy who first trained and really taught Hopkins how to box - Bouie Fisher...Kobe Bryant is playing the best basketball since his MVP campaign...A fond farewell to Big East basketball. In the ‘80s, there was nothing better. From “Hoya Paranoia,” Rollie Massimino, Louie Carnesecca’s lucky sweater, Chris Mullin, Walter Berry, Pearl Washington and, of course, Patrick Ewing. Hard to believe it will no longer beI can be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com and I tweet at www.twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing, where you can discuss our content with Maxboxing readers as well as chime in via our fully interactive article comments sections.


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