Is this it for Hopkins?
He insists there's no going back after tonight.
And bold and defiant to the end, he’s taking on a young, dangerous opponent.
I would have selected someone else for my ‘Goodbye’ party. With just one blemish on his record, Smith, 27, supplements his training by working construction on Long Island, and has compiled an outstanding 78% knockout-to-win ratio.
But Hopkins wants to send a statement: He can still whoop a solid young buck in his 20s.
Hopkins vs Smith Odds
And while the fighter dubbed BHOP is the favorite (-323 Hopkins, +226 Smith Jr. per OddsShark), the 51 year old hasn't fought in two years while his opponent, Joe Smith, is fresh off a sizzling first round destruction of elite-level light heavyweight Andrzej Fonfara in June.
Hopkins vs Kovalev
When we last saw Bernard in the ring in November 2014, he dropped a a wide twelve round unanimous decision to Sergey Kovalev. Confident and aggressively cautious, the Russian dropped Hopkins with a right hand in round one and never looked back.
Sans for a few fleeting moments when Hopkins was able to surprise his foe with an eye-catching shot, it was a thoroughly dominant performance by Kovalev who kept his man on the defensive nearly the entire fight.
Hopkins vs Smith
12 Rounds, Light Heavyweights
10pm ET/ 3am London
HBO / BoxNation
Although it was difficult to find a round to give to Bernard, the Kovalev bout wasn't quite a massacre. Despite his lack of overall competitiveness, BHOP still managed to dodge many of Kovalev's murderous shots, was successful in creating drama at times and remained a constant threat of sorts, especially when desperation set in late in the fight.
But let's not fool ourselves... Age, to a certain degree, may have caught up with Hopkins.
Hopkins vs Smith prediction
The version of Bernard Hopkins who lost to Kovalev beats Joe Smith. In going the distance with the 'Krusher' and forcing the Russian to fight more tentatively than he is accustomed, Hopkins accomplished perhaps what no other light heavyweight, sans Andre Ward, is capable of.
But will even that shopworn version of the legend show up tonight? It has been two years...
Had Bernard fought and won at least twice since losing to Kovalev, I'd pick him to defeat the fast-rising Smith. But since he hasn't been active, I'm feeling a sickening since of Deja vu.
- Sugar Ray Leonard vs Terry Norris...
- Sugar Ray Leonard vs Hector Camacho...
- Muhammad Ali vs Larry Holmes...
- Oscar De La Hoya vs Manny Pacquiao...
- Joe Louis vs Rocky Marciano...
Aside from Joe Louis, the above legends who badly lost to much younger, fresher opponents had been fairly inactive heading into those bouts, like Hopkins.
And like the opponents above, Joe Smith Jr is no joke. And although not as technically proficient as the superbly-schooled Kovalev, Smith boasts explosive power and formidable hand speed.
Leonard vs Norris (1991) and Camacho (1997)
Remember when a 41 year old Leonard, who already been embarrassed by a 23 year old Terry Norris in his previous fight, came back to fight Hector Camacho after a six year hiatus?
That version of Sugar Ray was a far cry from the shot version of Leonard who'd lost to Norris six years prior. And I think tonight's version of Hopkins will be a diminished version of the BHOP who faced Kovalev
At this stage, at least a tune-up would have benefitted Bernard and, perhaps, better prepared him for Smith's speed.
Despite his age, Hopkins wins this fight on paper because of his many accomplishments. He's undoubtedly one of the greatest, most accomplished fighters ever and his extremely savvy. But I'm picking Smith, based on nothing more than a gut feeling and the historical similarities that resonate.
Prediction: Smith KO 6 Hopkins
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Smith vs Fonfara highlight, June 2016