Boxing
Pull the plug on the "Executioner"
Lyle Fitzsimmons


By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Winner...and still champion...Bernard Hopkins.

Well, at least to one paranoid 43-year-old Philadelphian, that is.

Though he spent 36 minutes taking two punches for every one landed, and though just one of the meaningful shots he claimed wobbled his foe actually produced tangible damage -- the "Executioner" was nonetheless at his "I got screwed" best again late Saturday in Las Vegas.

In fact, to him, the scorecards of judges Chuck Giampa and Ted Gimza -- on which opponent Joe Calzaghe won no fewer than 17 of a possible 24 rounds -- were yet another indication of perpetual persecution that seems to follow the petulant Hopkins wherever he goes.

Joe Calzaghe
Joe Calzaghe won no fewer than 17 of a possible 24 rounds.
The Giampa and Gimza verdicts canceled out the view of fellow judge Adalaide Byrd, and, to hear Hopkins tell it, disenfranchised fans who could clearly see Calzaghe had been taken to boxing's "old school" by an old, tired instructor with precious little else to boast about.

Incidentally, FitzHitz scored it 115-112 for Calzaghe...and has encountered zero civilian unrest.

"Look at me," Hopkins said. "Look at me. You think I was in a fight? I feel good. I feel like I won the fight. I got beat tonight, but not by Joe Calzaghe. I took the guy to school. I made him look amateurish.

"Joe throws punches like my sister. To give him credit now would be submitting to the situation, and I refuse to do that."

Of course, given Bernard's past penchants, why would Saturday be any different?

The post-fight harangue against scorecard injustice sounded an awful lot like the rants of summer and winter 2005, when the then 40-year-old Hopkins was beaten in consecutive narrow decisions by Arkansas youngster Jermain Taylor in July and December.

Back then -- when five out of six apparently clueless judges saw things for Taylor over two fights -- the deposed middleweight kingpin implied he'd been wronged by a vengeance-minded establishment because of a long-time tendency to fly out of formation.

Of course, conveniently lost in 2005, and apparently again in Saturday's reprise, was the reality Taylor and Calzaghe were actually the ones dueling the "establishment" in practical terms -- by meeting an opponent who doubles as an executive with the company, Golden Boy Promotions, staging the fight.

Also, Calzaghe, a dubious long-time attraction in the U.K., was making his initial appearance in the United States -- traditionally a troublesome circumstance for a "protected" fighter seeking first-time approval on a championship level from unfamiliar judges.

But let's not put reality in the way of a good bitch session, right?

"The fans are the judges," Hopkins said. "They got eyes. They can't be fooled. They can't be swayed."

Sure, and they can't be bothered going through the whole process again, either.

Now that he's been knocked from his linear light heavyweight title-holder perch, the stubborn Hopkins suddenly has little leverage to claim a spot in the penthouse of a division cluttered with big names who've already endured the taxing B-Hop experience.

Calzaghe seems poised to take on former Bernard conqueror Roy Jones Jr. later this year, while a rejuvenated Antonio Tarver -- whom Hopkins defeated in 2006 to earn the 175-pound honors -- has fellow champion Chad Dawson in his sights for a bout that would unify the IBF, IBO and WBC titles.

Even the aforementioned Taylor and veteran Glen Johnson -- beaten in a 1997 middleweight title try -- are more likely bound for future high-profile events than the nearly unwatchable old man, whose subtle, tactics-first style fails to register with the masses anymore as anything beyond esoteric.

And while he surely deserves credit for lasting to 43, and he'll definitely go to Canastota as an all-time physical marvel, there's simply no compelling reason for anyone to hear -- even one more time -- the abrasive song and dance that invariably accompanies his fight-night presence.

Bottom line, Bernard...Go away mad if you have to.

But please, just go away.

A dual-title card in Dresden, Germany highlights the weekend schedule.

Hungarian-born WBO belt-holder Zsolt Erdei risks his own share of the 175- pound upper echelon when he meets American import and No. 3-ranked challenger DeAndrey Abron in the main event at Freiberger Arena.

Erdei, a 33-year-old right-hander, is unbeaten over 28 fights in a professional career that began in December 2000 at the Universum Gym in Hamburg, Germany.

He earned his crown with a unanimous decision over Julio Cesar Gonzalez in January 2004 and has since defended nine times -- most recently with a split verdict over Tito Mendoza in November.

Abron, a 35-year-old product of Youngstown, Ohio, is 15-1 overall and has won nine straight since his lone career loss, by six-round decision to journeyman Terry Porter in 2005.

He last fought in January, defeating Thomas Reid by unanimous eight-round decision at Fitzgerald's Casino & Hotel in Tunica, Miss.

Elsewhere on the card, WBO junior middleweight champion Sergiy Dzinziruk defends for the fourth time against Czech Republic native and No. 2-ranked contender Lukas Konecny.

Now undefeated in 34 fights with 22 knockouts, Dzinziruk won the title with a unanimous decision over Daniel Santos in December 2005 and has since beaten challengers Sebastian Andres Lujan (UD 12), Alisultan Nadirbegov (UD 12) and Carlos Nascimento (KO 11).

Previously, he'd held the WBO intercontinental and EBU belts at 154 pounds.

Konecny, now 36-2 with 18 KOs, has won seven straight bouts since a 12-round loss to former world champion Michele Piccirillo for the EBU title in March 2006.

His last bout was Feb. 23, when he stopped Kimfuta Makussu in the second round of a scheduled six-rounder in Germany.

Lastly for this time around...a brief note of appreciation.

This week marks my one-year anniversary as full-time occupant of this space -- a stay that began April 20, 2007, with a look at "De La Hoya-Mayweather 24/7," a plea for an end to the "Contender," a lament on the close of Nikolay Valuev's title reign and a call for better packaging of classic fights on TV.

I've done more than four dozen columns and tapped out some 80,000 words over 52 weeks since that debut piece, generating a steady stream of feedback -- some positive, some negative, all interesting -- from readers throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico and overseas.

And I wanted to point out here -- whether my views on things are essentially similar or diametrically opposite to those who've read me -- how much I honestly and humbly value the interest that's been shown and the opportunity I've been given to have even a small niche in the boxing world.

I look forward to a second year on the job and I wholeheartedly encourage continued communication and suggestions for making this space better and more interesting as it evolves through 2008 and hurtles steadily toward anniversary No. 2 in April 2009.

FitzHitz says: Thank you all, very much.

Lyle Fitzsimmons is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He is a periodic contributor to the Dave Smith Show on Sporting News Radio (radio.sportingnews.com), provides 'In The Ring' boxing commentary for Speeding Bullet Network (speedingbulletnetwork.com) and can be contacted via e-mail at fitzbitz@msn.com.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.

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