Believe it or not: Hopkins-Jones will be worth the wait
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
OK folks, I've heard all the commentary about Saturday night.
How they're far too old to be relevant. How one's seriously jeopardizing his legacy. How nobody will buy the premise of two men settling a 17-year-old score that could have been erased in half that.
Forget "The Rivals."
It'd more accurately be promoted as "The Colossal Waste of Time," sponsored by Geritol.
And it's come both from voices I respect and the requisite contrarian blowhards.
Make no mistake, I hear it all.
But I still don't care.
Because when Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr. at last head toward a Mandalay Bay ring with designs on hitting each other with something besides insults, the event will have two very important attributes no other fight this century has been able to boast.
Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr., pictured, square off this weekend.
Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr., to be exact.
And if you're of a certain age bracket like me, that's all that really matters.
Needless to say, I concede to the younger set that neither man is what he used to be.
The Hopkins of today might struggle with the truly elite in his weight class -- particularly one Chad Dawson. And the Jones of today has already been exposed as subordinate to several once beneath him -- specifically Danny Green, Glen Johnson and Antonio Tarver.
But that hardly means their get-together is unworthy of attention.
In fact, while neither remains the single worthiest commodity in any one division, both have proven nothing if not still superior to a significant percentage of the muck and mire heralded as contenders by various alphabet sanctioning bodies.
Even at 43, Hopkins manhandled a consensus middleweight kingpin along the Jersey shore, then pitched a near shutout over a top 20 light heavy in an overdue return to Philly roots a year later.
Meanwhile -- since the end of a well-documented three-fight skid -- a 40-ish Jones has managed five decisive victories, including a pair of stoppages, over a quintet who'd entered those frays with 140 wins, 98 knockouts and world titles in four weight classes.
If Saturday's names were Hobson and Sloan, that acumen would warrant at least middling consideration.
And given their previous Canastota accomplishments...it becomes must-see TV.
Hopkins stated the case for respect in a media conference call last week.
"If Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan were playing a one-on-one and you're a basketball fan, you're going to show up," he said. "Age cannot compete with accomplishments and names and what those individuals have done in the boxing game. The word respect is very important in this fight.
"This is not some clown reality show where you have two wrestlers, two boxers, two old entertainers or two old singers squared off in some reality show. This is the real deal. This is the real deal and I'm pretty sure you're going to be watching, too."
Count me in, Bernard.
Oh well, I guess I'm no longer a mandatory challenger.
After dueling to a tight decision against Chevelle Hallback in our Fight Factory spar match six weeks ago in Tampa, I was awaiting a spotlight rematch after my foe took care of business and gathered up the WIBA 140-pound title belt in a second crack at Holly Holm last week in Albuquerque.
Problem is...Ms. Holm wasn't in on our big plans.
Instead of graciously surrendering both her title and status as the sport's most dominant female, the comely New Mexico native employed a script similar to their own 2007 go-round and scored two important knockdowns on the way to a unanimous 10-round verdict.
Scores were 98-92, 98-92 and 98-93.
The first fight's cards, incidentally, read 100-90, 100-90 and 98-92.
"Chevelle lost by unanimous decision, but the scores ringside were deceiving to the damage she did inflict on Holly," said Amy Green, Team Hallback's publicist and a behind-the-scenes catalyst for my in-ring star turn in February. "Her goals remain the same, and she and (trainer) Sherman (Henson) are back to the drawing board for some fine tuning."
So much for perfection as a 41-year-old.
Going into last weekend's six championship fights, I knew maintaining my seven-bout run without missing a pick was in some degree of jeopardy.
But I wasn't expecting a complete collapse.
As it turned out, a slew of miscast upsets and wrongly guessed toss-ups left me correct just twice over the three-day punch-fest, nudging my overall percentage down a pair of points from 74.3 to 72.2.
I was right on target on Friday night's IBF mini-flyweight match in South Africa and Saturday's junior featherweight duel -- correctly picking Nkosinathi Joyi and Steve Molitor to emerge with title belts.
Things weren't so good the rest of the way, however, as I somehow managed to narrowly miss the boat on Guzman-Funeka in Las Vegas, Moreno-Cermeno in Venezuela and both Sithsamerchai-Kuroki and Wonjongkam-Kameda in Tokyo.
Two split decisions, a unanimous nod with an overall four-point spread and a majority verdict.
As they say in the business...it's back to the drawing board.
This week's title-fight schedule:
WBA heavyweight title -- Manchester, England David Haye (champion) vs. John Ruiz (No. 1 contender) Haye (23-1, 21 KO): First title defense; Fifth title fight (3-1, 2 KO) Ruiz (44-8-1, 30 KO): Twelfth title fight (4-5-1, 1 no-contest); Two reigns as WBA champion Fitzbitz says: "Everyone's mapping Haye's itinerary with the Klitschkos, but he's got a significant hurdle left in a still relevant and still dangerous Ruiz. I'm feeling the upset vibe again." -- Ruiz in 10
Last week's picks: 2-4 Overall picks record: 179-65 (73.3 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons is an award-winning 21-year sports journalist, a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a frequent contributor to sports radio talk shows throughout the U.S. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him at twitter.com/fitzbitz and read more at fitzbitzonfights.wordpress.com.