Hopkins-Jones II: Can Hopkins Change His Style?
During last Wednesday's conference call between Roy Jones and Bernard Hopkins, some interesting things surfaced. Almost to the point to where if the fight were more reasonably priced it would justify buying it.
Jones guaranteed that he would put Hopkins to sleep when they meet, something that no fighter has ever come close to doing against Bernard. And Hopkins said that he's going to turn the fight with Roy into a street fight. This is a style that Hopkins probably hasn't adopted since his last street fight before he became a professional fighter.
With the exception of a few fighters, there's usually not much noteworthy that surfaces during conference calls. However, Hopkins and Jones know how to use them and obviously emphasize what they want to get out in an attempt to get inside their opponents head. Does it work? Of course not. But they've been doing it for so long that it's instinctive and they're not cognizant they are even doing it.
Jones says he and Hopkins hate each other - something I don't buy. They are linked together historically because they were two of the most dominant fighters of their era. And a win by Roy gives him bragging rights over Hopkins forever. On the other hand Bernard said when he knocks Roy out, he'll in essence do more than even the score at 1-1, the KO will have him up one over his rival.
Since the day it was announced that Hopkins 50-5-1 (32) and Jones 54-6 (40) were fighting a rematch almost 17 years to the day from their first meeting, the fight has been diminished by just about everyone, and that includes in this space as well. But if Roy hadn't been blitzed by Danny Green last December the fight would be a little more compelling than it is now. Had Jones won a 116-112 or 115-113 decision over Green, he would be viewed more so as a fighter with diminished skills than a former great who has next to zero punch resistance. Then again Bernard Hopkins and Danny Green share nothing in common as fighters stylistically and couldn't be more different. Add to that Roy wholeheartedly believes he has Bernard's number and could beat him at age 21, 41 and if they met at 61 as well.
Hopkins said he's going to go at Jones and turn the fight into a street fight. And that's not only smart on his part, it's probably the only way he can be victorious. Roy has never been a fighter to engage his opponents and usually never punched with them. He'd either go first and overwhelm them with his hand speed or try to counter them off a miss. At this stage of his career if you're fighting him and not a big puncher, your best shot to get Jones is exchanging and in between punches. Based on Bernard's words during Wednesday's conference call he clearly understands that and will hopefully try and exploit it on fight night. In addition to that he gave the impression that he doesn't believe Jones can hurt him and wants to make it a battle of who's got the better chin. Which everyone knows is advantage Hopkins.
The thing that could be a stumbling block for Hopkins is he's not a catch and kill fighter. Bernard is very calculated and prefers to make the opponent commit to a punch or tempo and then trap him. He never was a physically overwhelming style fighter. His style is to strip the opponent of his weapons and then declare the fight on. And that's a big part of why he's lasted so long and endured hardly any punishment during his 20 year career. And for Hopkins to beat Jones even as much as Roy appears to have gone back - he has to push the fight because Roy still has faster hands and can put his punches together better than Bernard if he's not under duress and is afforded time and space.
Tomorrow, Bernard Hopkins can erase the memory of the only fight he conclusively lost in his career aside from his pro-debut. In 1993 Hopkins wasn't seasoned enough nor was he willing to really go after Jones. As a result Roy picked his spots and pot-shotted him enough to secure a unanimous decision (8-4 / 116-112), a decision in which Hopkins doesn't dispute to this day.
When all is said and done, Hopkins must defeat Jones this time. When they last met Roy was the the more decorated and advanced fighter. At this time Hopkins is the fighter that history will recognize as the more complete and greater fighter with more left on his fight odometer. To maintain that he can't lose again to Roy, who has a style suited to give him trouble. And to insure he doesn't he must fight as the aggressor and attack as long as the fight lasts, a style that isn't that easy to adopt at age 45 after fighting in a completely different style role for a majority of his career.
That, and that alone makes the fight more interesting than anything else. And if Hopkins wins, he'll be hoping and praying that he's told David Haye beat John Ruiz and he can now campaign openly to fight Haye for the WBA heavyweight title. Because if Ruiz wins, he presents even more problems for him than Jones does/did.
Hopkins will jump at the chance to meet David Haye. As for Ruiz, he'd agree to fight him too because it's a great risk/reward career move on his behalf. But inside he'd harbor a lot more reservation and would probably admit it.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com