LAS VEGAS-Rivals Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr. didn’t have the same snap as 17 years ago but in the end it was the Florida fighter that didn’t have the legs to keep up with the older Phillie fighter in a dirt filled trench war with seemingly more fouls than punches on Saturday.
“I’m still hurting on the back of the head,” said Hopkins, 45.
The big rematch between bitter rivals Hopkins (51-5-1, 32 KOs) and Jones (54-7, 40 KOs) in front of more than 6,700 fans at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino wasn’t a brawl but a match between two ageing but wily foes.
“He fought a smart fight I had to chase him the whole time,” said Jones, 41, who is usually the guy getting chased. “He’s a crafty veteran.”
In a bitter rematch between two defensive first fighters, defense ruled the day.
The first round saw lots of feints and posing as Hopkins did most of the work with body shots and some blows behind Jones head. Jones tried to use his sneaky speed but wasn’t able to catch him.
A four punch combo by Hopkins opened the second round and a right-left combination snapped Jones head back toward the end of the round to close it for Hopkins.
Hopkins had the third round easy as Jones couldn’t seem to get off punches. Everything he tried was too far away to land or be effective. A four punch combo by Hopkins forced Jones back to the ropes.
Jones opened up a little in the fourth round and snapped a couple of uppercuts on Hopkins in the clinch. Both traded left hooks as the crowed oohed in anticipation of seeing Jones showcase his blazing speed of the 1990s. Not on this day.
In the fifth both fought inside with Jones using uppercuts and a clinch. Meanwhile Hopkins worked the body continuously and finished it off with his own uppercut.
All hell broke loose in the sixth round as Jones hit Hopkins in the back of the head. Down went Hopkins from the blow as the crowd booed. After a few minutes the fight resumed and Hopkins bolted toward Jones firing on all cylinders. The end of the bell didn’t make Hopkins and Jones stop as both continued to swing with the Florida boxer receiving a slightly bloodied nose and a swollen right eye after order was restored.
“I was mad,” said Hopkins about receiving a blow on the back of the head. “He’s a good fighter he tried to rough me up. I tried to toughen it out but after the sixth round I was seeing spots.”
In the eighth round Jones hit Hopkins again on the back of his cranium and once again Hopkins retaliated by opening up with a barrage and finishing with a right hand that seemed to stagger Jones.
Ninth nothing much but Jones landed two right hands in a very slow round.
“He still had some speed but I kept putting the pressure on him. I was trying to throw soft punches to get inside,” said Hopkins.
After a low blow felled Hopkins, the first two minutes of the 10th round were the second best minutes of the fight as Jones worked his uppercut inside and Hopkins worked the head with a two punch combination.
“It wasn’t even a hard punch. He was trying to take a rest,” said Jones of Hopkins going down again after a foul.
An accidental clash of heads caused a welt on Jones right eye that later broke up and bled a little. Hopkins was the busier fighter in the last two rounds as Jones was content to hold on the inside and Hopkins ever the careful fighter opening up only when it was available.
After 12 rounds of fouls, punches and vengeance, both fighters embraced each other. Nobody collected the 60 percent purse that would have been given to the knockout winner. The judges scored it for Hopkins 117-110 twice and 118-109.
“It was definitely worth it,” Hopkins said. “It was sweet revenge.”
Hopkins said he wants a match with WBA heavyweight titleholder David Haye who stopped John Ruiz in England earlier in the day.
Both fighters were sent to the hospital in Las Vegas. Hopkins reportedly buckled in the dressing room.
Litzau vs. Juarez
Jason Litzau (27-2, 21 KOs) successfully defended his NABF title by winning a technical decision over bad luck Rocky Juarez (28-6-1, 20 KOs) after a shortened fight that was stopped due to an accidental butt that caused a welt and cut on the champion.
“I was so calm I’ve never been so calm before,” said Litzau who won by scores 68-65, 67-66 twice. “I knew that me and Rocky would give a hell of a show. I had ten more rounds in me.”
Litzau was the busier fighter in the first four rounds using his jab and holding when necessary. But around the sixth round it seemed his legs were rubbery and Juarez was connecting more. It was too late.
“The cut came from a punch,” insisted Juarez who was roaring back in the seventh round as Litzau seemed to tire.
The ringside physician advised the referee to halt the fight at the end of the seventh. Once again a title slipped through Juarez’s hands.
Mora vs. Green
Former junior middleweight world champion Sergio “The Latin Snake” Mora (22-1-1, 6 KOs) moved back to his normal middleweight division and shook out the rust, survived a first round cut and then slipped into another gear in the third round against Calvin “Killa” Green (21-5-1, 13 KOs). Then the shellacking began and ended with a seventh round technical knockout.
“After the third round I felt like the Latin Snake was back,” said Mora. “This guy was a tough guy. This was my fifth opponent. I knew nothing about him.”
Green caught Mora with some good punches in the first and second round but Mora proved more and more elusive despite fighting primarily in the inside. Body shots, uppercuts, lefts and rights to the body and head were landing abundantly. A few times it looked like referee Russell Mora was going to halt the fight but let it continue. But not during the seventh round when a Mora right hand turned Green around. The referee jumped in and stopped it at 1:50 of the seventh round.
“I want to fight the best fighters,” said Mora who was signed by Golden Boy Promotions this year and is managed by Cameron Dunkin.
Tecate awarded Mora their Con Caracter award for his action packed fight.
Sillakh Wins title
Ukraine’s Ismayl Sillakh needed one round to warm up then let loose with the combinations to floor Daniel Judah twice in the second round before the referee stopped it 49 seconds into the round. A right hand followed by a right through the guard and a left hook to the liver caused the first knockdown. Judah recovered but was met with a left hook that dropped him a second time. Judah got up on shaky legs and the fight was stopped. Sillakh, who now trains in Simi Valley grabs the vacant NABF light heavyweight title.
Frankie Gomez vs. Howard
East L.A.’s Frankie “Pitbull” Gomez (1-0, 1 KOs) blew through Florida’s Clavonne Howard (2-4) in his professional debut to win by technical knockout at 2:45 of the third round when referee Joe Cortez stopped the fight. Gomez showed good defense and seldom got hit though he was teeing off on Howard the entire three rounds it lasted. The aggressive Gomez was telegraphing his punches but he throws so many that even though you know one is coming the other three and four are right behind it. Howard had no answer but landed a good right hand in the third. The lanky fighter never hit the canvas but was getting tagged with multiple blows until the referee stopped the contest.
“It’s totally different with no head gear. That guy was a tough fighter, he can take punches,” said Gomez, 18. “Honestly after I got hit that’s when I started going.”
Gomez was recently signed by Golden Boy Promotions in a bidding war with other promoters and eventually signed with the L.A. based outfit.
Gomez feels he can do much better now that he has that first pro fight out of the way.
“I will do much better in my second fight because I haven’t fought since last year. I’ll be alright,” Gomez said. “My coach was telling me to keep the pressure but I had to get hit first before I get going.”
Hector Ibarra, coaches and manages Gomez, said he warned his fighter “In the pros you can’t really do that stuff, but adds he’s very smart and his work ethic is incredible.”
Florida’s Buddy McGirt Jr. (22-2-1, 11 KOs) ended a super middleweight bout against John Mackey (11-5-2) with a crisp right hook during an exchange to knockout the Alabama fighter at 2:58 of the second round. Referee Vic Drakulich made the call when Mackey collapsed again after trying to get up.
Scotland’s Craig McEwan (18-0, 10 KOs) maintained his spotless record against Canada’s resilient Kris Andrews (15-9-2). Despite flush punches to the jaw and chin McEwan just couldn’t floor Andrews who ate punches like candy. Not until 2:11 of the eighth and final round of the middleweight bout did it end when a four punch combination by McEwan convinced referee Joe Cortez to end the fight. Andrews never was floored but overwhelmed.
Cleveland’s Yaundale Evans (6-0, 4 KOs) dropped Minnesota’s Juan Baltierrez (2-2-2) with a thud after connecting with a counter right hook at 2:08 of second round of a junior lightweight bout. The fight was stopped by referee Russell Mora.