This past Saturday in Las Vegas, Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins stopped Oscar De La Hoya dead in his tracks in his quest to become the undisputed middleweight champion of the world. That title remains with Hopkins as he is now the first person to simultaneously hold the IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO title belts.
What transpired last weekend started out as a chess match between two fighters who respected one another, moved towards Hopkins stalking his prey by closing the gap, inches at a time, and ended with him imposing his will on his opponent – punctuated by a piercing left hook to the body which rendered De la Hoya immobile. It is a scene that has been played out before and the end result is typically much the same. Bernard Hopkins has simply been the best middleweight fighter ever since Roy Jones Jr. vacated the 160-pound division 10 years ago.
“The Executioner” played exactly that role as he executed a fight plan that saw him neutralize his opponents’ jab and begin landing laser rights seemingly whenever he threw them. While De La Hoya tried to flurry with fast yet ineffective punches in close, Hopkins was taking the shine off the Golden Boy’s luster with effective work both upstairs and down. As the bout wore on Bernard became visibly more and more confident as he timed his combinations and muscled his smaller foe.
Despite a pace that was not overly brisk, it appeared that De La Hoya was slowing down, and whether it was from the weight, Hopkins work, or his own stamina issues, it seemed just a matter of time before Hopkins would capitalize. And he did.
The fateful left jab to the face-left hook to the body ended things just as it appeared “The Executioner” was entering his zone and getting his groove on. Unlike the Felix Trinidad bout, when Hopkins executed a deliberate punishment that broke his opponent in more ways than just physical, this one was sweet and silent. De La Hoya would escape with no serious damage, but for more than a dozen seconds after that left hook landed under his ribcage, he was rendered feeble and immobile for the first time in his glorified career.
When a body shot like that lands it is more crippling than some of the most effective shots a fighter can throw. For the recipient, the pain is numbing as the legs don’t respond and the pain sears through the midsection. When Oscar stopped, then dropped, one knew it would be for the count despite his heart and head begging his body to respond in favor.
So what comes next for Bernard Hopkins? Clearly his goal of twenty successful middleweight title defenses is well within reach and another mega payday or two should follow too. Suggestions had been circulating that the winner of Hopkins-De La Hoya would meet the winner of Trinidad-Ricardo Mayora. With Trinidad the betting favorite to win that fight, Tito-Hopkins II could be the cherry on top of the icing that was the De La Hoya bout. Trinidad hasn’t looked the same since Hopkins executed him the first time and a rematch would look much like something we have seen before, perhaps with a more sudden conclusion. Still, it would accomplish his goal of twenty defenses and also pad his personal retirement fund substantially.
Not lost in all the opportunities that come with defeating De La Hoya is a personal matter Hopkins would love to settle – his score with Roy Jones Jr., as Jones won their first fight by decision via scores of 116-112 from all three ringside judges.
That rematch would obviously take a lot of work to make as there is now a 15-pound difference between the two – but it is a gap that multi-millions of dollars can help close.