The Sweet Science writers offer their predictions on the big fight in LA.
Hopkins by decision.
Hopkins hasn't shown signs of wear and tear, but the rugged, aggressive Eastman may be strong enough to expose “Ex” as a 40-year-old waiting to be taken. But don't count on it. Hopkins is a well-preserved 40, and may be the one 160-pounder who is stronger and tougher than Eastman. An entertaining scrap through the first eight rounds turns into a rout through the championship rounds – as Eastman takes a William Joppy-style whuppin'. Hopkins by unanimous decision.
Hopkins by KO. Is there really any doubt about this one? Love Eastman's beard, though.
If Hopkins can’t beat this guy, he should retire right now. But I don’t see that as a decision Bernard will have to make any time soon. I like Hopkins by 7th-round TKO. He’ll do it with the right hand.
“Irish” Bobby Cassidy
Bernard Hopkins gets better with age. He has displayed superior skills since his monumental win over Felix Trinidad. There is no slowing him down, particularly against Eastman. Hopkins TKO 11.
Robert Cassidy Jr.
Eastman will do far less clowning in this fight, knowing that far more is at stake then ever before. He may even fight well enough to be ahead on the cards after four or five rounds. But once Bernard gets into his groove, he'll take over and never look back. Eastman will remain competitive for a minute, but will ultimately fall behind and never catch up. Hopkins by decision.
Ya gotta love B-Hop. It’s going to be long time before we see his likes again. If Eastman wants what Hopkins has, he’s going to have to go and get it. There’s only one problem . . . and that problem’s name is Bernard Hopkins. The Battersea Bomber has never faced this quality of opposition before, and no matter what happens in LA Saturday night, he’s not going to face this quality of opposition again. Eastman will try but won’t be able to hurt Bernard. The Executioner executes Eastman in the late rounds and sends him back to Battersea on his shield.
Hopkins by decision in a tough fight. There's too much on the line for Hopkins to not take this fight seriously (20th title defense, big money fights down the road). As for Eastman, he can sneak up on you if he's given the chance. Hopkins won't give it to him.
Bernard Hopkins is perhaps a more exceptional man than he is a fighter – and that is saying something. His mental discipline and ability to focus make him the exceptional athlete he is, more so than his physical skills. With his thirties now receding into the distance one has to wonder if one of these nights Hopkins is going to be had. Could Eastman be the man to do it? By all accounts this is a fight Eastman has wanted for some time and actually believes he can win. That self-belief will be crucial come Saturday night. Hopkins now has the kind of mystique which can have a paralyzing effect on opponents come the moment of truth. I believe Hopkins has done well to cultivate this reputation, but it is exaggerated. Hopkins is a schooled technician, but I feel his reputation may exceed his ability at this moment in time. The one thing that worries me about Eastman, however, is the fact he has not fought at the elite level enough. I do not expect Hopkins to steamroll Eastman. Eastman has a legitimate shot, but he will have to have the night of his life. It could happen, but is it likely? In all likelihood, come the championship rounds Hopkins takes over what to that point is a relatively close fight and notches his 20th win. Hopkins by Unanimous Decision
Sooner or later, the 40-ish Hopkins is going to fall apart. He may show signs of it tonight, but not enough to make him an ex-champion. B-Hop by decision.
Hopkins by late knockout. A few years back I used to predict Hopkins losses because I figured age was due to catch up to him. Now I'm not going to go against The Executioner until I see signs he's slowing down. I certainly haven't seen any yet. That said, I want to go on the record, just in case I have psychic abilities, that Wednesday night I had a dream where Eastman knocked out Hopkins in the early to middle rounds. It's kind of fuzzy, but I think it was the fourth. Then again, I also dreamt I was watching the fight on TV in the Bahamas and woke up to the snowy reminder I was still in Buffalo.
Eastman's bold predictions of taking Hopkins out in five won't happen. Hopkins has already decided he'll win his 20th title defense, so it's mind over matter.
While Hopkins is the obvious pick – I see a very close, competitive fight. Eastman now has his “Glen Johnson-type shot” and makes the most of it. Hopkins shows why he is one of the best middleweights ever. Good, classic fight. Hopkins unanimous decision victory.
“Let me offer up a prayer more than a prediction. Can Howard Eastman PLEASE make a fight out of it! Attack the legend! Give us all something to remember! Everyone in boxing has given Hopkins his just dues for longevity and professionalism. It's time B-Hop got back to fighting real fights. After all, he's the guy who wants to be thought of as master of the halls occupied by Ray Robinson, Carlos Monzon and Marvin Hagler. So, as for Saturday night, Hopkins tops Eastman one way or another. Hopkins UD12 Eastman.
Eastman should probably be coming into this fight undefeated, but even if he had gotten the nod over Joppy in their fight, would that make him Hopkins' equal? The most logical argument that can be made in Eastman's favor is that a 40-year-old boxer, no matter how great, can suddenly get old in one fight, and we're not going to fall into that trap again. Hopkins by decision.
The “Battersea Bomber” Eastman is a very dangerous opponent for Hopkins at this point. He has major league confidence and backs it up with nasty power. In his fight with Joppy it looked like Eastman could have won that fight and stopped Joppy whenever he wanted, instead he seemed to be soaking in the atmosphere and waited too long to drop Joppy, who made it to the bell and won the fight. Since that time Eastman has been waiting for another chance and finally gets it. I expect him to make the most of it. Physically the two matchup well and Eastman has the bigger one-punch power, although Hopkins wears people down as well as anyone. 'Nard hasn't faced anyone like Eastman and “big” victories over “little” men like De La Hoya and Trinidad do little to impress, as the bigger man is supposed to beat the littler man when they meet in the ring. Did Hopkins beat a middleweight De La Hoya or a welterweight? Hopkins looked rather ordinary against Robert Allen and also against Joppy, who only fought to survive. When Hopkins faces a similar foe with more power it will be interesting to see how he handles it. At 40 years of age, Father Time and lack of motivation to face the British invader will catch up with Hopkins here. Eastman forces the action and turns the fight into a war he can win – and does.
Eastman is not a bad fighter. In fact, he's pretty decent. He's awkward and his punches sometimes come from odd angles. I think he makes this fight much closer than people are expecting. Hopkins is always in great shape, but one has to wonder if he'll be as hungry this time, after competing in a mega fight last time. Hopkins wins by unanimous decision but not by an especially wide margin.
As with all predictions involving a 40-year-old fighter, age is a factor. One of these nights Hopkins is going to show up on fight night gift wrapped with nothing inside. I just can't make a case for Eastman other than Hopkins’ age. On top of that, if Eastman goes on the attack too aggressively, as indicated by his 5th round knockout prediction, he'll be playing into Hopkins' strength: having opponents come at him. Hopkins is too complete to pick against him in this spot. Hopkins by UD.
Eastman deserves the shot but has only one formula to win. Hopkins can counter him to pieces or win from in front. I'll start picking against Hopkins when he gives me a reason. Hopkins KO 7.
As we have seen in the past year with the defeats of Tyson, Jones and De La Hoya, nobody is unbeatable. That includes Hopkins, although he seems to be at the top of his game. While I can see a virtual unknown uncrowning him down the road, Eastman won't be the one to do it. I seem to remember him talking a good game against William Joppy, but taking the path of least resistance when the bell rang.
There are a number of intriguing symmetries between Hopkins and Eastman. Both arrived at genuine world championship level late in their respective careers. Both are fiercely determined, well schooled, strong and with solid chins. Both are the product of tough backgrounds that seem to have been the catalyst for their unshakeable single-mindedness and self-belief. On that basis you could contemplate an argument that this fight will represent a passing of the torch from the veteran champion with the withering tongue to the brusque semi-veteran challenger. You could even argue Eastman is stronger, fresher and more motivated. You could argue Hopkins hasn't fought anyone as big, strong and determined as Eastman for years. You could argue Hopkins might get old overnight. You could argue a lot of things. But the bottom line is, Hopkins does everything better than Eastman. And like most things in boxing, it all boils down to the bottom line. Hopkins UD12.
I've always regarded Howard Eastman as an underappreciated boxer who should have received more opportunities at the big titles. Hopkins is in for a tougher ride than I believe he expects. This is the fight of Eastman's life. Hopkins has already had a few of those. While I still favor Hopkins to win by points, Eastman could take it by a late stoppage.
If Howard Eastman, the 34-year-old Battersea Bomber, could fight with his mouth, Bernard Hopkins might have a problem. “I have been boxing since I was six,” said Eastman. “Not many people can say that.” Well, no. “Since that age I have been working upward.” Means he grew from the age of six, which a lot of folks can say. “I have God on my side and courage in my heart. Hopkins will not deny me my destiny.” Yeah, right. Pick here is Hopkins to deny Eastman his destiny by unanimous decision.
I don't know what makes Eastman tick. Does anyone? He's clearly very talented and, unlike the last eccentric British fighter, Kirkland Laing, clean-living. But he definitely went to sleep for periods of the Joppy fight, and Hopkins is going to be in his face all the time. Funnily enough, I think that might spur Eastman to keep his concentration this time. And Hopkins? You can pick holes in his quality of opposition. Against Jones a decade ago he looked very one-dimensional. Clearly he has improved a lot. But he's in his 40th year. I've always thought it would take a thinking boxer to beat him. I'll gamble that Eastman is that man, by points decision. But he'll have to fight the perfect fight.
Bernard Hopkins by a modest unanimous decision. The Executioner has the potential for two mega-fights before riding off into the sunset at the end of the year. He will not risk that by slugging it out with the wacky Howard Eastman. Hopkins will use his height and reach advantage to methodically earn his 20th title defense.
This is more of a “keep busy” fight than a serious title defense for Hopkins. Eastman has never beaten top opposition and will stay around in this one for as long as Bernard allows him. Father Time is going to catch up to Bernard one of these nights; it is just not going to be on this particular night. Hopkins takes Eastman out with a late round TKO.