A nice wagering opportunity presents itself Saturday night when Light Heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver meets former middleweight king Bernard Hopkins in Atlantic City, New Jersey. On paper the fight isn’t one that fuels the fire to rush out and drop dinero on this as a Pay Per View event, but it has inspired me to take the rubber band off my betting bankroll.
In terms of ring years, Antonio Tarver is a young fighter with just 27 bouts under his 175-pound belt, including 24 victories with 18 wins coming by way of knockout. He has only been fighting for ten years, so although his birth certificate says he’s 37 years old, he isn’t a ring worn fighter.
Bernard Hopkins, on the other hand, is true to his 41 years of age. “The Executioner” has been fighting professionally since 1988 when he dropped his pro debut by decision to Clinton Mitchell. It is interesting to note that Hopkins debuted at 177 pound in that October bout, yet fought almost his entire career at middleweight and never again came close to the light heavyweight limit. Hopkins career has come full circle in that he fought his first fight at light heavy and lost a decision, and now it appears likely that he will end his career at 175 pounds, and quite possibly with a decision loss as well.
The former undisputed middleweight champion, Hopkins comes into the showdown with Tarver off consecutive decision losses to Jermain Taylor. He record totals 52 fights with 46 wins, 4 losses, a Draw and one No Contest and sees the fight with Tarver as a chance to cement his legacy. Moving straight up to 175 pounds and skipping right over the super middleweight limit is a questionable move by the Philadelphia boxer-puncher, and could be the difference in a fight that seems close to call.
It says that a good big man beats a good littler man, and Tarver is the natural light heavyweight, or at least has established himself as such. Last time I checked Bernard Hopkins was still 0-1-0 at the limit they will fight at this weekend. Somewhere Clinton Mitchell, who called it a career at 3-1-1 after being knocked out in his last pro fight and not savoring the feeling, is titling back a wobbly pop and telling all who will listen how he “could’ve been a contender”, and going into excruciating detail of his breakdown of “The Execution” that fine day.
Antonio Tarver looks likely to be telling the same story one day as he comes into Saturday’s fight a steady -250 favorite to hand Hopkins his third straight defeat. It should be three strikes and out for Bernard, and hope it is. He has nothing left to prove in the ring and can turn to his business interests in Golden Boy Promotions after the HBO bout.
While the “Magic Man” Tarver boasts 18 knockouts in his 24 wins, he is not considered a heavy handed puncher, but does well to wear opponents down through an accumulation of punches. He also fights off his back foot looking to counter. It takes time and space to come off the back foot to shift his weight and get pop into that punch, something the intelligent and experienced Hopkins is well aware of. I expect Hopkins to close the space between the two when he sees Tarver getting set and will likely counter the lefty with his own snapping right hands down the middle.
For his part, Hopkins has fared well against southpaw fighters and is very effective with his accurate right hand in lieu of the orthodox jab. He subscribes to the proven theory that a straight right is the best way to combat a lefty and right hands followed by left hooks upstairs and down seem to be the order of the day. Similar to Tarver, B-Hop isn’t, a big one-punch power hitter either, and this has the look of a tactical battle written all over it. In close I expect lot’s of grappling and the fighters to tie each other up in the clinches, leading to lot’s of breaks in the action as the seconds tick away.
I expect some early aggression from Tarver who will promptly be discouraged by Hopkins straight right crosses in response. Hopkins prefers to walk down his opponents firing right hands and left hooks followed by holds and Tarver will lay back and counter as the bout settles down with neither man landing much in the way to threatening a bet on the Over, and this is what we have.
The total rounds were set at Over 11.5 -135/Under 11.5 +115 when it opened in April but the number has been bet up to 11.5 Over -180/Under 11.5 +160 at Diamond Sportsbook International (www.2betdsi.com) where they know “It’s Only a Game. Until You Bet It.”
I think this fight is close to call and I can’t make a case for either fighter stopping the other. Neither has had chronic problems with cuts and, with few exceptions, they each require an accumulation of punches to register a knockout. I don’t see either landing enough clean blows to bring an early and am sure the judges will have their say in the end.
Officially the play made is Tarver-Hopkins Over 11.5 -135.
(For entertainment purposes only)