LAS VEGAS-The ageless Bernard Hopkins took away Winky Wright’s jab, fired combinations and looked fresh on his way to a unanimous decision victory in keeping his Ring light heavyweight title on Saturday.
“It was a good action fight,” said Hopkins.
Before more than 9,000 people the 42-year-old Hopkins proved that age and a hard head were too much for Wright (51-4-1, 25 KOs) who was fighting at 170 pounds for the first time in his career. The weight seemed to slow the former junior middleweight champion’s feet and jab.
But Hopkins was fresh as a 30-year-old.
“I really relied on my legs,” said Hopkins (48-4-1, 32 KOs). “It was a tough fight.”
Hopkins began the fight by keeping away from the dreaded Wright jab that propelled him to stardom. The Philadelphia fighter twisted and turned and countered when Wright least expected it.
A nice right hand counter by Hopkins turned Wright around in the first round. During the clinches Hopkins used his free hand to land punches on Wright. That set the tone for the rest of the 12 round boxing match.
In the third round a clash of heads caused Wright to complain and open up opportunity for Hopkins to attack. A strong right hand wobbles Wright who stops to complain again as Hopkins attacks.
“I know he didn’t do it on purpose,” Wright said who suffered a gash on his left eye because of the butt. “That’s boxing.”
After taking a three-punch combo from Wright, Hopkins unleashed several four-punch combos throughout the fifth round. Several right hands found their mark for Hopkins who soon began picking apart Wright’s defense with several four-punch flurries. A solid right hand to the body was the best punch of the round for Hopkins who wins it easily in the sixth.
Despite two stiff left hands by Wright, the older Hopkins continued to score with combinations including a right uppercut.
Both fighters traded head butts in the eighth round as Hopkins continues to use his footwork and combinations to offset Wrights jab. It’s apparent Hopkins is the stronger fighter.
Though it was the ninth round, Wright still couldn’t land his jab as Hopkins moved in and out and sets traps.
In the final round Hopkins was able to fire combinations. Two strong right hands wobble Wright who can’t seem to find the slippery Hopkins.
The judges scored it 117-111 twice and 116-112 for Hopkins.
“I thought it was a close fight,” Wright said. “I’m not a 170-pound fighter. I’ll go down to 160 and fight all the best fighters.”
Hopkins was fined $300,000 for shoving Wright in the face during the weighing on Friday. It didn’t faze him much. He was paid $3 million for the fight.
“I respect the commission. It was part of the promotion,” Hopkins admitted. “I respect Winky Wright. He knows I respect him a lot.”
Hopkins says he’d relish a match against Joe Calzaghe.
“I can fight another four years,” Hopkins said adding that he was pleased Marvin Hagler attended the fight. “He was my idol.”
In a battle for the WBC interim featherweight title, Mexico’s Oscar Larios (59-6-1, 37 KOs) forced Venezuela’s undefeated Jorge Linares (24-0, 15 KOs) to fight at a faster velocity than usual. And it worked until he lost gas himself in the fifth round. Then things turned around.
Linares, 21, discovered the left uppercut after four rounds of the whirlwind style of Larios proved too perplexing. Larios was stunned and seemed to lose his legs after that punch.
From the fifth round Linares concentrated on uppercuts and a body attack that furthered slowed the former world champion from Mexico. Four uppercuts in the seventh round found their mark for Linares.
A stiff left jab snapped Larios head back forcing him to retreat. The Venezuelan fighter closed in for the knockout and fired a right-left-right comnbination that’sent Larios tumbling down. Referee Vic Draculich started to count but decided to end the fight at 2:37 of the 10th round.
“Today a new star was born,” said Linares, who was making his American debut. “I showed my ability to fight and beat a great champion like Oscar Larios.”
WBO interim lightweight titleholder Michael Katsidis (23-0, 20 KOs) bored through Filipino southpaw Czar Amonsot (18-3-1, 10 KOs) with his nonstop no defense style that included two knockdowns in winning by unanimous decision after 12 rounds.
“The fight was tougher than I thought it would be, but they’re all tougher than I think,” said Katsidis, whose eyes were both swollen and cut. “He hit me with a head butt, an elbow and then a punch.”
A pretty right hand counter in the second round by Katsidis dropped Amonsot for the count. Then, in the 10th, a dozen punches unleashed by the Aussie Katisidis forced Amonsot to take cover on the floor. He beat the count but held on the rest of the round and the rest of the match. The judges scored it 116-110, 114-112, 115-111 for Katsidis.
“He was a strong fighter,” Amonsot said. “He was a dirty fighter he hit me with elbows but he deserved the victory.”
In a super middleweight bout Librado Andrade (25-1, 19 KOs) shot through Illinois boxer Ted Muller (19-12-2, 9 KOs) in quick fashion in stopping him with a second round technical knockout. Though the brave Muller never hit the deck, he was punished by the much more skillful power puncher Andrade.
“I’m happy to be fighting in Las Vegas again,” Andrade said. “I’m looking for one more title fight in this division.”