Did he think it would go like that? Nah, John David Jackson admits he’s like us, to a point, that he didn’t see his guy Sergey Kovalev pitching shutout ball against the Alien, winning all 12 rounds like he did.
“Thought maybe he’d win nine of twelve,” said the ex 154 and 160 pound champ, who retired from the ring in 1999, told me on Wednesday.
I was curious, did he derive personal satisfaction as he saw Hopkins, who dogged him pretty good in the leadup to the bout, and at the final presser before fightnight especially, get the L? No, JDJ told me, “It didn’t do anything for me like that. I was satisfied that the game-plan worked. Sort of made me look like a genius,” he said, chuckling. “But am I on the top of the world? I definitely am in that I think I will get the credit I deserve as a trainer. I’m not one to pat myself on the back, but…It was satisfying, that the pace plan worked. They might start listening to me!” He chuckled, then added, seriously, explaining why his satisfaction was limited, “But no, I didn’t beat Hopkins up.”
Yes, that gameplan..I’d say masterful. I told JDJ, a Florida resident, married with five kids, three older, two of them nearing the college years, I didn’t hear one single soul say pre-fight that a slow pace, a “Hopkins” pace, would be beneficial to Kovalev.
But that pace, as prescribed by Jackson, was indeed useful to Kovalev, who was able to go the distance, pace himself, keep the distance he wanted from a master at in-close defense, at clinch-y methods of defusing.
“Sergey was too strong for Bernard. He’s a crafty old man,” he said… but his strength, in punching, bodily, couldn’t match the younger man.
Thus, JDJ and I agreed, Hopkins knew clinching wouldn’t benefit him. That would mean he would have to get closer to Kovalev than was advisable and in a grappling contest, he had to know that would be an energy sapper. “Yes, Hopkins’ body language was, keep moving,” the trainer told me.
Now, that Kovalev didn’t seem to really crave a stoppage, didn’t really ever throw himself maniacally into a place where he looked like he NEEDED to stop the youngest old man in sports: what about that?
Did JDJ ever get even mildly frustrated that Kovalev wasn’t looking to do what it looked like maybe he could, if he went all in?
Nope, no frustration, the trainer told me. They talked about it after, and Kovalev told him he hurt his right hand a bit, from landing high on the head of Hopkins, and that affected him some. Also, his respect for Hopkins impacted him. “Sergey told me he didn’t want to KO him. He wanted him to go out with dignity. He gave the man the respect he deserves. He thought, why knock him out, give him the dignity he deserves. He hurt him, in that twelfth round, and felt that was enough. A twelve round shutout, that was satisfying enough.”
Fair enough. Totally admirable. But…that was the kind thing to do…but does kindness have a place in the prizefighting ring? Didn’t he leave an opening for the crafty old dog to launch a nasty bite, a Hail Mary launch?
“The next fight, it won’t be an old man (he respects like that),” he said, acknowledging that this pocket of mercy was a one time occurrence.
Check back for more from JDJ, including on what he thinks Sergey would do next, and how he’d do against guys like Andre Ward, and Adonis Stevenson.
Follow Woods on Twitter. https://twitter.com/Woodsy1069