Bernard Hopkins has never been a shrinking violet when it comes to offering strong opinions, on anything, so perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he is making a somewhat bold prediction concerning Saturday night’s big middleweight title fight between Gennady “GGG” Golovkin (36-0, 33 KOs) and Daniel “The Miracle Man” Jacobs (32-1, 29 KOs) at Madison Square Garden.
The bout, widely perceived as the most difficult test yet faced by Golovkin, will be televised via HBO Pay Per View.
“I see one of the biggest upsets ever coming,” said the 52-year-old Hopkins, a former middleweight and light heavyweight champion who will be a surefire first-ballot inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame once he goes onto the ballot in 2021. “I see Danny Jacobs winning a hard-fought decision, but it won’t be a fight so hard to score that the outcome will be debated, like we had with Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward. I just think Danny (an 8-to-1 underdog) is prepared to do something great.”
Hopkins holds the record for most successful middleweight title defenses with 20, so maybe his pick of Jacobs is at least partially influenced by the fact that Golovkin, with 17 defenses of his various middleweight belts (WBC, IBF, IBO and WBA “super”) is closing fast on an historic achievement that B-Hop thought might last forever, or at least for a couple of decades.
Should Golovkin, 34, get past Jacobs, the WBA’s “regular” middleweight champ, he’d be only two successful defenses from tying Hopkins and three from eclipsing him. The Philadelphian makes no secret of his desire that the Kazakh slugger stub his toe somewhere along the way to Nos. 20 and 21.
“Yeah, because it came so quick,” Hopkins said of Golovkin’s surge into second place (the late, great Carlos Monzon is now third, with 14) on the winning middleweight title defenses list. “I thought I’d be around 70 before somebody got close to my record, based on the trend of fighters going for titles in different weight classes rather than to stay in one class that long. I really thought my record would last a long, long time, and maybe it will.
“It ain’t broken yet, but it ain’t too far off. Would I be joyful if it was broken? Hell, no. Would I accept it? Of course. I would have no choice but to accept it. Records are meant to be broken. But, you know, that don’t mean I’d have to like it if mine is broken.”
The prideful Hopkins might just be channeling his inner Peter Marciano, the youngest brother of the late former heavyweight champion, Rocky Marciano, whose 49-0 record (with 43 knockouts) is one of the more iconic standards in boxing history. Peter Marciano didn’t bother to disguise his glee when bulked-up light heavy titlist Michael Spinks scored a razor-thin unanimous decision over the long-reigning Larry Holmes on Sept. 21, 1985. Holmes was 48-0 going into that bout.
But if Peter Marciano didn’t want Holmes – indisputably one of the all-time greats – from matching The Rock, he was absolutely apoplectic when 7-foot, 330-pound Russian Nikolay Valuev, then the WBA champion, made it to 44-0. It would have been an absolute miscarriage of justice, the younger Marciano said, if a hulking clod like Valuev were to keep winning and somehow surpass his legendary brother’s record. That threat passed when Valuev was dethroned in his 47th fight (not counting one no-decision) on a majority decision against Ruslan Chagaev on April 14, 2007.
“Quite honestly, I never want to see Rocky’s record broken,” Peter Marciano said in September 1985 with the same refreshing if self-serving candor as members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the only NFL team to finish a season undefeated and whose players and coaches still pop champagne corks whenever the last unbeaten NFL team in any subsequent season is defeated. “As a sports fan, as a boxing fan, if someone is good enough to ever do it, I would tip my cap to him. But I’m not going to lie. I hope it never happens.”
One can only surmise that Peter Marciano is praying that Floyd Mayweather Jr., who did make it to 49-0, either stays retired or lets his guard down and gets coldcocked should his curiosity of a proposed boxing match with mixed martial arts sensation Conor McGregor ever take place. But make no mistake: Daniel Jacobs is no clumsy bear, like Nikolay Valuev, or a fish out of water, like McGregor likely would be if he stepped inside the ring instead of the octagon against Money May.
“On paper, `GGG’ has to be the favorite,” Hopkins allowed. “He’s got all those knockouts in a row (the streak is now up to 23) and very few of those times has he been challenged a little bit, much less seriously challenged. He’s been steamrolling guys. There are some people who have been suggesting that he’s shown some vulnerability in his last two fights (against Dominic Wade and Kell Brook) because he’s been hit with punches he normally doesn’t get hit with, but he’s enough of a veteran to know what kind of power a guy packs, or doesn’t pack, right from the jump. If you don’t get his respect early, he’ll go right to you and eventually through you.
“But Danny Jacobs … he’s a different story, for several reasons. This man got a second chance at life. He beat a disease (cancer) that’s wiping out millions. `GGG’ is dangerous all right, but he’s not cancer. This is not the biggest fight Danny Jacobs has ever fought. He’s already fought that fight, and won.
“The biggest upset in boxing history came when Buster Douglas got up off the canvas and beat somebody (Mike Tyson) who supposedly couldn’t be beat. Buster showed that anything can happen in that ring. But what was he motived by? He was fighting to honor the memory of his mother, who had just recently passed away. Being inspired by something that’s bigger than you, that’s bigger than winning a belt, is powerful stuff. It can make you go on to do great things.”
Jacobs, however, has more going for him than the knowledge he is a beacon of hope for so many others battling the Big C and hoping they, too, can outpoint it. He has skills, maybe the right package of them to nullify Golovkin’s reputation as a downsized version of the vintage Tyson who terrified most opponents before knocking them stiff. Jacobs and his trainer, Andre Rozier, even go so far as to suggest that the Brooklyn, N.Y., native (who is on his own 12-bout knockout streak) is a more lethal puncher than the man who has the highest knockout percentage (91.7) of any middleweight champion.
“I have a different type of power. I have athletic power that people can’t see,” said Jacobs, 29, who, at 6-feet tall and with a 73-inch reach, has certain physical advantages over the 5-10½ Golovkin, who has a 70-inch reach.
Added Rozier: “Danny actually has more first-round knockouts (13) than Golovkin has (5). Golovkin has good punching power, but I will not say he has hellacious punching power. He doesn’t hit people with one shot and then they go away. Most of his knockouts come through attrition, where he is constantly banging at you and wearing you down. A lot of Danny’s knockouts come from punches that guys just don’t see because his hands are so quick.”
Hopkins hears what Team Jacobs is saying, and he doesn’t necessarily disagree.
“Danny Jacobs is the sharper, crisper, more accurate puncher,” Hopkins said. “`GGG’ is more of a thumper. He’s heavy-handed. He’s like a quicker, smaller George Foreman, who clubs you upside the head. I never had either kind of power, but I fought guys who were thumpers. Joe Lipsey was like that, and Robert Allen and Antwun Echols, too. Now, Roy Jones Jr. in his prime was not a thumper; he was a quick, sharp accurate puncher. When you get hit just right by a guy like that, which Danny Jacobs is, he can turn the lights off just like that, and not with a dimmer. Thumpers turn the lights off with a dimmer. It goes down slow.
“I saw Willie Monroe Jr. (a fifth-round TKO victim of Golovkin on May 16, 2015) and he talked about fighting `GGG.’ He told me he had more of a thumping kind of power, like getting hit with a log or a bat. He said you start getting numb, until your whole body shuts down.”
So how does Hopkins envision Golovkin-Jacobs playing out?
“What I see is Danny Jacobs boxing the hell out of `GGG’ in the first half of the fight, then the real fight begins,” he said. “Wait and see.”
Although Hopkins’ choice of Jacobs over Golovkin might be influenced by his desire not to see his record broken, conspiracy theorists are likely to see a more sinister reason. Hopkins is an executive with Golden Boy Promotions, whose cash cow is Canelo Alvarez (48-1-1, 34 KOs). Alvarez squares off with fellow Mexican Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (50-2-1, 32 KOs) on May 6 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, and there are those who would suggest that Golden Boy CEO Oscar De La Hoya has and will continue to evade Golovkin as a possible opponent for his premier attraction.
“I’m excited about this fight (Golovkin-Jacobs) and I’m excited about Canelo-Chavez Jr., which also could be a great fight,” Hopkins said. “These fights are kind of like a kickoff to something like the middleweight tournament we had in 2001 (the finale of which saw Hopkins stop the favored Felix Trinidad in 12 rounds on Sept. 29 of that year). Somebody’s going to come out the undisputed middleweight champion, or at least be recognized as such by most people, kind of like we had with a Marvin Hagler, a Carlos Monzon and, yeah, a Bernard Hopkins.
“Who wins or loses a fight like these ones isn’t the main thing. The worst thing for boxing is bad fights, and I don’t see any way that’s going to happen with these two fights. If Danny Jacobs beats `GGG’ and it’s a great fight, or it goes the other way, that’s all that anyone will care about. It’s all anyone should care about.”
Hopkins was asked if he could envision how he’d fight Golovkin, if such a matchup could be made, prime-on-prime. It is something that has crossed his mind.
“I know how I’d go about it,” he said. “He’s a stalker, an intimidator, coming to seek-and-destroy with power and constant pressure. I had good success against guys like that because I had the mental discipline to take away what they did best.
“It comes down to either you get, or be gotten. That’s it. That’s boxing.”
For his part, Golovkin – whose preference is not to publicly look past his opponent of the moment – is only thinking of Jacobs, not Alvarez or Hopkins’ record which is almost within his grasp. But it’s not like he hasn’t mentally flirted with the notion of executing “The Executioner.”
“I hope I can beat (Hopkins’) record,” he said in April 2016, before he knocked out Wade in two rounds. “It’s very important to me and my team. It would be great.”
Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel.