"24-KARAT" ROLD ON YOUTH, REDEMPTION, AND DAMN LIES!
HOPKINS-TAYLOR THE BEST OF ALL CLICHES!
The great thing about a great cliche is the great way it just rolls off yourtongue; it can be applied when nothing else will illuminate a sentence. TheWorld middleweight championship bout scheduled for this Saturday night hasproduced, and will produce by Sunday morning, so many columns riddled withcliches that readers might feel that they have seen the death of all uniquewriting. This is billed as "old lion versus young lion"; it is"the aging warrior in his last stand"; it is "the challengerbiting off more than he can chew"; a real "pick-em" fight., HOPKINS-TAYLOR THE BEST OF ALL CLICHES!
The great thing about a great cliche is the great way it just rolls off yourtongue; it can be applied when nothing else will illuminate a sentence. TheWorld middleweight championship bout scheduled for this Saturday night hasproduced, and will produce by Sunday morning, so many columns riddled withcliches that readers might feel that they have seen the death of all uniquewriting. This is billed as "old lion versus young lion"; it is"the aging warrior in his last stand"; it is "the challengerbiting off more than he can chew"; a real "pick-em" fight. Theonly thing that makes all of this bearable, the only thing that ever makescliches bearable, is the hint of truth embedded in it all…and the truth is?The truth is that even with the plainest of language to describe it, champion BernardHopkins (46-2-1, 32 KOs) versus Jermain Taylor(23-0, 17 KOs) is the most intriguing match-up of 2005.
EVALUATION OF THE BOUT REMAINS TRICKY!
If one man has the edge in size, speed, strength, youthAND the better jab, it would seem in any normal fight that picking the winnerwould be a foregone conclusion; not so in this case. For while Taylor, a 2000Olympian, does hold all of these advantages, he has yet to be tested forintangibles like toughness and resilience. We have been sold that there justwere not enough tough challengers for Taylor on the way up and so hiscareer-long low level of activity and two fights against men barely hanging onas top ten contenders (former titlist William Joppy and Daniel Edouard)are forgiven. After all, he does have in his favor a highlight reel full ofpretty right hands and that telephone pole jab of his (and this is thehighlight reel era in sports).
THE OLD MAN HAS PROVEN IT!
Unlike Taylor, Hopkins has shown talent and intangibles.He got off the deck twice against Segundo Mercado to win a Draw in Mercados hometown; he out-fouled AntwunEchols; he lost maybe five rounds, total, againsthis five best foes (Joppy, Keith Holmes, Glenn Johnson, Oscar DeLa Hoya, Felix Trinidad). Remarkably, Hopkinshas, in 21 title defenses, never was he in need or the benafactor of acontroversial decision; never needed a come from behind knockout; statistically,he is the most dominant long reigning champion in history. Still we know thateven Hopkins is human; the last time this many physical advantages weighedagainst him, in 1993, was the last time he was on the losing end of a decision(to Roy Jones). Add to that hisnoticeable loss of hand speed since the Joppy fight and an increasinglyconservative punch output and the time would seem ripe for a changing of the guard.
MOORE AND MONZON PROVIDE THE MAP TO VICTORY!
So why am I going with the old man? Two reasons…formerlight heavyweight king Archie Moore and former middleweight king Carlos Monzon. Both of these Hall of Fame immortals also faced a Taylor-likechallenge late in their careers; both exhibited that youth is not alwaysserved. Prior to winning the crown in 1952 from Joey Maxim at age 38, Moore split two ten round bouts with the great HaroldJohnson. Harolds youth, though, didnt stopMoore in their championship rubber match in 1954 from rising from a tenth roundknockdown to stop Johnson in 14. Youth also was no aid to RodrigoValdez, a man who had knocked out BennieBriscoe, in his two battles against a 35-year oldMonzon (the man who held the record for middleweight title defenses at 14 untilHopkins came along). Even with a knockdown of the champion in the second fight,Valdez dropped two narrow decisions. Jermain Taylor has done nothing in hiscareer to make me think he is of the same caliber as Johnson or Valdez; Hopkinshas shown himself to be of the same cloth as Moore and Monzon. Hopkins byunanimous decision.
BROCK DESERVING AS ANY FOR SHOT AT VITALI!
It never ceases to amaze me how even the simplest oftechniques still seems to work. In this case it the big lie theory (the ideathat telling big lies is more convincing that a string of little one). Sincebeing declared the mandatory to WBC titlist Vitali Klitschko (and thats all he is), numerous press releases have trumpetedformer World heavyweight champ Hasim Rahman as his most dangerous and deserving challenger. Moving beyondthe stupidity of trying to figure out deserving contenders when there are fourguys running around as champ and no unification bouts on tap, some of therhetoric attaching itself to Klitschko in light of his decision to pursue about with 2000 U.S. Olympian Calvin Brock on September 24 is surprising.
PRESS RHETORIC WAY OFF BASE!
Following his win earlier this year against mid-levelcontender Clifford Ettienne, Brockdefeated Jameel McCline in Aprilat a time when McCline was considered a top five heavyweight contender. Yet ESPN opines that Vitali is "ducking worthy opponents" evenas it notes that Brock is his likely next challenger…and they are not alone.Huh? Fact: the winner of Rahman-Monte Barrett on August 13 will have earned a title shot…but neither hasdone so before they have that fight. Barrett is getting a lot of mileage out ofLOSING to Joe Mesi, beating a DominicGuinn who had not and never did crack alegitimate top ten, and an exciting win against the completely untested andunfathomably rated Owen Beck.
FACTS GETTING IN THE WAY OF THE STORY!
Beginning with his title loss to LennoxLewis in 2001, Rahman has gone 5-3-1 (includinglosses to Evander Holyfield and aunanimous decision loss to the awful John Ruiz that wasnt even close). His five wins wereagainst…um…uh…Alfred Cole, Mario Cawley, Rob Calloway,Terrence Lewis and Kali Meehan (who was marginally a top twenty contender at best and Rahmansbest win since Lennox). If THAT makes one the most worthy opponent, theheavyweight division is worse off than we thought. Only one of the three men inthe Klitschko sweepstakes has beaten a legitimate top ten foe in the last year(actually last four years), and it isnt either of the two guys with the DonKing PR machine behind them. Its CalvinBrock…and anyone who accuses Vitali of committing an injustice for fightinghim before the Barrett-Rahman winner is drunk!
REDEMPTION SONG IN JAPAN?
On Monday, boxing has another Superfight on tap even if noone outside Japan realizes it. Well, no one except 2000 U.S.Olympian Jose Navarro. In January, he was thevictim of this particular pre-contracted bout, a rubber match between linealWorld 115-lb. king Katsushige Kawashima and former champ Masamori Tokuyama, when he was robbed (at gunpoint)against Kawashima. The probablereason for that robbery? This bout will be among the richest in Japanesehistory (not to mention one of the biggest bouts in 115 lb. history) andNavarro has been guaranteed a second title try against the winner. That givesthis fight a special air, with Tokuyama seeking to revenge a first roundknockout loss in the second Kawashima bout (following a close decision win inthe first) and Navarro seeking revenge against the establishment that allowedthis fight to occur in the first place. Keep an eye on the results from land ofthe rising sun Monday night. Cliff Rold
Note: "24-Karat" Rold is not just the best young boxing writer on theplanet. He also holds a Masters Degree in U.S. Foreign Policy from the AmericanUniversity in Washington DC and is an award-winning poet. He can be reachedwith your comments at 24KaratRold@Comcast.net