Finally...the most anticipated fight of the year is upon us. I guess there's really no need to bore you with an analytical breakdown of how the fight's going to play out since everybody and their grandmother who claims to be an expert has already done that. Instead, let's just take a look at some of the cold, hard facts...in case you're thinking about laying a little money down on this one.FACT:
At roughly 6'1" and some change, Hopkins has about a 3" height advantage. Anyone care to guess how many guys Oscar has faced that were taller than him? None, nada, zilch! Well...that's not true...there was one...Felix Sturm (I think he had about a half inch hair advantage on Oscar). In fact, in more than half of his fights, it was De La Hoya who enjoyed a 3" or more height advantage...making it a lot easier for him to establish his jab. This will be the first time that Oscar has ever had to box someone that much taller than him. It'll be the first time that Oscar will have to jab up, instead of down, on his opponent. Now, I'm no physics expert and it's been a couple of months since I've been to the gym, but something tells me it's a lot more tiring to punch upwards than it is to punch downwards. Given Oscar's track record, one has to wonder how this will affect his stamina in the later rounds...particularly if he's forced to fight at a fast pace. On a side note, for those that like to compare this fight to Hagler-Leonard...Leonard had the height advantage.FACT:
Where there's height, there's reach! Well...not always, but in this case, Hopkin's will indeed have a slight reach advantage. Obviously, this is going to make it even more difficult for Oscar to establish his jab...especially if he's moving backwards while trying to land it. He's going to be forced to get in closer than he wants to if he wants to land anything of significance...and that could spell trouble for him.FACT:
Bernard is a true middleweight...Oscar is not. And as a true middleweight, Bernard's going to have the advantage in strength and power (unless Oscar found a special potion of his own....nah). Does Oscar even have any power anymore? Who was the last guy he knocked out...Vargas? Well, that knockout will always have an asterick next to it - symbolizing the steroids, the Trinidad fight, or a combination of the two. But if you take that fight out of the equation, his last knockout was against Arturo Gatti...who, by the way, moved up in weight to fight Oscar at 147...I REPEAT...AT 147. Where was Oscar's power in the Castillejo fight? Where was his power in the Campas fight (no...that was no knockout...Campas just quit). How about the Mosley fight? Oscar got in some really good shots against Mosley, but those shots barely fazed him. In fact, it appeared as though Mosley was the stronger man as he was able to muscle Oscar around pretty easily. I know...I know...that's because of the steroids...right? Yeah...I remember the Winky fight and how easily he pushed around Mosley at 154. Could Winky push Oscar around like that? What if that was Hopkins in there with Mosley? Now picture Oscar in there? The point is you have to wonder if Oscar is going to have any kind of pop to make Bernard respect him. Don't get me wrong...when it comes to knockout power, Hopkins isn't the greatest either. However, these were true middleweights he was facing...big guys like Robert Allen and Antwun Echols (who packs quite a punch himself). Bernard may not possess much knockout power either, but he sure can beat you up over the course of 12 rounds...just ask Joppy.FACT:
Oscar's definitely in much better shape for this fight, which leads me to believe that he's probably going to come into the ring somewhere around 154lbs in order to retain his speed advantage. Finally, an advantage for Oscar...or is it? Will his speed be that much of a factor in this fight? I mean, we're not talking about blinding Roy Jones Jr. speed (incidentally, why didn't Roy's speed advantage help him out in that Tarver fight)...we're not talking about "Sugar" Ray Leonard speed. Yeah, he may be a little bit faster than Hopkins, but is it going to be enough to make a difference? Heck, is he even going to have the speed advantage? I know that's what the "experts" are telling us, but truth be told, Oscar has lost a step in the speed department himself. Forget about the Sturm fight...just look at the Mosley rematch. Did those two look as fast in their rematch as they were in their first fight at 147? Was Oscar that much faster than Vargas? I think the jury's still out on whether or not he'll actually have the speed advantage, but if you're looking to give Oscar an edge (and believe me, I'm desparately trying to find one), it would probably be here.FACT:
They both have one common opponent...Felix Trinidad. Whether you believe Oscar was robbed in that fight or not doesn't really matter. What matters is the performance that each fighter gave. It's clear that even though he thought he was well ahead on points, Oscar was still worried about making a mistake. He was still worried about Trinidad's power in the later rounds (his power at 147, mind you). Hopkins, on the other hand, was not. Bernard had absolutely no problem with Trinidad's power at 160. If Oscar was worried about Trinidad's power and afraid to close the show at 147, what's going to happen when he tastes Bernard's power at 160? Hopkins hasn't lost more than 3 rounds since his fight with Syd Vanderpool back in 2000. At best, this fight will turn into a very close chess match, with the outcome of the fight riding on the last couple of rounds. What makes us believe that Oscar is going to be able to close the show against Hopkins - a man at 160 who will definitely have more power than a guy fighting at 147?
Okay, based on the facts, there's just no way that I can pick a man who only has one advantage in a fight. My prediction: Hopkins TKO9! Now based on my prediction, I know a lot of you out there are just going to call me a De La Hoya hater. That's cool...you're entitled to your opinion. But I'd like to let you all know that I truly tried to stay as unbiased as possible...which is what you have to do when you're talking about putting money on the line. I mean, just think about it. Forget about the names for a second...forget about the fact that it's Bernard Hopkins and Oscar De La Hoya. If someone told you that fighter A - who has the height, reach, power and size advantage - was fighting fighter B - who's only edge might be a slight speed advantage - who would you pick to win the fight? Well, given the fact that fighter A has all the advantages except for one (and that one advantage may not even be a factor), I like fighter A's chances a lot more than fighter B. Fighter A just so happens to be Bernard Hopkins. Alas, I've been wrong before. If there's anyone out there who would pick fighter A over fighter B, please shoot me an email and let me knowy why.
Will it be a clear-cut knockout...of course not! Oscar's gotta a pretty good chin. But I do expect to see him wear down towards the middle rounds as usual (no matter how in-shape he is) and I expect Hopkins to beat him up for as long as the fight lasts. It wouldn't shock me to see De La Hoya take a knee from a body shot, but his heart won't keep him down there for long. However, I think eventually, someone - whether it's his trainer, his dad, his wife, the ref, or Oscar himself - will end up calling a halt to this one. Hopkins TKO9!
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