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  Smith Launches Hopkins Into Retirement

By William Trillo @ Ringside

Light Heavyweight Bernard Hopkins (55-8-2, 32 KO’s) went into a fight dubbed “Final 1” against Joe Smith Jr. (23-1, 19 KO’s) and it ended in a way that will put an exclamation point on Hopkins career, albeit it’s not quite the way Bernard would have liked it to end.

Truth be told the night didn’t start out looking good for Hopkins. In the first round he looked his age as he stumbled around the ring and almost went down from a Smith punch midway into the first three minutes.

But, as if he turned back the clock, Hopkins started to come on and round after round it looked as though the old guy just might be able to not only work his way back into the fight, but maybe even take a victory. The fight took on an exciting element as Smith and Hopkins traded blows for the next 6 rounds.

But the eighth round spelled doom for the aged warrior. Midway through the round Smith had maneuvered Hopkins into a corner and he let go with a series of blows that culminated with Hopkins being launched through the ropes and out of the ring. With nothing to break his fall the first thing to hit the deck was the back of Bernard’s head. As he looked upward, the gaze in his eyes told the story, there was no way he could continue.

Confusion took center stage in the ring while everything was sorted out. Could Bernard go on? Would they disqualify Smith? Would it go to the scorecards? It was anyone’s guess. In the end Hopkins made it be known he could not continue due to injury ("ankle") and Smith was declared the winner by TKO at the 1:53 mark of round eight. Smith took the WBC International light heavyweight title but more importantly for his career he did something to Hopkins that no one was able to do.

It’s always sad to see our heroes and role models grab for that one last brass ring late in their careers and end up stumbling around in the outfield a la Willie Mays. It was clear early in this one that Bernard was a shell of his former self. We hoped he had the resilience to find a way to win but that was just not meant to be tonight.

“It feels great, it’s the best feeling in the world to accomplish something I set out for and wanted to do. I had seen him every time I threw the right hand, he was throwing the left. I had seen him fall, and I kept hitting him until I saw him go out, and I landed that left hook until he went out. I knew he had time to go out, but I hit him with four or five clean shots and they were good shots on the button. I knew he was a true champion, and if he didn’t get injured he’d be back here. I came here to do my job, this is my coming out party too. I had to finish him, it was either my career was going to end and his was going to end, but I needed mine to continue. I’m going to get back in the gym and train hard for my next opponent. I’m up for anything. I came here to win tonight and move forward in my career and I did it,” said Joe Smith, Jr. “I said I’d be the first one to stop him in his career and I was. I have lots of respect for Bernard. He is a true champion. Lots of people love Bernard and still will because he’s a true champion."

“I was throwing the right hand and a combination and then using the rope as an offensive as I’m known for, and making a mess. He got frustrated, and I might have gotten glazed with a left hook and next thing I know he was throwing me out of the ring. I injured myself and hit my head first and hurt my ankle. I knew of the twenty seconds, but couldn’t stand up on my feet because my ankle was injured, I said I could walk but I couldn’t box. I had a choice to make, but I guess the referee made it for me. I know if I hadn’t made a mess and gotten knocked out of the ring, I would’ve come back like I’m known for and would’ve had my chin. The reason I said I’m upset they are giving Smith the TKO is because the momentum threw the ropes, I didn’t dive through the ropes. This is my last fight, I promised it would be and you come to that point in life where it is final and I’m happy with my retirement. I know the fans will know I went out as a solider, fighting the toughest, baddest opponents. I’m not saying I agree, I’m not in denial—Joe was a tough, heavy hitting fighter.”

As the song he played to enter the ring, “My Way” says,
Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew……

You did it your way Bernard…we all thank you for that.

Now it’s time to hang ‘em up.


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