Bernard Hopkins should retire
Bernard Hopkins lost his title in controversial fashion to Chad Dawson on Saturday
The commission will likely allow Hopkins to keep his title, but he should still retire
The hiring of Ken Hershman as president of HBO Sports was an excellent decision
This is a difficult column to write because I don't know the answers to the following questions:
Was Bernard Hopkins really hurt when Chad Dawson nudged him to the canvas in the second round of their light heavyweight title fight on Saturday?
And if Hopkins was hurt, just how hurt was he?
Some of you might say, There is a medical report. I know. According to Dr. Sam Thurber, a California physician who specializes in emergency medicine, Hopkins suffered a separation of the acromioclavicular (or the A-C) joint, which connects the collarbone and shoulder blade. That kind of injury, several people have told me, can be extremely painful.
"It happened to me April 30, 1957, driving to Chicago for the Gene Fulmer-Sugar Ray Robinson middleweight title bout," longtime boxing publicist Bill Caplan wrote in an email. "My [car] did a double rollover into a ditch (no seat belts in those days) and I was taken to the hospital with what turned out to be the separation. Excruciatingly painful. Any move was stabbing. It took about six weeks for the shoulder to heal."
But this is boxing, and just getting a note from a doctor is not irrefutable evidence of a real injury. And we have seen Hopkins feign injury to try to gain an advantage before: In his 2008 fight against Joe Calzaghe, Hopkins went down in a heap -- and then enjoyed several minutes of rest in the ring -- after a surging Calzaghe tapped him with a light shot right on the belt line. Could Hopkins have been looking for a similar advantage against Dawson, only to have it backfire when the referee a) waved off the fight and b) ruled Dawson's nudge a legal move?
We may never know. Through his publicist, I requested copies of Hopkins' X-rays, with the idea that an impartial physician could give an unbiased answer. But I'm not expecting a response anytime soon.
Of course, it doesn't matter. Because I saw enough in the first two rounds against Dawson to formulate this opinion:
Bernard Hopkins should retire.
Now, it won't be long before this loss is wiped off Hopkins' résumé. Referee Pat Russell made an egregious error when he ruled that Dawson's shove was not a foul, or at the very least not a legal boxing move. The California commission will review it and in short time declare the fight a no contest and give Hopkins back his title.
But to what end? I'm convinced that if you put Hopkins and Dawson in the ring together 10 times, Dawson wins all 10 of them. It's a bad matchup for Hopkins. Dawson is tall and rangy with an excellent jab. He doesn't get flustered when Hopkins lunges in and he has the speed to rip off three or four combinations at will. No, Dawson wasn't especially effective in the two rounds on Saturday -- he landed seven of the 55 punches he threw, according to CompuBox -- but he patiently kept Hopkins in front of him and it was clear the Dawson who blew out Antonio Tarver, Glen Johnson and Tomasz Adamek had come to fight.
If Hopkins can't beat Dawson, who can he beat? Tavoris Cloud? The IBF titleholder is another volume-punching 175-pounder. Nathan Cleverly? Beibut Shumenov? Zsolt Erdei? What do any of them offer a man who will be 47 the next time he steps in the ring?
The only acceptable scenario for Hopkins fighting again is if Jean Pascal beats Dawson early next year. Pascal is tailor-made for Hopkins. He's a raw, undisciplined power puncher whose physical advantages are tempered by Hopkins' ring savvy. HBO would be interested and a third installment in the rivalry would probably draw 20,000 fans to a venue in Montreal or Quebec City.
But if Dawson beats Pascal, forget it. No one wants to see Hopkins-Dawson II, including Hopkins, Dawson and promoters Richard Schaefer and Gary Shaw. The promotion for the fight was a disaster and sources familiar with the situation described ticket sales as horrendous. Joe Calzaghe wasn't coming out of retirement to fight Hopkins before and he's certainly not doing it now. Lucian Bute is (hopefully) tied up with the winner of Showtime's Super Six tournament through the middle of next year. And now that David Haye is title-less and retired, the fairy tale of moving up to heavyweight is just that.
It's been a great career for Hopkins. He's one of the top-five middleweight champions of all time. He's the oldest man to win a major title. He's a born showman who has charmed reporters and fans alike for years. But it's time to move on. Sometimes you have to accept that there is nothing left to fight for. For Hopkins, that time is now.
I'll be weighing in on the hiring of former Showtime sports boss Ken Hershman at HBO in this week's Sports Illustrated, but I'll repeat some of my sentiments here: This was a great move.
Some people have questioned it, specifically when it comes to how Hershman -- whose budget at Showtime was significantly less than what he will have at HBO -- will handle the responsibility of overseeing such a massive checkbook. My well-respected counterpart at ESPN, Dan Rafael, made the analogy that being the GM of the Padres isn't the same as running the Yankees.
I disagree. I think Hershman's success at Showtime -- including shepherding the successful ShoBox: The New Generation series and creating the groundbreaking Super Six tournament -- on a limited budget proves he can (and will) be highly successful at the next level. I'll make a different analogy, a basketball one. Oklahoma City's Sam Presti is considered one of, if not the top executive in the NBA. The Thunder have far more significant financial restraints than, say, the Knicks. But I have no doubt that if Presti were running the Knicks, he would develop them into a powerhouse.
If you analyze Hershman's philosophies, I think he can have an immediate impact. First, Hershman comes from a company that, under the late Jay Larkin, established a "best fights, no rights" policy. That meant no long output deals or silly multi-fight contracts, the kind of agreements that have wreaked havoc on HBO's budget the last few years. If Hershman brings that philosophy to HBO, it could go a long way toward cleaning up the messy relationships the network has had with Al Haymon (whose fighters have routinely collected fat license fees fighting nobodies) and Golden Boy Promotions. The network's cushy relationship with Golden Boy has drawn the ire of many rival promoters.
Second, HBO has a smaller, prospect-heavy boxing series in the works for 2012, one very similar to ShoBox. Hershman's experience building ShoBox into one of the strongest regular shows in boxing should help him grow this new brand.
These are just the obvious benefits to hiring Hershman, who, by all accounts, had an extremely successful run at Showtime. When Ross Greenburg resigned last summer, I thought there were only two people who could do that job: Hershman and Lou DiBella, the former director of programming at HBO. But DiBella once reportedly cursed at then-HBO chairman (and current Time Warner CEO) Jeff Bewkes and then-HBO executive (and current HBO CEO) Bill Nelson during a budget meeting. He had no shot. Hershman was the best man and the right man for the job.
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