HBO Boxing closes out 2016 with an iconic competitor taking on a determined challenger when Bernard Hopkins competes in his farewell fight against Joe Smith, on a card also featuring Joseph Diaz, and a fight between Oleksandr Usyk and Thabiso Mchunu, all airing this Saturday at 10 pm from The Forum in Inglewood, Cal., exclusively on HBO.
For his final bout, Philadelphia’s Bernard Hopkins (55-7-2, 32 KOs) takes on rising prospect Joseph Smith, Jr. (21-1, 18 KOs) from Long Island in a scheduled 12-round light heavyweight contest.
In a remarkable career that started behind prison walls and defied the odds, Hopkins, 51, has fought professionally as a middleweight and light heavyweight for 28 years. Winning seven titles and making a record 20 consecutive successful middleweight title defenses, he is widely considered a sure thing for the Hall of Fame. But age and a lack of ring activity are certain to be factors in Hopkins’ 23rd appearance on HBO, since he hasn’t fought since Nov. 2014.
With just one blemish on his record, Smith, 27, supplements his training by working construction on Long Island, and has compiled an outstanding 78% knockout-to-win ratio. He seeks to raise his standing in the division as he continues to pursue a championship fight.
In the middle bout, Joseph Diaz, Jr. (22-0, 13 KOs) of South El Monte, Cal. takes on Horacio Garcia (30-1-1, 22 KOs) from Guadalajara, Mexico in a scheduled ten-round featherweight contest. A 2012 U.S. Olympian, Diaz seeks to keep his perfect pro record intact and raise his national profile; Garcia is fighting in the U.S. for only the third time.
The tripleheader opens with a cruiserweight title contest between southpaw Oleksandr Usyk (10-0, 9 KOs) from Kiev, Ukraine and Thabiso Mchunu (17-2, 11 KOs) of Cato Ridge, South Africa. A 2012 Olympic gold medalist, title-holder Usyk, 29, will be making his U.S. debut with this scheduled 12-round matchup. The more-experienced Mchunu, 28, has fought three previous times in the U.S. The fight marks the first live cruiserweight battle on the network since 2003.
Friday night HBO LATINO will present a tripleheader from Fantasy Springs Casino starting at 10:00 p.m. (live ET/tape-delayed PT) headlined by a light heavyweight attraction between Vyacheslav Shabranskyy and Sullivan Barrera.