Boxing gets another dose of light heavyweight action on March 9 in Brooklyn, when hard-hitting Tavoris Cloud defends his IBF title against the ageless wonder, Bernard Hopkins. Cloud vs. Hopkins (and since he has the title, Cloud comes first in that billing) will hopefully answer two questions that have been on the lips of many fight fans for at least a couple of years. First, just how good is Tavoris Cloud? Second, how much does Hopkins have left after his two sub-par showings against Chad Dawson?
Bernard Hopkins (52-6-2, 32 KOs)
6’1″ tall, 75″ reach, 48 years old
Former Undisputed World Middleweight Champion; former WBC Light Heavyweight Champion
Hopkins, a.k.a B-Hop, The Executioner, the Ageless Wonder, the Modern Day Archie Moore, has been in professional boxing for almost a quarter century now. Rather than review who the grand old man of the sport was, I want to focus here on who he is right now.
B-Hop has aged beautifully, not surprising for a gym rat who takes immaculate care of his body and has always rested his prowess on solid skills. The late version of B-Hop is like Archie Moore, in that he tries to eek out his still formidable, but clearly reduced, physical gifts with crafty skills and guileful tactics. Those were enough to give Jean Pascal everything the Quebecois could handle in two fights back in 2010-2011.
Then came the Dawson fights, with the first ending in an early No Contest, and thereby covering for the sound defeat that came in the rematch. Dawson came on starting in the 5th Round, applying busy aggression based on power and sound technique, and it proved too much for Hopkins. Although on judge inexplicably saw the fight as a Draw, the other two were dead on in calling it a 111-117 whipping for Hopkins.
Tavoris Cloud (24-0, 19 KOs)
5’10”, 76″ reach, 31 years old
Current IBF Light Heavyweight Champion
Cloud isn’t hard to figure out, as he is a pure banger, a strong, stocky guy who comes forward and throws lots of bad intentions at his opponent. His defense is his offense, pure and simple. Cloud is also confident, undefeated, and in his prime.
Against that, it must be said that Cloud has not been tested in a deep and general way. He has fought some decent guys in Glen Johnson, Clinton Woods and Julio Cesar Gonzalez (he was the first to stop Gonzalez too), but those opponents all fought in styles that maximized Cloud’s obvious advantages. His biggest deficit to date is that he has never fought a guy who had the stuff to try and out-box him.
Cloud vs. Hopkins Preview & Analysis
The Ageless Wonder and Living Legend who out-boxed and even at times out-worked Jean Pascal could have beaten Cloud, hands down. But now, I have to wonder if Father Time hasn’t finally caught up with Hopkins. The way to beat a middle-aged Hopkins has been clear since Joe Calzaghe did it in 2008: swarm him and shut him down.
The reason why Calzaghe and Dawson could do it and Pascal did not is that the busy, relentless assault that will keep Hopkins bottled up must be based on solid technique. Pascal was a bit too wild, and that gave Hopkins opportunities to turn Pascal’s aggression against him.
That should suggest that B-Hop ought to be able to make Cloud, whose skill is mostly limited to generating and applying power, look foolish with ease. I’m not so sure. Cloud will give Hopkins plenty of openings for sneaky counters, but I wonder if he can weather a guy as powerful and tough as Cloud in the long run. With his diminished speed, Hopkins will need to both stick-and-move and pick off counters on the run to avoid taking hurt.
If Hopkins can’t do both, Cloud will land leather, and Cloud hits a lot harder than Dawson. I can’t see how that won’t empty Hopkins’ gas tank in the long run, and that is on top of the question of whether Hopkins can do all that moving and sticking in the first place.
For Cloud’s part, one wonders what he will do when he discovers his tried-and-tested routine isn’t working. Will he dig deep and stick with it, or start to doubt himself? What will happen if Hopkins starts playing mind games with him? Boxing is as much psychological as it is physical, and Hopkins could very well trick Cloud into defeating himself.
Cloud vs. Hopkins Prediction
It used to be that only a fool bet against Bernard Hopkins, but I think that day is done. I can see Hopkins leaving Cloud befuddled at times, but all Thunder has to do is stick with what he does best: go forward, walk his man down, and fire freely and with bad intentions. Sure, he’ll get stung from time to time, but so long as he stays focused and encouraged, he will hurt Hopkins more than Hopkins can afford. The fight ends with a weary and half-battered B-Hop in defense and survival mode.
Even so, Hopkins will likely get the benefit of the doubt in any close rounds due to his reputation alone. Let’s not forget that in the second Dawson fight, one guy thought Hopkins had earned a Draw! So the scorecards will be closer than what the pundits and experts say.
Prediction: Tavoris Cloud SD12 Bernard Hopkins