Hopkins ends it in 9th against De La Hoya

Loser is knocked out for first time in career

Boxing

September 19, 2004|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

LAS VEGAS - Entering their middleweight title fight at the MGM Grand, Bernard Hopkins called Oscar De La Hoya a young lion. Hopkins, a 39-year-old nicknamed "The Executioner," labeled himself a shark, adding that De La Hoya couldn't hang with him.

Last night, before a sellout crowd of 17,157, mostly De La Hoya fans, Hopkins took "The Golden Boy" into deep waters and devoured him with a ninth-round knockout.

Hopkins folded De La Hoya to the canvas by hitting him with a left hook to the liver, leaving him writhing in pain near the ropes close to his corner. De La Hoya's failure to beat the 10-count of referee Kenny Bayless forced an end to the fight at 1:38 as he was knocked out for the first time in his career.

De La Hoya, 31, went down for only the fifth time in his 12 years as a professional, including in wins over Pernell Whitaker and Ike Quartey. This time, however, he was simply in too much pain to recover.

"It was a great shot. It was a great left hook. He hit me right on the button. I tried to get up, believe me, but I couldn't," said De La Hoya, who had vowed to retire, win or lose. Of his future, De La Hoya said, "I have no game plan."

In beating De La Hoya (37-4, 29 knockouts), Hopkins raised his record to 45-2-1 with 32 knockouts. It was a middleweight-record 19th defense of his World Boxing Council, World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation titles.

He improved his unbeaten streak to 23-0-1, 16 knockouts, since losing to Roy Jones Jr. in May 1993.

Hopkins also took the World Boxing Organization crown from De La Hoya, who had won eight world titles in six different weight classes.

"I set him up with the jab and then I leaned to the left and I hit him in the liver," said Hopkins, who will turn 40 in January. "When I threw the hook to the liver, I heard him say, 'Ahh'. That's when I knew I had him. I guess you could say he's chopped liver with some Hopkins sauce."

Referee Dave Morretti had Hopkins ahead, 79-73. Paul Smith had him up, 78-74. Keith Macdonald had De La Hoya ahead, 77-75.

Although never knocked out or beaten convincingly during his previous fights, De La Hoya had shown an inability to make adjustments on the fly - something Sugar Leonard was able to do in defeating Marvin Hagler. De La Hoya also had a propensity for tiring during the latter stages of bouts.

But in a fight that was contested at 158 pounds, two below the normal division limit of 160, Hopkins gave credit to De La Hoya for his strategy, his intensity and his fortitude.

"He fought straight up and didn't run like I thought he was going to," said Hopkins. "He came to fight, but I had more than one plan, and I executed my other plan. I never saw him slowing down. I tried to get inside, but he was a crafty son of a gun. He fought a smart fight up until the end."

The victory earned Hopkins a guaranteed $10 million, by far his largest payday. His purse could double if pay-per-view purchases surpass 1.7 million, a non-heavyweight record.

De La Hoya was guaranteed $25 million and could earn as much as $40 million.

Including two fights with Segundo Mercado, the second for the middleweight title in April 1995, Hopkins is 18-0-1 with 13 knockouts against eight present or past world champions.

In victory, he overcame what was perceived by some observers as a questionable group of judges: Moretti and Smith had given De La Hoya the final round in his controversial, 12-round unanimous decision over Felix Sturm on June 5.

Moretti also had Sugar Ray Leonard beating Marvin Hagler in 1987, a fight that ranks as one of the greatest middleweight upsets and one that favorably compares to Hopkins-De La Hoya.

"I didn't really know if I was winning the fight," Hopkins said. "Before I left my corner, I asked if I was winning the fight. I felt the urgency in the ninth round. I wasn't sure I was winning."

Hopkins had the overall advantage in punches landed with 99 to 82 for De La Hoya. And Hopkins landed more power punches, connecting on 62 to 45 for De La Hoya. The fighters were even on jabs with 37 each.

Hopkins won seven rounds on Moretti's card, six on Smith's, and only three on that of Macdonald, who had George Foreman winning a controversial decision over Axel Schultz years ago.

"I wanted to show that I could box," said Hopkins, who weighed 156 pounds to De La Hoya's 155. "I came in light and my trainer [Bouie Fisher] told me, 'Son, we're going to fool 'em.' I was faster, lighter and I still had my power."

Earlier in the day, it was revealed that De La Hoya's oft-injured left hand was gouged accidentally by a trainer's scissors following a Wednesday workout. The cut needed 11 stitches to close.

De La Hoya, whose right hand had become more prominent in past bouts, nevertheless brought back the left hand he used to inflict punishment or score knockdowns in victories over such fighters as Fernando Vargas, Ike Quartey, Rafael Ruelas and Jesse James Leija.

The injury, initially reported by the Las Vegas Review Journal yesterday, was made known to Nevada Athletic Commission chairman Marc Ratner following Friday's weigh-in because De La Hoya took painkillers that might appear in his post-fight urinalysis.

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