Hopkins ends it in 9th against De La Hoya

Loser is knocked out for first time in career


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

LAS VEGAS - Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins had called Oscar De La Hoya "a dead man walking." He promised "The Golden Boy" would "need a makeover" following damage he would deliver in last night's undisputed middleweight title fight.

The verbiage notwithstanding, Hopkins, who will turn 40 in January, made good on his boasting last night, raising his record to 45-2-1 [32 knockouts] with a ninth-round knockout as he successfully defended his World Boxing Council, World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation titles before a sellout, partisan De La Hoya crowd of 17,157 at the MGM Grand Arena.

Hopkins' middleweight-record 19th straight successful defense raised his unbeaten streak to 23-0-1 (16 knockouts) since losing to Roy Jones Jr. in May 1993.

He also took the World Boxing Organization crown from De La Hoya (37-4, 29 KOs), who has won eight world titles in six different weight classes. It was the first time in De La Hoya's 12-year career that he was knocked out.

Win or lose, De La Hoya had vowed career would end after this fight.

The victory earned Hopkins a guaranteed $10 million, which could double if pay-per-view surpasses 1.7 million purchases, a non-heavyweight record. Hopkins made $2.7 million for his 12th-round knockout of Felix Trinidad in September 2001.

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

Hopkins appeared to win four of the first six rounds, and De La Hoya particularly began to give ground to Hopkins' power in the seventh. As he promised, Hopkins, firing his left jab from his waist, began to emphasize hard lead right hands and overhand rights and lefts to win the seventh.

De La Hoya landed an left uppercut in Round 8, but Hopkins quickly regained control, chasing his rival to the ropes. But Hopkins doubled up on his jab and followed up with hard combinations. De La Hoya took a hard right late as Hopkins appeared to win the round despite taking a hard left from De La Hoya at the bell.

In the ninth, Hopkins sent a left hook to the body of De La Hoya that began his descent to the canvas, and clipped him with another on the right side of the head.

De La Hoya, rolling around in pain on the canvas, did not beat the 10-count as referee Kenny Bayless waved an end to the fight at 1:38 of the ninth.

Including two fights with Segundo Mercado, the second one for the middleweight title in April 1995, Hopkins is 18-0-1 [had 12 knockouts] in bouts against eight world champions.

Last night's fight was contested at 158 pounds, two below the normal division limit of 160.

And it was not without a sub-drama. 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.

A fighter who has bucked and railed against boxing's system during most of his career, Hopkins, a onetime prison inmate, has both sued and been sued by promoters.

Last night, he overcame what was perceived a judging handicap. Two of the judges, Dave Moretti and Paul Smith, gave De La Hoyo 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.

Going in, experts felt Hopkins had the advantage over De La Hoya mentally and tactically. Always in shape, Hopkins never worries about fatigue in a fight. Instead, he is able to focus on the task at hand and adapt when necessary.

De La Hoya, although never knocked out or beaten convincingly, had often demonstrated an inability to make adjustments during the course of a fight - something Leonard was able to do against Hagler - as well as a propensity for tiring during the latter stages of bouts.

Hopkins had studied many of De La Hoya's fights on tape, and promised to answer anything his rival did. And he promised that either referee Kenny Bayless, trainer Floyd Mayweather Jr. or De La Hoya's father, Joel, who was ringside, would have to stop the fight as Trinidad's father-trainer had to.

The fighters circled to start Round 1 before Hopkins landed a short left hook. Hopkins jabbed twice before a cupping right hand caught De La Hoya on the ear, but continued to circle. De La Hoya missed with a left hook, but landed a jab against the lunging Hopkins who nevertheless appeared to win the round.

Round 2 was more of he same, each fighter largely off the mark. Hopkins dug in, but his hard right hand missed as De La Hoya continued to move forward, jabbing at the head and body, finishing the round with a flurry that began with a right hand that likely won him the round.

Hopkins landed a right hand and a couple of uppercuts during a clinch early in the Round 3. As De La Hoya retreated, Hopkins nailed him with a big right, and, later, a left hook. Hopkins sent home two more right hands and missed with a wild third attempt to apparently win it.

De La Hoya flurried to start the fourth, took a hard right and a left to the body from Hopkins, and regained momentum later by punctuating an exchange with a left hook and a low blow. De La Hoya's late left hand got Hopkins' attention.

Hopkins took an early left-right combination in Round 5, and, during a clinch, fired two shots to the body.

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