HBO World Championship Boxing Results: Usyk and Diaz Victorious, Joe Smith Stops Bernard Hopkins and Sends Him Tumbling Outside the Ring
By: William Holmes
The legendary Bernard Hopkins ended his long and illustrious career tonight at the Forum in Inglewood, California.
Three bouts were televised by HBO and five of tonight’s six participants were making their HBO debut.
The opening bout of the night was between Oleksandr Usyk (10-0) and Thabiso Mchunu (17-2) for the WBO Cruiserweight Title.
Both boxers came out in a southpaw stance, but Usyk appeared to be the bigger and longer boxer. However, Usyk had trouble with the short height of Mchunu and stuck to mainly throwing his jab in the opening two rounds. Mchunu showed surprisingly good counter punching and was able to land some lead right hooks and stiff jabs and took an early lead.
At the start of the third round Mchunu landed seventeen punches to Usyk’s sixteen, but Usyk picked up his volume of punches and began to look very comfortable in the ring by the fourth round. His volume and accuracy was increasing.
Usyk landed a good right uppercut in the fifth round and was landing more power shots. He scored a knockdown in the sixth round after landing multiple combinations that forced Mchunu to take a knee. Mchunu was able to survive the round but Usyk domination and volume continued into the seventh and eighth rounds.
Usyk opened up the ninth round by landing some good body shots on Mchunu in the opening minute and it opened up some avenues for Usyk to land some power shots upstairs. Usyk landed another blistering combination and it forced Mchunu to take a knee. Usyk comes right at Mchunu when he gets back to his feet and a fierce exchange occurred with both boxers landing power shots, but it was Mchunu who goes down again and the referee stops the fight.
Oleksandr Usyk wins by TKO at 1:53 of the ninth round.
The next bout of the night was between Joseph Diaz (22-0) and Horacio Garcia (30-1-1) in the featherweight division.
Diaz, a southpaw, landed the first jab of the night and kept a safe distance and found his range early on. Garcia landed a good counter right but was met with a two punch combination from Diaz. Diaz landed more punches than Garcia in the opening frame, but Garcia was able to land some hard punches of his own.
Diaz had a strong second and third rounds and nearly doubled the number of power shots landed. He was landing crisp counter shots on a forward pressing Garcia and looked like an experienced veteran in the ring.
Garcia had a decent fourth round and caught Garcia with some right hand power shots when his back was against the ropes, but Diaz was able to slow Garcia down with hard hooks to the body and closed out the round well with quick combinations.
Diaz stepped on the gas pedal in the fifth round and was able to impress the crowd with his blistering hand speed. Diaz’s dominance continued into the sixth round and he was comfortably ahead on the scorecards.
Diaz simple outclassed Garcia by the seventh round and looked like he had no chance at winning the bout. He was able to land a few combinations on Diaz with his back against the ropes, but Diaz was able to fight out of the corner and quickly swing the momentum back to his favor.
Garcia needed a knockout in the final two rounds to win and he tried to press the action, but that knockout never came.
Diaz wins an impressive decision with scores of 100-90 on all three scorecards.
The main event of the evening was between Bernard Hopkins (55-7-2) and Joe Smith Jr. (22-1) in the light heavyweight division.
Smith missed with a wild right hook early in the first round and Hopkins immediately tied up. Hopkins connected with an early lead right but Smith counters with a right hand to the temple of Hopkins that appears to have momentarily stunned him. Smith was landing some hard shots on Hopkins as the round came to an end, and for the first time in his career Hopkins looked old inside the ring.
Smith pressed forward in the second round and Hopkins tied up when they got close, which led to a clash of heads that opened up a cut on the top of Smith’s head. Hopkins was able to land a sharp counter right hand this round, but Smith was the more active fighter.
The third round was a close round, but Smith was missing more of his punches than in the previous two rounds and Hopkins landed a few counter right hands.
Hopkins had a very good fourth round and even landed some combinations on the a seemingly increasingly frustrated Joe Smith Jr.
Hopkins started off the fifth round strong by tagging Smith with straight right hands as he chased Hopkins around the ring. However, Smith hard a good moment in the fifth round when he dug in some heavy hooks into the body of Hopkins and followed it with a right hook to the chin of Hopkins that elicited a roar from the crowd.
Hopkins missed with a wild left in the opening seconds of the sixth round and Smith landed a left to the body and Hopkins responded with a right uppercut to the chin of Smith. Smith pressed the action in the sixth round and was able to land some good shots.
Hopkins landed some clean counter punches in the seventh round but Smith was able to land some good punches to the body.
Smith had Hopkins backing up in the eighth round and landed a combination, including a stunning right hand, that hurt Hopkins and had him tumbling outside of the ring. Hopkins was helped to his feet by some people outside, but failed to get back into the ring after the count of twenty.
Hopkins was complaining that he was pushed outside of the ring to all who would hear him, but the fight was waived off and ruled in favor of Joe Smith Jr.
The crowd was not happy with the result, but Joe Smith Jr. wins by TKO at 0:53 of the eighth round.
HBO World Championship Boxing Preview: Bernard Hopkins vs. Joe Smith Jr., Usyk vs. Mchunu, Diaz vs. Garcia
By: William Holmes
On Saturday night a legend in the sport of boxing and one of the greatest, if not greatest, fighter that the city of Philadelphia has ever produced will, allegedly, be fighting his last fight in his illustrious career.
Bernard Hopkins will step into the ring to face Long Island, New York native Joe Smith in a light heavyweight showdown in the main event of HBO World Championship Boxing. This bout will take place at the Forum in Inglewood, California.
HBO and Golden Boy Promotions will be televising three bouts on Saturday night. The opening bout of the night will be a WBO Cruiserweight Title bout between upstart champion Oleksandr Usyk and Thabio Mchunu. The co-main event of the night will be between Joseph Diaz and Horacio Garcia in the featherweight division.
The following is a preview of all three televised bouts.
Oleksandr Usyk (10-0) vs. Thabiso Mchunu (17-2); WBO Cruiserweight Title
Oleksandr Usyk is one of the best prospects to come out of the Ukraine and is a former Olympic Gold Medalist in the 2012 Summer Olympics and was a Gold Medalist in the 2011 World Championships. He won these medals while competing as a heavyweight and was able to capture the WBO Cruiserweight World title before his 11th professional fight.
His opponent, Thabiso Mchunu, does not have the amateur pedigree of Usyk but held several regional titles as a professional.
Usyk holds the edge in height, reach, and power. He is four inches taller than Mchunu, he will have a five and a half inch reach advantage, and has stopped all of his opponents except for one. Mchunu only has 11 stoppage victories and eight of his opponents were able to go the distance.
Both boxers are southpaws but Usyk is a better technical boxer than Mchunu and should be able to handle it well.
Usyk has defeated the likes of Krzysztof Glowacki in Poland, Pedro Rodriguez, and Andrey Knyazev. He has fought three times in 2015 and once in 2016.
Mchunu has beaten the likes of Boniface Kabore, Garrett Wilson, and Eddie Chambers. His losses were to Illunga Makabu and Zack Mwekassa. He fought once in 2015 and once in 2016.
Usyk is a boxer to keep a close eye on as he has a high ceiling and has fights televised on HBO early on in his career. Mchunu should be a good test for him, but it’s a test that Usyk is expected to pass with flying colors.
Joseph Diaz (22-0) vs. Horacio Garcia (30-1-1); Featherweights
Joseph “Jo Jo” Diaz is one of Golden Boy Promotions’ best prospects and is expected by many to be a future star in the sport of boxing.
Diaz is two years younger than Garcia and will be giving up one inch in reach. They both stand at 5’6” tall.
Diaz has the better amateur background and competed in the 2012 Summer Olympics for the United States. He has been very active and fought five times in 2015 and three times in 2016. Garcia has not been as active and fought once in 2016 and three times in 2015.
Diaz, a southpaw, has thirteen stoppage victories and three of his past four fights ended in a stoppage victory. Garcia has twenty two stoppage victories and has gone 4-1-1 in his last six fights.
Diaz has slowly been facing stiffer competition and has beaten the likes of Jayson Velez, Ruben Tamayo, and Rene Alvarado. He does have a loss in the World Series of Boxing to Braulio Avila by points, but that’s considered to be a part of his amateur record.
Garcia hasn’t beaten many opponents that are well known outside of Mexico. He has beaten the likes of Jonathan Perez and Raul Hidalgo, but he also has losses to Hozumi Hasegawa in Japan and Erik Ruiz in his last bout.
Garcia has gone 2-1-1 in professional fights that take place outside of Mexico and it seems a near certainty that his record outside of Mexico will worsen to 2-2-1 on Saturday.
Bernard Hopkins (55-7-2) vs. Joe Smith Jr. (22-1); Light Heavyweights
Bernard Hopkins first professional fight took place in 1988, one year before his opponent Joe Smith was born.
Hopkins has claimed that Saturday will be his last professional fight, but many wonder if he will uphold that promise if he wins in convincing fashion.
Hopkins turned pro after being released from prison in 1988 and lost his debut fight to Clinton Mitchell. But his career after that loss has been stellar and clearly hall of fame worthy.
Hopkins is 51 years old and will be 24 years older than Joe Smith when they step into the ring. However, Hopkins will have a one inch height advantage and a two inch reach advantage.
Currently, Smith probably has the edge in power. He has stopped eighteen of his opponents while Hopkins has stopped thirty two. However, Hopkins’ last stoppage victory came in 2004 against Oscar De La Hoya.
Hopkins has fought nearly everyone that had a name in the middleweight division and has a very impressive list of boxers that he has defeated. He has beaten the likes of Joe Lipsey, John David Jackson, Glen Johnson, Keith Holmes, Felix Trinidad, William Joppy, Oscar De La Hoya, Antonio Tarver, Winky Wright, Kelly Pavlik, Roy Jones Jr., Jean Pascal, Tavoris Cloud, Karo Murat, and Beibut Shumeno.
He has losses to boxers such as Sergey Kovalev, Chad Dawson, Joe Calzaghe, Jermain Taylor, and Roy Jones Jr.
Joe Smith Jr. became well known with his shocking upset TKO over Andrzej Fonfara in his last bout. His only other well known victory came against Will Rosinsky. His lone loss was early on in his career to Eddie Caminero in only his seventh professional fight.
The biggest concern about Hopkins is his age and his recent inactivity. Not only is Hopkins fifty one years old and close to mandatory retirement age, he also hasn’t fought since 2014, over two years ago and was forty nine years old at the time. Joe Smith has faced six different opponents since Hopkins last fought and fought three times in 2015 and twice in 2016.
They say father time is undefeated, but it appears Hopkins is intent on beating father time. This writer isn’t sure Hopkins will beat father time in the long run, but is fairly confident he can beat Joe Smith, even if he’s over the age of fifty.