It’s nights like these that define Boxing for the better. Saturday night, March 8 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY, Tavoris Cloud, the young lion who would be the new Mufasa, left the arena a beltless Simba.
Bernard Hopkins, with an old school skill set, captured a twelve round unanimous decision over Tavoris Cloud and netted himself the IBF 175 crown. This victory was a landmark moment as Bernard became, at 48, the oldest fighter to win a world championship.
We should not be surprised to see this after all Hopkins has made a habit of surprising the odd makers and defeating Don King fighters. Even Don had to congratulate Bernard afterwards. As Hopkins said afterwards ” I have a history of destroying young fighters.” This is what has defined Hopkins for the past decade. He has either hung with or defeated every young contemporary fighter around.
This evening was no exception as Hopkins found that the crowd was all in his corner. As his entrance music praised Brooklyn, it was an easy sell. Once in the ring Tavoris smiled. It was the last time he would be amused. The fight started slowly as the crowd was anxious for some action.
Tavoris, who King billed as a “Mini-Tyson” started by feeling out Hopkins as they both switched from attack to defense several times without many meaningful blows landed. Hopkins hung in with a three punch combo at the end of the second.
In the third, Tavoris picked up the pace and established a more lively jab. Bernard who tried to keep it slow seemed to realize he would have to meet the level of activity that Cloud was starting to rise up to. Hopkins however started to find the formula. Hopkins countered with straight rights here and there. He used movement to minimize shootouts and was able to anticipate Tavoris’ punches.
The frustration on Tavoris part showed early as he threw a right with mean intentions after the bell. This was quite eye opening as Bernard has always been the one who has been classed as a dirty fighter. But Bernard is also a very experienced skilled fighter.
This was confirmed in the fourth Hopkins set the pace and landed a nice right. He even started to make Tavoris miss more often. Cloud would land one shot once or twice but more often than not Hopkins would evade most of Tavoris’ attempts as the fight continued. He cemented the round with a spirited three punch combo that got the crowd excited.
In the fifth the round we saw each fighter land and the other return the favor. Hopkins started to outwork Tavoris inside here then changed tactics and boxed well for the balance of the round.
In the sixth, Hopkins scored four straight shots as Cloud was against the ropes. A head butt that Cloud caused by pulling Hopkins in led to the doctor checking out a cut. Cloud seemed confused. Tavoris started to come back but Bernard came on strong at the end of the round.
The fight was practically even at this point but Bernard was establishing things that would open the fight more noticably from this point on. In the seventh, Hopkins started messing with Tavoris’ head. He landed a three punch combination and challenged him to attack. Later on in the round B-Hop double popped him with a jab while raising his hand on the break. Crowd responded with a frenzy.
The eighth saw Tavoris come out desperate and angry with a savage seven punch attack but Hopkins calmly avoided follow up shots and a few pitched exchanges between the two saw Cloud win a rare round but it seemed to take more out of the 31 year old champion.
Hopkins regained the edge in the ninth and in the tenth dominated the action as his jab was piling up the points and a triple jab and short right set the tone. He even muscled Cloud to the ropes towards the end. Cloud tried to get going but Hopkins kept him off balance throughout.
The eleventh round had Hopkins and Cloud in a give and take. Hopkins avoided four consecutive punches. Bernard landed a wicked right and continued to move and catch Cloud with a right here and jab there. The crowd sensed history in the making.
The final round started with both inside, with first Tavoris, then Hopkins return blows. Hopkins then put the last touches to his performance by putting a jabbing and moving clinic. Tavoris fell for most everything and as the bell rang the crowd was on his feet. The scores were 116-112 twice and 117-111 all in Bernard’s favor.
Afterwards Hopkins jawed at anyone especially press members who thought that Hopkins was done this time. This was Bernard’s best performance since the the Kelly Pavlik fight. Hopkins now stands at 53-6-2. Cloud now is 24-1 and has to consider what went wrong for him. Otherwise the card favored the young as two fighters stood out.
Marcus Browne, a 175 pound, tall olympian southpaw stopped Josh Thorpe in the first showing off a great jab and quick hook to the body. Eddie Gomez, from the Bronx improved to 13-0 as his left hook left veteran Javier Gomez dancing drunkenly before crashing to the mat leading to an immediate stoppage in the first.
The surprise of the night was Lonnie Smith who rallied from losing the first three rounds to Puerto Rican Michael Perez, using a quick counter hook often to rally until a headbutt led to a premature ending and six round technical majority draw. Claude Staten Jr. won his pro debut using his quickness and fast hands inside to overwhelm willing but limited Mike Hill from New Orleans.