By Greg Goodrich
Saturday night at the MCM Grand Garden Arena, history was made and as usual controversy was on display. Upstart, Middleweight heir apparent Jermain Taylor (24-0) defeated longtime reigning champion Bernard Hopkins (46-3-1) via 12 Round Split Decision to claim the World Middleweight title, as well as annex the four major sanctioning body titles from the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO in the process. Taylor joins Hopkins as the only man to accomplish such a feat, though Thomas Hearns and Oscar De La Hoya have come closest to matching the quintessential accomplishment.
Fight fans were treated to a classic bout, juxtaposed with a chasm of tactical exhibitionism, and compelling warfare in the trenches that left Hopk-ins doing too little, too late. Much has been said concerning the official scorecards which read 116-112 for Hopkins (according to Judge Jerry Roth); and 115-113 twice for Taylor (by Judges Paul Smith and Duane Ford).
Several prominent writers such as Steve Kim of Max-boxing.com and Robert Morales of the Los Angeles Daily News have outright claimed that Hopkins was robbed, and won the fight by as many as five or six rounds. Apparently, a large portion of fight row correspondents and beat writers present in Vegas had Hopkins winning by a comfortable margin. Once again, the boxing public and self-avowed experts find themselves in an optical allusion and perceptive quagmire. The vast majority of fans in attendance, as well as a millions of fans watching the PPV broadcast thought the verdict was not only fair, but actually outrageous, insofar as Taylor clearly won the bout by Unanimous Decision.
Before we proceed to the fight particulars, allow me to share several thoughts concerning this scoring controversy. First, another Whitak-er-Chavez, Hearns-Leonard II, Whitaker-Ramirez, De La Hoya-Trinidad or Lewis-Holyfield I this was not. Reasonable people can disagree, and find room for legitimate variation in seeing a fight transpire. Four criteria are regularly cited by HBO Boxing ‘in house’ judge Harold Leder-man. These objective, factual, necessary qualifications are simply understood as ring generalship (in other words, who controls the fight action); effective aggressiveness (does one fighter appear to land more telling blows and actually get the better of punch exchanges); clean punching (are punches being deflected, illegal or really landing, accomplishing a purpose); and defense (which fighter is getting hit less). If a person uses this four-fold criteria in consistent application, every fight will either result in a definitive win; or necessary draw.
Hopkins worked Taylor over in rounds ten and eleven. However, he himself was worked over round after round by Taylor, beginning in rounds two through five. Taylor gave better than he got, won more rounds, did more punching, carried the pace of the bout, and even fought with a severe laceration. He did plenty to warrant praise instead of ill advised, bashing. Hopkins is not a victim of anything other than cockiness and overconfidence which has plagued him throughout his entire boxing career.
Compubox numbers provided from our good friend Bob Canobbio show the fight wasn’t as cut and dry as we had hoped for, and thus, there are legitimate reasons why many people think Taylor’s win is controversial (albeit close). Hopkins landed 96 punches to Taylor’s 86 punches, but threw 127 less (453 to 326). Taylor on the other hand, landed 36 jabs to Hopkins’ 18, in effect doubling his productivity in landing, and throwing (264 to 109). Hopkins landed 78 power punches to Taylor’s 50, only this time, threw more and landed more (217 to 189).
The conclusion of the scoring controversy actually shows it was Judge Jerry Roth’s scorecard which was most off base and obviously benefited Bernard Hopkins the most. To say Bernard won 116-112 is exactly the same thing as saying he won eight rounds, and Taylor won four rounds.
Oscar Larios (56-3-1) vs. Wayne McCullough (27-6)- 12 Round WBC Jr. Featherweight Title Fight
In the only rematch bout on the fight card, Oscar Larios made good on his promise to stop Wayne McCullough. Boxing Press saw Larios winning rounds one, two, five, six, seven, eight, nine and ten. I tabbed McCullough in only rounds three and four. When Dr. Margaret Goodman stopped the bout after ten rounds, Wayne complained.
No one disputes he has the best beard in the business. He can take punch after punch, which he did throughout the entire fight. That was the problem, and appears to spell the end for McCullough’s once promising career. Official Compubox stats revealed that Larios threw 612 power punches, landing 282 for 46%, compared to McCullough’s 178 out of 560, or 32%. Larios also led in total punches landed, as he connected on 449 out of 1,160 or 39%. McCullough threw just as many, though landing far fewer, notching 270 out of 1,157 or 23%. This bout was a classic case on bigger puncher with better range beats slower fighter with tougher chin.
This article was reprinted from Boxing Press (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/boxingpressgroup)