Hopkins-Taylor preview

B-Hop Brings Pancuronium Bromide in Both Hands

By Alex Pierpaoli

Pavulon, the manufacturer’s name for Pancuronium Bromide, a muscle relaxant, and the second of three chemicals injected into the veins of condemned inmates currently executed in the United States; arrests the muscles that control the diaphragm, and halt the condemned’s breathing.  The muscular action of pulling air into the lungs would shudder and choke to a stop as the diaphragm and associated muscles of the ribcage seized, but little movement or contortion is visible from the inmate because of Pavulon’s relaxing effectiveness and because of chemical number one, a heaping dose of sodium pentothal which effectively puts the condemned to sleep and adds to his or her placidity.


If you ask Oscar DeLaHoya about a paralyzed diaphragm and the squeeze of collapsed lungs he’s likely to mention Bernard the Executioner Hopkins and the ninth round of their middleweight contest in September of two thousand four.  Without the luxury of a sedative, DeLaHoya was left on hands and knees, gasping for breath in round nine after a well placed left hook from professional boxing’s version of a two-legged lethal injection machine.


Tonight in Las Vegas, Bernard The Executioner Hopkins, 46-2-1 (32), looks to put an end to the title hopes of Arkansas’ undefeated Jermain Taylor, 23-0 (17).  If Hopkins succeeds Taylor will become a record twenty-first title challenger turned back by Philadelphia’s jailhouse thug turned Middleweight Champion who found religion and rigor in the professional assault game that is pro boxing.  Nard brought home no medals; he had no Olympic dreams or international invitationals like former Sydney Olympics bronze-medalist Taylor did.  Battle-hardened and suspicious, Hopkins is the cagey veteran that most assume must eventually act his forty years of age.  But is Taylor ready to wrest the title from such a middleweight institution as Hopkins?

Hopkins has performed executions often, if successful tonight Taylor will be 21, a number fewer than the United States has performed this year alone, but Hopkins has only himself, there is no strap down team to get hold of the Arkansas Razorback who looks every ounce of the 160 pounds he scaled at yesterday’s weigh-in.  Taylor grew up poor and certainly knows similar suffering and hardships to those seen by Hopkins. But don’t let the easy smile of the country boy with a confessed speech impediment belie his childhood brutishness.  Taylor used to pop kids in the mouth if they made fun of how he spoke, so boxing was naturally appealing to the athletic youth who enjoyed and excelled in the only punch-in-the-face contact sport.  Somewhere along the line Taylor was dubbed or somehow acquired the Bad Intentions moniker last used by a young Mike Tyson.  No insinuating Little Rock’s Taylor doesn’t embody the tag line but he couldn’t finish off the shell of William Joppy he beat in his run up to tonight, and along with Raul Marquez and Daniel Edouard, Taylor’s qualifications for fighting a Bernard Hopkins aren’t stellar.  Taylor was impressive at points in all of three of the aforementioned wins but that’s not exactly grade A opposition.


HBO zealously believes Jermain Taylor is the middleweight messiah here to save the sport.  Maybe he’s a heavier enough version of the forward marching destroyers like Pacquiao and Corrales; Gatti couldn’t be their star, maybe JT can.  At least they hope so.


In recent fights the Executioner has been procedural, not punishing, and they hope it means he’s due to crumble.  For Hopkins, it’s been since 2001 versus Trinidad, or perhaps even since December of 2000, when he rematched with Antwun Echols, that Nard has seen as rough and tumble an opponent as Taylor is likely to be.  If Hopkins’ anger towards old friend but more recent legal opponent Lou DiBella, Taylor’s promoter, the Executioner could have a problem if too willing to hurl himself into the path of the supremely confident Razorback.  But since when has someone as paranoid as Hopkins come into a fight with less than a plan A or B?


This fight smacks of too much too soon in this writer’s opinion; reminiscent of Tyrell Biggs, the Olympian fed too soon to a young lion, then heavyweight king, Mike Tyson.  Biggs was far more self destructive than the stable and professional Taylor, but Philly’s Tyrell Biggs had serious talent and physical gifts just like JT; sweet jab too.  Biggs was rushed to the fight with Tyson too quickly and with too little experience.  And the punishment Tyson dished out on that night was merciless and metered and arguably the Catskill kid’s best performance as a pro.


Ironically, it was Biggs, another Philly fighter that Hopkins emulated in his rematch with Echols when he fought on and kayoed the stronger Echols despite a damaged shoulder.  Hopkins remembered Biggs’ gutty performance versus Jeff Simms in his ninth pro fight when Biggs fought eight rounds with a broken collarbone.  If that Philly brother did it so can I figured Hopkins and he came on to slug Echols into submission in ten rounds.  Hopkins has that type of perspective on history and his place in it.  Taylor, fresh from pro-boxing’s on ramp, is still just entering the heavy traffic on the highway of his fistic life.  Sometimes a young tiger’s bravery versus a superior opponent early on in a career can ruin a fighter.


From the look of things Hopkins ruined Felix Tito Trinidad in September of `01 and then Winky buried him this past spring.  Taylor is no Hearns, not yet at least; and the Marvelous One himself described Taylor as more in the mold of John the Beast Mugabi last night on ESPN2’s FNF.  Hagler ruined Mugabi, as old as Marvelous may have looked to Sugar Ray.  In that same way, Hopkins is the one who can afford mistakes while Taylor must be perfect or damn close to it to come out on top tonight.


The first few moments of round one will be essential.  Look for Taylor to come out like a razorback and the old man will have to blunt his charges and set the distance.  Taylor says he’ll box but he’s going to have to prove to Hopkins early that he’s not afraid of him.  Things will get rough in the first as both men test their limits and those of the referee.  It’s the calculated control of the aged Hopkins versus the pressure and precision of the still-green Taylor; and not a bad way to spend a Saturday night.


The promotional build up to the fight includes a video byte of Taylor saying he’ll take the proverbial middleweight torch if B-Hop won’t pass it.  It’s quite a task to expect JT to snatch the torch from the old man when the old man doesn’t know he’s old and has no intention of switching from torchlight to the hearth’s glow of rest and retirement.


In the end this is a fight between a boy and a man, a wiry crafty man with a chip on his shoulder versus the upstart virtuoso with a thrusting spear of a jab.  We watch tonight for the moments and flashes of disorder where one of the two commits to go a little further to inflict punishment.  In a fight like that I gotta go with the guy talking all about executions.


Send comments or questions to Alex Pierpaoli at: KOFantasyBoxing@gmail.com


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