By David Martinez / dmboxing.com
Joe Smith Jr. (23-1 / 19 by KO) scored a huge win Saturday night in knocking Bernard Hopkins (55-8-2 / 32 by KO) completely out of the ring at :53 seconds of the eighth round in their light heavyweight bout scheduled for twelve rounds.
The fight, billed as Hopkins final in his 28-year career, took place at The Forum in Inglewood, California and was televised by HBO World Championship Boxing.
Hopkins fought a very measured pace against a younger, quicker, stronger Smith. He withstood some challenges early in the bout by his ring experience and made the fight close after winning the fourth round.
At the start of round five Smith was very effective, showing speed as he continued pressuring the 51 year old Hopkins, but taking a few right hands along the way.
Hopkins tried to move, slip and counter Smith’s punching, but found himself losing rounds in age vs. youth.
The beginning of the end came in round eight. Smith landed a left right combination and had Hopkins pinned on the ropes. Then came strong punches sending Hopkins through the ropes and onto the floor.
Referee Jack Reiss alertly started the count and when Hopkins didn’t make it up onto the ring apron by the prescribed 20 second rule in boxing, he was counted out and the fight was over.
As Hopkins lay on the floor deck before getting up he indicated with hand motions that he was pushed out of the ring. The tape replay clearly shows that he was not.
At the time of the stoppage the scorecards were 69-64, 67-66 for Smith, and one judge had it 67-66 for Hopkins. I pretty much agreed with HBO judge and expert analyst Harold Lederman in having Smith well ahead after seven rounds; Harold had it 69-64, 6 rounds to 1 for Smith … my score was 68-65, 5 rounds to 2 for Smith.
Hopkins has had a remarkable career as a former middleweight and light heavyweight champion. He made 20 consecutive successful middleweight title defenses (1996-2005), 325 championship rounds (3rd most in history), fought 19 current or past world champions (15-6-1 / 6 by KO), and was the oldest boxer to win and retain a world title (49 years, 111 days).
Hopkins will now be officially retired and will continue to be a partner for Oscar De La Hoya Golden Boy Productions. He will also continue to be a ringside contributor commentator for HBO boxing.