NEW YORK CITY - - Boos greeted Tavoris Cloud as he began his ringwalk into the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. East Coast legend Bernard Hopkins enjoyed a much warmer welcome to New York, one of his most famous stomping grounds.
Greeted like a hero, the 48 year old Hopkins (53-6-2, 32 KO) came out in Executioner’s mask, swathed in a purple robe with a large “X” on his back and his steely gaze looking all business.
WIth the IBF Light Heavy Weight belt on the line, the two men looked eager to fight as the ref gave his last instructions.
But for all that, the 1st round came and went with little to show for it. Very much a feeling out round, neither man got anything started. Cloud (24-1, 19 KO) looked a little tight. Hopkins looked a little old.
Round 2 picked up on the action, though a brawl erupting in the stands overshadowed the fight everyone paid for. Hopkins landed a few lead rights and Cloud got a little work done inside.
Early in round 3 each man got in a few solid shots to fire up the crowd, though midway through neither had established control. Hopkins landed a showy body shot and razzled the crowd for favor. He also landed a stiff right cross at the bell, a shot that Cloud returned, eliciting consternation from the gathered fight fans.
An overhand right midway through round 4 caught Cloud who shook his head, telling us it didn’t mean anything. Later in the round he managed to snap Hopkins’ head back, but the Philly fighter managed a flurry or two that seemed to carry the round. Hopkins landed the flashier crowd pleasing punches.
Round 5, Hopkins has a jab suddenly and he catches Cloud with it throughout. They each have brief moments. Hopkins does more leading than he thought he’d have to, probably more leading than he is comfortable with.
A flurry in 6 kicks off the round for Hopkins. Cloud complained about elbows and Hopkins went at him. Hopkins was very short inside with his punches while Cloud seemed to be getting a little frustrated. A punch opened a small cut on his left eyelid, which the doctor ruled was from an accidental headbutt. Cloud, seeing blood, launched wild punches. Nothing much connected and Hopkins was able to weather the storm and come back at Cloud with a more accurate attack.
Coming out in round 7, Hopkins was bouncing on the balls of his toes. The crowd had seen the replay of the punch that opened the cut and were not happy. A chant of “B-HOP” started in earnest. Hopkins seemed energized. He popped Cloud on his cut in the corner. He clowned and turned the young fighter around - a fun round for the old man.
Cloud opened round 8 in a fury. Action lulled, then picked up with little more than a minute left. Hopkins fought off the ropes and scored sneaky punches inside while Cloud landed a few bombs. He kept swinging, missing wildly at the beginning of round 9. Hopkins looked to take advantage, ever diligent and disciplined with his attacks, picking his spots. A slow-ish round, but Hopkins landed cleaner. Cloud again, tried to make his case with a little more punching overall.
Hopkins was out attacking early in round 10. He doubled the jab and shot a straight right into Cloud’s face. Cloud seemed to take the round off as Hopkins was the only one willing to go on the offensive.
Cloud led more in the first two minutes of the next round. Inaccuracy plagued him however, and Hopkins had a few showy moments, before slowing towards the bell.
They stand in the middle of the ring and launch hard shots at one another. Then, they move to a corner and throw hard punches. Hopkins seems to turn something on with a little spurt of action. Just a bit more than a minute left. Then they both freeze up. Finally they volley back and forth for the rest of the round fighting a little sloppy, neither able to put it away entirely, the old man seeming a little fresher.
The fight goes to the scorecards and the judges return a verdict of 116-112, 117-111 and 116-112 all to Hopkins. He makes history becoming the oldest man, at 48, ever to win a legitimate title.
On the televised undercard, Florida welterweight Keith Thurman (20-0, 18 KO) brutalised and eventually stopped game Slovenian Jan Zaveck (32-3, 18 KO).
The 1st round found Thurman bouncing and attacking, while Zaveck mostly played peek-a-boo with his defense and stalked after the Floridian. In round 2 Thurman found Zaveck’s chin with a quick counter left hook that seemed to put the Slovenian fighter in brief trouble. Thurman’s left hook continued to find Zaveck though out the round, catching eyes around the arena.
The start of round 3 found Zavek wading in a little more, but Thurman was able to stall the attack by the round’s midway point, using superior movement and solid body work. A feisty exchange at the end punctuated the round.
Thurman was looking to set his man up for a big counter left for the entire 4th round. While he found sporadic success with it, the biggest punch came towards the end of the round as he launched a low slung uppercut that seemed to catch Zaveck unprepared and off balance, sending him on his heels in retreat.
Zaveck seemed to struggle for answers in round 5. Moving forward but throwing few punches, the Slovenian was content often to wade in, bent over, covering his head as though with earmuffs. For his part, Thurman danced around the flummoxed fighter, peppering him with 3,4 and 5 punch combinations to the torso.
In the first minute of round 6 Zaveck was finally able to coral his foe against the ropes and unleashed a nice string of punches. The two men exchanged back and forth in the center of the ring for much of the next minute. Zaveck continued to bull forward, with his awkward stilted motions while Thurman was a fluid whirlwind buzzing around him. It was a good action round and the Barclays crowd let them hear their appreciation at the end.
A huge overhand right caught Thurman early in the 7th but seemed to have no effect. Both men, seemingly energized, scored in spots. Throughout the night Thurman showed a keen ability to move around the ring, yet stop and send meaningful, heavy blows back with ease.
The two tangled together more in round 8 as fatigue set in and they fell in on their shots a little more. Connect rates dropped too as the quick pace seemed to catch up to both men in the latter half of the fight.
In round 9 Zaveck showed his toughness and determination, unrelentingly chasing Thurman around the ring. With just 12 seconds left Thurman threw a wicked uppercut that stiffened the legs of Zaveck for a second, perhaps tilting the stanza back in Thurman’s favor.
His face marked up but unbroken, Zaveck seemed to hold back a little in the early moments of the 10th. With 30 seconds left Thurman unleashed a series of right hooks that seemed ready to put Zaveck in serious jeopardy for the first time in the bout. The dramatic moment didn’t quite come before the bell rang.
Try as he might, Thurman was unable to recreate that burgeoning drama in round 11 and merely chased Thurman, who was likely feeling the strain of being pursued for 36 minutes, in the 12th. The two of them fought in spurts during the final round. Zaveck finally went for broke as the seconds ticked out ,winging wild bombs that connected only with the air around Thurman.
Going to the scorecards after 12 rounds, all of the judges scored it 120-108, for Thurman. He remains undefeated. While the title trinket he picked up means nothing, the win was a great step in his boxing career and ongoing development. The bout was Thurman’s first to go a full 12 rounds.
Lightweight Michael Perez (18-1-1, 10 KO) of Newark, NJ came in with big crowd backing and caught Lonnie Smith with a looping uppercut midway through round 2 that sent the Las Vegas journeyman sprawling to the canvas. A second uppercut sparked solid back and forth action for the rest of the stanza. Smith (14-4-2, 10 KO) showed heart and some skills battling back to land flush counter shots to try and keep Perez honest.
Round 3 featured more back and forth action, while the 4th saw Smith ripping telling body shots to the ribcage and tagging Perez with clean inside shots to the head. By round 5 Smith had seized the initiative with his tenacious body attack and relentless pressure. A clean left hook to Perez’s jaw seemed to scramble his eyes for a moment. Round 6 saw sustained action, though the rejuvenated Smith had begun to headhunt, swinging wildly at times.
In round 7 a cut high on Perez’s forehead opened up when the two fighters clashed heads. The early ending left the shortened bout to be decided by the judges. With scores of 67-65 for Perez and 66-66 twice, they rendered the bout a majority draw.