- The Washington Times - Monday, April 16, 2001


The first part of Don King's middleweight unification tournament worked according to plan Saturday night. The fighter all the suits and money men wanted to win, Bernard Hopkins, won, and they didn't even have to fix the fight.

Washington's Keith Holmes did not mess up any plans like he predicted he would. He offered little resistance against Hopkins, taking a beating for 12 rounds at the Theater in Madison Square Garden.

You can't fight once a year and expect to be ready to fight an aggressor like Hopkins, who was relentless in his attack, jumping on Holmes and pounding him with body shots some of which were south of the border and mixing in some hard right hands to the head.

"If I had been boxing more, it might have helped me handle his aggression," said Holmes, who said he was hurt by several low blows by Hopkins, although referee Steve Smoger only deducted one point.

Holmes meant if he had boxed more Saturday night, but the same argument could be made for his championship tenure. He fought just once in the last 19 months, stopping Robert McCracken nearly a year ago in England. If he had fought more, he might have been able to handle Hopkins' aggression, though Hopkins, who has the strength of a small heavyweight, just seemed much too strong for Holmes to handle.

Smoger could have deducted one point every other round, and Hopkins, who held the International Boxing Federation middleweight title going into the fight, still would have won on all three judges cards. It was that lopsided a beating.

Holmes, who lost his World Boxing Council middleweight crown for the second time, was right. He didn't do anything to keep Hopkins off him. Holmes said a head butt in the second round hurt his left eye, and it swelled up when he blew his nose. "I couldn't see," he said. "I had double-vision. I couldn't throw my left hand because I didn't know where Bernard was."

Hopkins wasn't hard to find, though. He was right in Holmes' face all night.

It wasn't a good fight, but it wasn't a bad fight, either. Then again, the standards for a bad fight include the following: no one was bit, no one parachuted into the ring, no one was hit with a foreign object.

It could have deteriorated into something ugly. The potential for that is always there with Hopkins, who will use every dirty trick in the book to wear down his opponent and whose last few fights resembled wrestling matches more than boxing bouts. It teetered on the brink with the low blows, and both fighters fell to the canvas tangled up a few times near the end.

But it didn't. King and the suits at Home Box Office and Madison Square Garden got what they wanted. But it's only half a loaf until May 12, when yet another Washington fighter, this time World Boxing Association middleweight champion William Joppy, meets the other guy the suits want to win, IBF and WBA junior middleweight champion Felix Trinidad, who is moving up from 154 pounds to the 160-pound middleweight class, in a pay-per-view fight in the Garden main arena. The winner of that fight will meet Hopkins in September in a highly anticipated pay-per-view fight at the Garden.

The hope is that the winner of the September fight will meet undisputed light heavyweight Roy Jones at an agreed-upon weight probably 168 pounds in a mega pay-per-view fight in the spring of 2002.

It's quite the plan.

Trinidad, who was at the fight, acted as if it was a done deal already when he gave his review of Hopkins' performance. "It was a good fight, but Holmes was grabbing too much and Hopkins took the opportunity," Trinidad said. "I'll meet him Sept. 15."

I don't see how Trinidad, a magnificent fighter who is undefeated in 16 title defenses as a welterweight and junior middleweight and who punched his way to the top of this game with impressive wins over David Reid and Fernando Vargas, could keep Hopkins off him. Trinidad just doesn't seem big enough.

Then again, I'm not sure Joppy will ever give him the chance.

Joppy won't be Keith Holmes in the ring on May 12. He won't let Trinidad dictate the fight. He is a far better fighter than Trinidad and the suits believe he is. He has fast hands and hits hard and won't be there for Trinidad to hit. He will box and move, and he can move for 24 rounds if he has to. He is a legendary Washington gym rat who is never out of fighting shape.

If Joppy won, that would certainly mess up some plans. After the fight Saturday night, Hopkins said he didn't care who he met in September, Trinidad or Joppy. "I will win the tournament," he said of this series King has hyped as the second coming of Sugar Ray Robinson. "I don't care if it's Joppy or Trinidad. I will be rooting for both of them."

That was a low blow to the truth. Hopkins, who earned $1.1 million Saturday night four times more than any other payday in his career stands to make a lot more money in September fighting Trinidad, the big draw in this tournament, than Joppy. Hopkins-Joppy won't be pay-per-view, and it probably wouldn't even be in the Garden.

That is not the plan. But it would be one heck of a fight.

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