Hopkins outpoints Eastman

Posted: Sunday, February 20, 2005

LOS ANGELES — Bernard Hopkins never claimed he was the prettiest fighter, just the best. Even at the age of 40, he was good enough Saturday night to reach another milestone and win another fight.

Hopkins overcame his usual slow start to dominate Howard Eastman, winning a lopsided 12-round decision to join some of boxing's elite in the record books by making his 20th successful middleweight title defense.

''This was very special, personal to Bernard Hopkins,'' Hopkins said. ''I believe it will be documented in boxing history as years and centuries go on.''

In a fight that was booed by many at the Staples Center, Hopkins won easily on all three ringside scorecards to remain unbeaten in the last 11 years. He did it by moving and staying focused and being brutally efficient with his punches.

The crowd of 12,828 might not have appreciated it enough, but Hopkins' new promoter did.

''It's unheard of,'' said Oscar De La Hoya, who lost to Hopkins in his 19th title defense. ''I don't think we'll ever see it again.''

The fight was the first for Hopkins since turning 40, an age when most fighters have long left the ring. But he appeared to be the fresher fighter in the later rounds as he used an unorthodox but effective style to win the fight.

One judge had the fight 119-110 in favor of Hopkins, while a second had it 117-111.

The third judge had the fight 116-112, the same score as The Associated Press.

''Bernard Hopkins is a true professional,'' said Roy Jones Jr., who was watching at ringside.

It was the first middleweight title fight in Los Angeles since Sugar Ray Robinson and Gene Fullmer fought to a draw in 1960, and though it was lacking in excitement at times, there was no question who won the fight.

No question that is, except from Eastman, who complained he should have been given more credit for pursuing Hopkins much of the fight.

''He ran from me the whole night,'' Eastman said. ''He was the champion fighting in his own backyard but I dictated the pace. He didn't fight like a champ. He never hurt me.''

Eastman, a British fighter, has never lost in the United Kingdom. And he's never won outside of it, losing a title fight to William Joppy in 2001 and then losing his second title shot to Hopkins.

Eastman (40-2) threw far more punches than Hopkins (46-2-1) in the fight, but many of them found air as Hopkins ducked, moved and often made Eastman pay by coming back with a counterpunch.

Ringside punch stats showed Hopkins was much more efficient while Eastman was much busier. Hopkins landed 148 of 346 punches, while Eastman landed 82 of 609.

''They wanted to see (Arturo) Gatti-(Mickey) Ward,'' Hopkins said. ''I don't fight that way. I did it in spurts.''

Hopkins started cautiously as usual, but Eastman was even more cautious, barely throwing a punch in the first round and drawing boos from the crowd at the Staples Center.

By the fourth round, though, the crowd was booing the champion as Hopkins moved backward around the ring, occasionally posing as if he was going to throw a punch, but throwing only a few.

The fight finally heated up late in the fifth round — the same round Eastman had predicted he would stop Hopkins — when the challenger landed a big right hand to the head of Hopkins. Fighting out of his corner, Hopkins responded by landing a stinging left and the two traded punches as the round came to a close.

''You've taken his best shot now,'' Eastman's corner told him. ''That's all he's got.''

Though Hopkins seemed to be getting better as the fight went on, Eastman was still throwing punches with abandon and was giving the champion a fight. In the corner after the 10th round, trainer Bouie Fisher urged Hopkins to pick up the pace.

''Get this guy out of there, get this guy out of there,'' Fisher said. ''You've let him hang around too long.''

On the undercard, Jermain Taylor made a case for himself as the future of the middleweight division — and a possible contender for Hopkins — by stopping Daniel Edouard in the third round with a series of devastating shots to the head.

Taylor showed that he isn't far from a possible title shot himself by taking apart Edouard apart before referee Ray Corona stopped the fight at 2:26 of the third round.

The 2000 Olympic bronze medalist remained undefeated and scored his 17th knockout in 23 fights in an impressive performance that had the crowd at Staples Center on its feet cheering.

''I believe I'm ready for Hopkins,'' Taylor said. ''I'm a fighter.''

Taylor not only landed a lot of punches, but landed them with efficiency as he dominated the fight and handed Edouard (16-1-2) his first loss as a pro.

Midway through the third round, Taylor landed two right hands to the head and then followed Edouard across the ring. He trapped him in the neutral corner and was landing punches at will against the defenseless Haitian when the referee moved between the two fighters and called the bout to an end.

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