The Final One: Hopkins-Smith and Usyk vs Mchunu tomorrow

December 16, 2016

Tomorrow marks the end of an era.  51 year old future hall of famer Bernard Hopkins will step into the ring for the final time.

Hopkins has had one of the greatest careers in boxing history.  He defended his middleweight tile 20 times . He became the oldest fighter to win a world title, twice (at 46 and 48).  “The Alien,” or “The Executioner,” depending on what period  of his career you’re referring to (he’ll be “The Executioner” tomorrow), has been been fighting professionally since 1988.

On Saturday, he will fight American boxer Joe Smith Jr. (22-1, 18KOs), in a fight that is being promoted by HBO as “The Final One.”  No going back on that!  Smith earned this shot by stunning Andrzej Fonfara in the first round of their fight in June of this year, and is no pushover.  Hopkins wanted to fight a credible opponent to finish his story, saying to ESPN, “The last thing you remember about a good book is not the beginning, it’s the ending.  I look at this as the final icing on the cake or that exclamation point.  This is it.  You know this is history.”

Hopkins went on to say, “I’m fighting for my legacy, to preserve it and keep it. I don’t want to diminish it. I wanted to do a fight that matters to not only give a real fight to the fans, but I am motivated to win. I didn’t want to just grab a few bucks to bully somebody and raise my hand up like I got my ego back in check. I’m going to win. I’m going to try my best to whip his ass.”

Seeing Hopkins finalize his legacy is a great storyline, but from a boxing perspective the most interesting fight on the card is between Oleksandr Usyk (10-0, 9KOs) and Thabiso Mchunu (17-2, 11KOs).  If you don’t know the cruiserweight champion Usyk by now, I would imagine that you will after Saturday.  This is the Ukranian’s debut on American television, and he is looking to make a statement.

Usyk is a smart fighter with an extensive arsenal of boxing skills, with tons of power to back it up.  He moves extremely well for his size, and he is looking to find superstardom in America, just as fellow Ukrainian and K2 Promotions client Gennady Golovkin has.  Director of K2 promotions Tom Loeffler told UCN that he feels Usyk will fulfill that goal.  ““He has drawn large crowds to his fights in Ukraine and there is much anticipation for him coming to America to become the next boxing superstar. His entertaining, all-action style will be a thrill for fight fans at the Fabulous Forum and those watching on HBO.”

His challenger, South African native Thabiso Mchunu, is likely one of the best opponents he’s faced thus far.  Usyk will have a pretty significant size and speed advantage on him though, and I am expecting a knockout to come from the Ukrainian in the middle rounds.

Also appearing on the card is promising young featherweight Joseph Diaz (22-0, 13KOs) vs Horacio Garcia (30-1-1, 22KOs)