One of boxing’s most compelling competitors in and out of the ring closes his 29 year career in Los Angeles against a hungry young opponent.
SAN DIEGO, October 24, 2016 – He’s been called “The Executioner,” “B-Hop,” and now “The Alien” during his three decades in the ring. Whatever nickname he wears, Bernard Hopkins of Philadelphia can always call himself a champion and it won’t be long before he is in the Boxing Hall of Fame.
Hopkins (55-7-2, 32 KOs) announced the final fight of his career in the light heavyweight division will take place on Saturday, December 17 against Joe Smith Jr. (22-1, 18 KOs) in Los Angeles at The Forum. The fight will air on HBO Boxing. Calling it “The Final 1” in a news conference on Monday, Hopkins said he’s happy to be closing out in an arena full of history.
“This is history, we have been here many times where history has been made,” said Hopkins. “To be able to have the Final 1 in L-A, where the city of stars are trying to be stars, however you cut it, it couldn’t have been better with the history placed in the DNA that the Forum has produced.
While Hopkins is well known to fans from his many fights plus his role as a boxing commentator and as a senior executive with Golden Boy Promotions, his opponent Joe Smith Jr. is nearly as anonymous as his name. But this is not a journeyman here for a paycheck and a footnote in boxing history.
Smith Jr., who until recently was still shoring trenches as a union construction worker on Long Island, scored a shocking first round knockout upset of Andrzej Fonfara in June. It may stand up as Knockout of the Year and it’s to this point the Upset of the Year. See it and get to know Smith Jr. for yourself.
It’s a bold move by Hopkins to give Smith Jr. the fight. Hopkins will remain the favorite but Smith Jr. is no walkover and he knows the role of the underdog well.
“I’m so glad I was chosen to fight Bernard Hopkins in his final fight on December 17th at the Forum,” said Smith. “I’m going to train very hard for this fight and take full advantage of it. I’m looking forward to putting on a great show for everyone.”
Smith’s promoter, Star Boxing president and CEO Joe Deguardia, said “It is certainly great to be here in LA at the Forum where so much history has been made. This fight was really easy to male, and that is a testament to Bernard Hopkins, because most fighters would shy away from a puncher like Joe Smith Jr. It is an honor and I thank Bernard and Oscar for taking this fight.”
Smith is now able to train full time, although digging trenches has made him strong as an ox and perhaps he should consider keeping it up as part of his training program. The intrigue in this fight comes from watching a strong young power puncher take on the wily boxing master, who’s seen it all and done it all in the ring. It’s psychology vs. brawn, tactics vs. opportunity.
Business partner and promoter Oscar De La Hoya of Golden Boy Promotions said, “What excited me about this fight is that Bernard is not fighting someone who is a walk in the park, he is fighting a difficult fight, and this gentleman has every opportunity in the book to win and win a world title. This is Hopkins, this is who Hopkins chose. Joe Smith Jr. has an amazing record and an outstanding knockout percentage that is unheard of in his division.
“Hopkins will be an athlete that will transcend the sport, not just for what he has accomplished in the ring, but for outside of it, and that is huge. I am very excited and happy that this fight will be taking place in an arena where I began my professional career. It is an honor for me and thank you for giving Los Angeles and Angelenos an opportunity to watch this fight.”
On the day of the fight, Hopkins will be 29 days shy of his 52nd birthday. He is in phenomenal condition, due to his unmatched discipline with his diet, clean living and smart training. De La Hoya said, “What makes Bernard Hopkins is that he doesn’t stop, he keeps going and surprises people. He would continue until he was 60 if he could, that’s what a legend is, he takes care of himself and keeps going.” Hopkins’ opponent Smith will be 27 years old the day of the bout, 25 years younger.
This fight steps up to the main event after the cancellation of the originally scheduled bout between Orlando Salido and Takashi Miura, both involved in “Fight of the Year” bouts over the past 14 months against Fernando Vargas. The fight has been postponed due to a training injury to Salido’s hand. Miura remains on the card and is looking for another opponent.
The Hopkins vs. Smith card will also feature Golden Boy rising stars including middleweight Jason Quigley, lightweights Christian “Chiampa” Gonzalez and Ivan Delgado, and featherweight Joet Gonzalez, all of whom are undefeated. Quigley will fight Jorge Melendez of Puerto Rico; opponents have not been set for the rest of the athletes.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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