Convicted Artist Magazine

Aug 09th
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altAlthough I predicted the recent Hopkins vs. Jones rematch accurately, as I'm sure many of you did, it is a hard one to gloat over.  Bernard winning a wide, defensive-minded unanimous decision wasn't exactly a ballsy pick.  However, it got me thinking of times when we did not expect a knockout, but were given one anyway.  The following are fights where the script didn't go according to plan, and fighters who usually make it to the final bell did not.
James Toney vs. Michael Nunn - Nunn was one of the best fighters in the world, and Toney, while undefeated, was largely untested.  For 10 rounds, we got what we expected... Nunn outboxing his upstart challenger.  Then in the 11th round, Toney unleashed a big left hand that flattened Nunn.  A follow up barrage that was barely necessary finished matters, and the two fighters redefined the meaning of "crossroads" match, as Nunn struggled throughout the rest of his career to recapture former glory, while Toney went on to put up hall-of-fame numbers.  The bizarre thing was that Toney rarely KO'd top names after this, and Nunn was never stopped again.  However, on this one night, the stars aligned just right for both fighters to go against their nature.
Bernard Hopkins vs. Glen Johnson - Hopkins is not a big puncher.  Johnson is barely phased when big punching light heavyweights tag him clean.  However, in 1997, before Hopkins was entirely defensive minded, and before Johnson had matured, Hopkins was able to dish out a sustained beating that had Johnson getting rescued in round 11.  The 'Road Warrior'  likely would have made it to the final bell, knowing what we know now, but was so sufficiently battered that the stoppage was warranted.  Again, Hopkins went on to win most big fights by decision, and Johnson was never stopped again.
Julio Cesar Chavez vs. Greg Haugen - There was no surpise here as to who won the fight.  The surprise was the 5th round stoppage.  Chavez was motivated by Haugen's critique of his opponents, while Haugen was not training seriously due to personal problems.  Even so, nobody stopped Haugen, and Chavez rarely stopped fighters he wasn't supposed to.  A wide decision win for Chavez was how most called it, but by round 4, one could see that Haugen, like many of Chavez lesser opponents, was breaking down.  The fact that this fight took place against an American trash-talker, in a bullring in Mexico City, in front of a record 130,000 spectators, did even more than the Taylor fight to make Chavez a hero to his people.
Calvin Grove vs. Jeff Fenech - This was a battle of former world champions... in Fenech's case, he had held titles in three weight classes, and arguably should have been four, after his draw with Azumah Nelson that many thought should have been a win.  He may have been stopped in his rematch with Nelson, but that was the tough Australian's lone defeat, and Grove was not likely to be adding to that number.  Even so, Grove winning was not the story here, but when the notoriously light-hitting American stopped Fenech with one right hand in the 7th round, that shocked the Australian audience into silence.  Fenech would retire for two years, before an ill-advised comeback.  This would also be the final significant win of Grove's career, which did finally end in Australia, after a 1 round KO loss to Kostya Tszyu.
Chris Strait


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