Bernard Hopkins had to work much harder than I dare say most everyone believed he'd have to against Karo Murat in the main event at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City on Saturday night. The fight was a most entertaining but ultra-chippy affair. Hopkins ate some leather and dished it out, even more so, en route to a unanimous decision win, via scores of 117-110, 119-108, 119-108.
Here's a breakdown of the rounds.
In the first round, Murat looked better than many expected. He was aggressive, looked to bull Hopkins to the ropes. The old master feinted and threw a couple combos, but mainly scouted his man.
In the second, Murat acted like he'd been stabbed after Hopkins hit him in the body after a break, while he had his back turned.
In the third, a left hook landed on Hopkins. He got Murat back with a lead right late. It was a chippy fight and Murat was making Hopkins labor.
In the fourth, Hopkins did well with the jab and lead rights. Murat kept looking to land heavy shots, especially hooks. Hopkins had asserted more control by now.
In the fifth, Hopkins kissed the back of Murat's head in a clinch. Hopkins slugged Murat hard after the bell, after he'd been holding his right arm and hitting him.
In the sixth, Hopkins worked the body, looking to sap some strength. Murat nailed Hopkins twice after he threw him to the mat, and got warned. Chippy, bigtime.
In the seventh, a left hook hurt Murat. Smoger then took a point for an infraction from him. The left eye looked cut but OK on Murat.
In the eighth, Hopkins went to the Murat corner, yapped at them and then turned back to fight. He growled at Murat, and traded and was in one of the most entertaining rounds of his career.
In the ninth, the two traded and Murat landed about four, clean hard shots, maybe taking the round.
In the 10th, the action was busy for so late in the game. Murat by no means folded, he was looking to land hard and clean throughout.
In the 11th, a sharp right for Hopkins excited the crowd late, after another tight round. A slice on Murat's cheek bothered him some.
In the 12th, a right from Hopkins stunned Murat. Murat went cheap late, looking to headbutt Hopkins after the bell.
Afterwards, Hopkins said that he really wanted the KO. He said he wanted to be a crowd pleaser.
"I really wanted to get the knockout," he said. "I have a [nine]-year drought. He was really tough. He was a slow puncher but a good puncher. He wouldn’t back down. When you go for a knockout you have to take some punches. But this is what they want to see. I wanted a knockout, so you take risks. Don’t ever take your mandatory lightly. That guy would give anybody in the light heavyweight division problems."
Murat's take? The defeated German said if not for the cuts, he'd have won. But the numbers -- gashes included, unfortunately -- told a different story on Saturday night.