Body Blows: Tarver/Hopkins, Miguel Cotto, Notre Dame, and Boxing vs. UFC.

This past weekend was a big one for boxing. Two pay-per-view events were broadcast on Saturday. This is the first time two pay-per-view boxing events were scheduled head-to-head. HBO had their June 10th date set for Antonio Tarver/Bernard Hopkins. Top Rank’s pay-per-view was headlined by Miguel Cotto vs. Paulie Malignaggi. HBO made an offer to show Top Rank’s event on Friday, June 9th but Bob Arum, head of Top Rank, declined. Arum wanted the June 10th date because it lead into the Puerto Rican Day Parade. Miguel Cotto is from Puerto Rico. Regardless of the scheduling difficulties, both shows were fantastic.

Antonio Tarver vs. Bernard Hopkins

This was a highly anticipated fight. Antonio Tarver was the undisputed light heavyweight champion after defeating both Glen Johnson and Roy Jones Jr. Bernard Hopkins had dominated the middleweight division for ten years before losing consecutive decisions to Jermain Taylor last year. Hopkins planned to retire after this fight but wanted to make history on his way out. Hopkins always idolized Sugar Ray Robinson. Robinson was a dominant middleweight that attempted to jump up two weight classes and obtain the light heavyweight title. Robinson was unsuccessful. Hopkins, on the other hand, had no problem doing what his idol could not.

The fight was a lopsided affair. Hopkins peppered Tarver with jabs and combinations, all the while keeping any offense from Tarver to a minimum. Hopkins started slow in his two losses to Jermain Taylor. He made sure to come out aggressively at the opening bell and put the pressure on Tarver for the remainder of the fight. In the fifth round, Hopkins nailed Tarver with a counter right that sent the champion stumbling backwards. Tarver’s glove touched the canvas as he tried to keep his balance but if your glove touches the canvas, it must be ruled a knockdown. The referee was all over it and made the correct call. Tarver spent the rest of the contest getting pounded and ultimately doing nothing about it.

Hopkins caused the swelling around both of Tarver’s eyes but his lips have always been that big. At 41 years old, Hopkins claims this was his last fight. Although when Larry Merchant asked him if he would come back to fight for $20 million, Hopkins replied, “I might come out of my grave for that kind of money.” If this is indeed his last fight, he capped off a Hall of Fame career with the biggest exclamation point you can put on it. I’m talking “Michael Jordan (who was in attendance) hitting the winning shot in Game 6 over Utah” type of exclamation point. Now let’s just hope Hopkins doesn’t come back to play for the Wizards.

Miguel Cotto vs. Paulie Malignaggi

The second pay-per-view of the night was headlined by the WBO Light Welterweight title fight between champion Miguel Cotto and challenger Paulie Malignaggi. Cotto is a tough Puerto Rican that engages in exciting brawls while Malignaggi is a slick-talking, slick-boxing New Yorker that is proud of his Italian heritage. I also have it on good authority that Miguel Cotto is huge in Bulgaria, just to add more pieces to this cultural shish kabob. Both men entered the fight undefeated and this was Malignaggi’s first shot at a world title.

While both fighters were undefeated, Malignaggi had only five knockouts in his 21 fights while Cotto boasted 22 knockouts in 26 fights. Cotto had the power advantage and it showed during the 12-round contest. Cotto cut Malignaggi over his left eye in the first round and knocked the Brooklyn-native down with a left hook in the second round. Malignaggi showed tremendous heart in coming back from such a disastrous start. He even managed to stun Cotto in the ninth round but seemed too drained to fully capitalize on the opening. Despite being brash, Malignaggi also showed he’s got the guts to be a champion. That’s impressive to see and perhaps Antonio Tarver should watch a tape of this fight. It’s one thing to talk a lot of pre-fight junk about what you are going to do to your opponent but it’s another when you actually put forth the effort to do so during your fight.

Granted, Paulie Malignaggi doesn’t look like much of a champion after the fight. In addition to the cut, bad hair, and bloody nose, Malignaggi also suffered a fractured orbital bone that led to the swelling in his cheek. Malignaggi will need some time to heal but his future is bright. As for Cotto, he is rumored to fight Jose Luis “Fat Ass” Castillo in November. Assuming Castillo makes weight, it would be a very interesting matchup.

Cheer, Cheer For Old Notre Dame

On the Cotto/Malignaggi undercard, Tommy Zbikowski defeated Robert Bell when the referee stopped the fight just 49 seconds into the opening round. Generally, a fight scheduled for four rounds isn’t worth talking about but this one is different. Zbikowski just came off of a stellar season playing defensive back at Notre Dame and earned Third Team All-American honors. He hopes to improve on that next year. Zbikowski is still attending Notre Dame and will be a senior this coming season. Tommy Z received an exemption from the NCAA to participate in the fight and earned a $25,000 paycheck in the process. Under NCAA rules, someone can be a professional in one sport and an amateur in another as long as he/she does not receive any money for endorsements or commercials. Zbikowski’s debut was impressive and it will be interesting to see what he decides to do after he graduates, as it seems he would be a first round pick in the NFL Draft next year as well.

Boxing vs. UFC

Last week I gave my thoughts on Jim Lampley. It was a somewhat stream of consciousness rant and at the end I stated: “Things will play out as they will, but from where I sit, UFC has already passed boxing in popularity.”

I didn’t necessarily believe that as I typed it but it sounded good and honestly, I was too lazy to backspace. I decided to leave it in there under the notion that no one reads this anyway. Oops. As one reader pointed out:

“When has UFC ever brought in 800,000 PPV buys? Hell, I don’t think they have even reached 400,000 buys which is what Mayweather-Judah did.”

Yes, boxing is more popular than UFC right now, even though boxing is on it’s way down and UFC is on the rise. While my friends and people I work with seem to talk more about UFC than boxing, you don’t see anything about UFC on SportsCenter or espn.com. I don’t know much about PPV buyrates, but it seems boxing is far superior in that regard as well. I apologize for my overstatement and won’t underestimate my readership in the future. You can be sure I won’t make any more crazy claims either. I just know that things will play out as they will, but from where I sit, Body Blows has already passed Yahoo! in popularity.

Results From Last Week

– Demetrius Hopkins, Bernard’s nephew, knocked out Michael Warrick in the 9th round with a devastating right hand.

– Ishe Smith won a unanimous decision over Patrick Thompson. Smith was a favorite to win the first season of The Contender but lost his bout to Sergio Mora.

– 2000 Olympic gold medalist Audley Harrison defeated Andrew Greeley by knockout in the third round.

– Heavyweight Brian Minto scored a unanimous decision over Danny Batchelder in the ESPN Friday Night Fights main event.

– Hector Camacho Jr lost to Andrey Tsurkan when the referee controversially stopped the fight. Camacho was not in serious danger and the ref seemed to come in out of nowhere.

– Israel Vazquez retained his WBC Super Bantamweight Title when his opponent, Ivan Hernandez, suffered a broken nose in the fourth round and could not continue.

– Julio Cesar Chavez Jr defeated Aaron Drake by 2nd round TKO.

– Bobby Pacquiao knocked out former World champion Kevin Kelley in the fourth round.

– Middleweight phenom John Duddy remained undefeated when he caused Alfredo Cuevas’ corner to throw in the towel for their fighter before the eighth round.

Spit Bucket

Do you think I said something stupid this week? Tell me about it at buddhabean316@yahoo.com. You know who didn’t say something stupid? These guys:

Do the Miami Heat have what it takes to get back into the NBA Finals? I’ve already asked way too many questions. Phillip Ciprotti breaks down the entire series in The 4-Point Play.

We survived 6-6-06 and Mike Noyes reviews the film that capitalized on that date.

What would the week be without The Weekly Sports Pulse? Damn, another question.

Shelly recaps the latest episode of The Ultimate Fighter 3. Fight of the year! Fight of the year!

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