Dan Rattiner's Stories

Boxer Bernard Hopkins Loses to an East Ender and Retires

An East Ender named Joe Smith Jr. knocked out legendary prizefighter Bernard Hopkins last week.

It happened in the eighth round. Smith backed Hopkins into a corner and hit him with six unanswered blows to the head, the last of which sent Hopkins backward through the ropes and down onto the floor outside the ring, where he landed on his head. Hopkins got up and didn’t seem too disoriented, though. Certainly, he had to know he had to get back into the ring. But he didn’t do it. Instead, he told people where he’d landed he’d been pushed out of the ring and hurt his ankle and so couldn’t box. The video (see below), however, shows punches sent him out of the ring. As for the referee, looking down, he counted him out.

Joe Smith Jr. was handpicked for this fight by Hopkins. Hopkins said it would be his last fight. He has been a champion many times over, and wanted to end his career with a victory. On the other hand, he didn’t want to pick anybody easy. Smith packs a powerful punch and has knocked out almost everybody he’s faced in 23 fights, but he hasn’t ventured far from New York to fight very often. He would be perfect for Hopkins, a skilled tactical boxer, to dance around, peck away at and win a decision.

Smith works as a union laborer—jackhammer, ditch digger—and lives with his wife and daughter in Shirley, the blue-collar town halfway between Patchogue and Westhampton Beach. He celebrated his victory that night with some of his friends who belong to the union. In his last fight, he knocked out Andrzej Fonfara, a far less skilled boxer than Hopkins but one who was holding the WBC International Championship belt as a light heavyweight [which Smith now possesses].

Joe Smith Jr. boxing
Joe Smith Jr. boxing, Photo: Courtesy Star Boxing

Most prizefighters retire when they get to their early 30s. A few fight after 40. Hopkins, who appeared to be in prime physical condition for this fight, is 51 years old and has won numerous championships with his classic skills. Half his wins came by knockout. With prizefighters, knockout power is usually the first thing that goes when you get to be over 35.

For the first three rounds, Hopkins’s timing seemed off, too. Most people watching thought Smith, 27, won them. But in the fourth and fifth, Hopkins got the range and it looked as if it could be a beautiful dance to victory.

In the sixth, however, he simply ran out of gas. It was quite apparent, and it ended in the eighth. After the fight, he praised Smith and said to fans, “I look like I probably still can fight, but I can’t.”

Joe Smith Jr. has fame and fortune in front of him. Go get ’em, Joe, we’re rootin’ for ya.

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