Bernard Hopkins was one of the smartest fighters of all time, how else can you explain a man in his late 40’s winning the world title and still being competitive in his 50’s. Hopkins was a real old school fighter, a late starter to boxing he hailed from one of the greatest boxing cities of them all – Philadelphia. It wasn’t just Hopkins clean living which enabled him to continue boxing past the age of 50 but his knowledge of the sweet science. Sure some would say he could play a little dirty in the ring and had ever sneaky trick in the book but his defence first approach proved to be successful and help his longevity in the sport and he was a shrewd operator.
When Bernard Hopkins met Kelly Pavlik in the ring on October 18 of 2008, the 43yr old Hopkins was faced with an unbeaten opponent who was also 17yrs younger. Hopkins was mostly concerned about Pavlik’s right hand so his strategy in this fight was to nullify Pavlik’s right cross. Here are some of the key tactics Bernard Hopkins used to neutralize the right hand and win the fight.
1. Circling to the Right – Firstly Hopkins would move to his right, by doing this he took himself away from Pavlik’s power hand. He was also constantly changing direction which made it more difficult for Pavlik to set his feet and set up his right hand.
2. Falling into the Right – Hopkins would sometimes lead with the right, just to keep Pavlik off balance so he isn’t always expecting the jab first, sometimes Hopkins would feint with the jab and then throw the lead right but more importantly he would fall into his right hand. This would close the distance between the two and also lead to a clinch, smothering Pavlik so he could not counter Hopkins lead right with his own right hand shot.
3. Holding the Jab – Hopkins was throwing the jab and often when he missed he would hold the jab on Pavlik, whether that was on his shoulder or on Pavlik’s glove. By stiffening the jab he ensured Pavlik was unable to throw a counterpunch because Hopkins holding jab was in the way. Another way Hopkins would do is was by punching up with the jab, again blocking any counter.
4. The Feint – This was used to disrupt Pavlik’s timing and stall an attack. Hopkins would feint an attack so instead of getting ready to mount his own attack, Pavlik would momentarily switch to defence in case Hopkins was attacking but the feint had caused Pavlik to Hesitate and Hopkins had moved to a position of safety, forcing Pavlik to yet again reset his position.
5. Occupation – Hopkins would use the touch jab to occupy the right hand of Pavlik, this meant Pavlik now had his right hand and his power punches taken away from him as he was busy trying to defend the jab with it, Hopkins would then slip a jab down the middle landing flush on Pavlik who wasn’t able to defend it whilst he was pre-occupied with having his right hand being used for defence.
An extremely smart performance from Bernard Hopkins – click the video below to give it a watch and see the masterclass from Hopkins.
Boxing Coach Strength and Conditioning Coach Boxing Author of: The Boxing Cheat Sheet - Your Ultimate Guide to Ring Survival Strength and Conditioning for Boxing - Work out Hits to get you Fighting Fit! Forgotten Legends of the Ring - Ten Past Masters of the Squared Circle *Any videos or images used on this site to support my articles that are copyrighted are used in accordance to the fair use act and are not my own - all credit is due to the respective owners. No copyright infringement intended.
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