Bernard Hopkins vs Joe Smith Jr, Oleksandr Usyk vs Mchunu, Joseph JoJo Diaz vs Garcia
BY KID HERSH
Surprisingly Oleksandr Usyk (10-0, 9KO's) vs Thabiso Mchunu (17-2, 11KO's) was not the pre main event. This is a really, really good matchup that was either miscommunicated as being on the Indio card yesterday or got moved about a week out from the fight. In any case, it got placed behind JoJo Diaz no doubt because that is De La Hoya's guy while Usyk is still on the rise. In the first round Usyk looked a bit confused and tentative to throw punches while measuring up the short engima in front of him. Mchunu was crouching even lower than usual, making himself tiny in front of the Ukrainian WBO champion. This continued in the second round as Usyk shook his arms out in an effort to maybe wake his brain up. Usyk looks super slow and frozen in time in there right now while Mchunu is gaining confidence - even pressing Usyk around the ring to end the second round. Usyk did not really get going until the final minute of the third round, finally throwing caution to the wind and opening up with his hands. His face still betrayed him though - as he had a look of super frustration due to Mchunu taking a step back any time he was looking to engage. Or, in other words, a smart game plan that Mchunu has employed many times in his career. Usyk was finally breaking the guard of Mchunu by the end of the fifth round but it took him a lot of punches to do so as Mchunu was blocking and parrying many a punch. Usyk was not drained of energy from the effort but his punches definitely do not have snap on them from all the misfiring. In the sixth round Usyk blasted out combinations two minutes in and broke Mchunu's guard at the cost of leaving himself open. Usyk took a powerful straight left that snapped his head violently but he took it well and continued firing, knocking down Mchunu from the barrage of power shots. Mchunu rose and made it through the round while actually backing up Usyk to end it - with Usyks gas tank likely on empty. Usyk went back to being super frustrated in the seventh round. By the end of the seventh he was even flailing away while looking like an amateur hoping to score points. I also saw him look to his corner near the end of the seventh round and shrug as if to say he could not do anything with the guy in front of him. In the eighth round Mchunu made a good comeback, likely winning the round off of his right hooks that were the best punches of the round between the two fighters. Usyk was still super frustrated but he managed to catch Mchunu with a variety of shots in the ninth round that sent him to the canvas. He was touching his eyebrow and looking at the blood - a surefire indication that he is more concerned with his injuries than winning the fight. Sure as shit Usyk jumped on him and Mchunu threw the best punches left in his arsenal - landing some but not enough to take the fight out of Usyk who had a look like he just wanted to take the guy in front of him out at any cost. He got the stoppage win but showed some chinks in the armor here. I understand why he was giving ground at times despite being the much bigger and stronger man he also showed a mentality that could get the better of him down the road. Showing the frustration isn't the best look to have but he got the work done at the end of the fight.
Joseph "JoJo" Diaz (22-0, 13KO's) vs Horacio Garcia (30-1-1, 21KO's) was pre main event. JoJo had a tough first round as Garcia pressed the action and looked super confident. In the second round JoJo's #1 fan got escorted out from too much "let's go JoJo" chanting (and drinking cough cough) but JoJo came alive, throwing punches in bunches in his super athletic style and was scoring with excellent shots. Garcia was still scoring also but he does not have the same snap that JoJo does. In the third round JoJo's biggest fan was brought back in the venue (I guess cheering isn't an infraction of any rules) and the chants were going back and forth between Garcia fans and JoJo fans. JoJo still had the upper hand but Garcia really came to fight. Garcia was still landing jabs such as the very stiff one only 30 seconds into the fourth round. Garcia was also landing right hands flush at times as both fighters were still trying to get into a rhythm of ring generalship. No doubt JoJo is winning the majority of rounds but Garcia is a pest that is not going anywhere. Garcia started to show signs of wear around his eyes as the rounds wore on but no doubt he is in the best condition of his career for this big opportunity. Garcia continued pressing the action and being the aggressor while giving the fight everything he had. Diaz was the one scoring the quicker, flashier, stronger blows though which was the difference in the end as Diaz won the shutout decision. I will have to rewatch this fight because I thought Garcia put on a better performance than a shutout loss. I figured he won a few rounds and I thought he had an impressive effort, although losing.
Main event time with the ageless warrior Bernard Hopkins (55-7-2, 32KO's) vs Joe Smith Jr. (22-1, 18KO's). "The Beast" vs "The Executioner" was off and BHop finally looked like an older man in the first round to my eyes. He was shuffling around the ring instead of gliding, likely because he had to conserve energy. he took a couple left hooks near the end fo the round that made me wonder if he would be able to handle Smith power - with one buckling his legs and another one that he was wide open for with his hands down - something BHop never does. Smith was having his way with Hopkins more in the second round. Hopkins has to focus so much on defense that he has not been able to mount any sort of consistent offense. He managed to get off a really nice right hand two minutes into the second round but really its few and far between for shots like it. So far it just does not seem like the legends night as 24 karat gold magic or whatever the name of the song by Bruno Mars is plays in the background and other new hip hop such as Lil Wayne and Chance The Rapper. It feels as if the times are coming around to modern day on the old vet. He would not go quietly into that good night, however, as we should have been able to guess. BHop gained some momentum back in the fourth round by getting more busy and catching Smith with punches via combination instead of one at a time. The fifth round was a brutal one - with BHop gaining ground and momentum from the previous round but then Smith came right back at the end of the round, landing a brutal right hand that seemed to stun BHop for the remainder of the round in addition to other punches. Smith has a good game plan of coming right back at Hopkins after he has success - no doubt implemented to take the steam out of the older man who by no human rights should be able to keep up with an athlete half his age. The sixth round more Joe Smith, although Hopkins was showing great footwork and defense in general. He also lands a flashy right hand here and there from walking in with it as a lead - such as the one to end the sixth round and the first half of the fight. Hopkins showed amazing defense in the seventh round as he moved around the ring and timed out Smiths punches to the effect that he knew when and where he was throwing. He took advantage of it to counter and score effectively. He is not, however, appearing to do any damage on Smith but perhaps Smith is wearing down which is why BHop is clearly taking the upper hand. Alas though, there will controversy forever in this fight due to the way fight ended when BHop was punched through the ropes, falling hard onto the concrete. The rule is that he had 20 seconds to get back in the ring but the fight was waved off when he suffered an injury due to the blows. I'm sure the controversy isn't likely to end any time soon from this one!