photos by Jay McGuigan, story: Jeff Imbrogno
The Borgata played host to ESPN2’s Wednesday Night Fights as part of a huge week of boxing in Atlantic City; a week that will feature two Hopkins as the main event. Antonio Tarver, the other half of Saturday’s Main Event, made a ringside appearance to do an interview for ESPN. Tarver exuded confidence as he walked around the ring donning a shirt stating, “Legend Killer.” With two of boxing’s finest preparing to do battle this Saturday, two rising stars took center stage in the co-main events on Wednesday.
The Main Event: Demetrius Hopkins vs. Michael Warrick
The pre-fight buzz was about Hopkins failing to make weight. At the first weigh-in, he was 143 pounds, and weighed-in at 142 pounds on his second try. After the fight, Hopkins said he felt the effect of having to cut the extra weight. He said, “[he] felt a little fatigued.” The fatigue definitely showed. His opponent, Michael Warrick, on the other hand, entered the fight in top shape. Warrick had a high energy level and gave Hopkins a tough fight.
Warrick was very aggressive, pressing Hopkins early. Hopkins stayed back and picked his spots to throw counters. The first round featured very little action and neither fighter was able to land big. Warrick, the more active fighter, took the first round on all three scorecards.
Warrick kept pressing Hopkins in the second round, but struggled to land anything on Hopkins. Hopkins, again, stayed back and countered. Hopkins landed a strong right hand midway through the round, but did little else. Hopkins took the round on all three scorecards.
Hopkins began to warm up. Warrick continued to push Hopkins. The two exchanged left hands early in the round, but Warrick was unable to land anything substantial after that. Hopkins began to show off his superior reach and quickness, landing a few big counter left hooks. Hopkins won the round on all three scorecards.
Hopkins continued to dance as Warrick charged him. Hopkins was able to do some damage in the middle of the round with a big counter left hook. Warrick seemed fazed by the hook and lost some aggression. Hopkins responded by pressing Warrick. He used his jab more and landed a hard right toward the end of the round. Hopkins won the round on all three scorecards.
There was little action in the round until Warrick hurt his left knee in an exchange. Hopkins pounced on Warrick as he hobbled around the ring. Hopkins landed a several strong left-right combinations, but was unable to land a big blow cleanly. Hopkins won on all three scorecards.
Warrick seemed to shake off the knee injury and continued to attack Hopkins, who seemed content to remain in a defensive position. Hopkins failed to capitalize on the momentum he built in the previous round. Warrick scored effectively with the jab, but was unable to land power punches. I thought Warrick outworked Hopkins and took the sixth round. One judge agreed, but the other two awarded Hopkins the round.
Another close round as Warrick continued to battle. He scored with the jab and landed a big left hook in the middle of the round. His energy and that punch along with Hopkins’ continued dancing gave him the round on two of the three judges’ scorecards.
Warrick looked tired as Hopkins scored on him with the jab through out the round. Warrick behind on the scorecards began lunging at Hopkins in hopes of landing a knock-out punch. Hopkins countered with the jab and the two fighters clinched often. Hopkins landed and Warrick did not. All three judges awarded Hopkins the round.
By the ninth round most of the crowd had grown disinterested in a fight that featured more clinches than big punches and good exchanges and many of the fans didn’t see the right cross Hopkins threw in the middle of the round. Unfortunately, Michael Warrick didn’t see it either. The monster right hand connected cleanly with Warrick’s jaw, knocking him unconscious. Hopkins won the fight scoring a KO at 1:59, making his record 24-0-1 with 10 knockouts.
Hopkins was the better boxer in this fight. His hands were faster, his reach was longer, and his defense was excellent. He struggled to match Warrick’s energy level and seemed flat through out the fight. He did, however, display flashes of greatness when he could summon the energy.
He overmatched Warrick when he was the aggressor, but he rarely took the initiative. Warrick’s record dropped to 18-4. He fought a hard fight and never gave up. He showed great toughness to come back after injuring his knee in the fifth round and make the sixth and seventh rounds interesting.
The Co-Main Event: Ishe Smith vs. Pat Thompson
Ishe Smith of ‘The Contender’ fame returned to the ring for the first time in over a year against Patrick Thompson. Smith showed very little ring rust, dominating the fight from the beginning.
Smith took control in the first round of the fight, landing power shots and combinations to the head and body of Thompson. Thompson had no response to Smith.
The second round featured less action and Thompson was able to land a few punches, but Smith still had control of the fight and won the round.
In the third, Thompson’s nose began to bleed. The two fighters had a couple nice exchanges, but Smith once again got the better of Thompson.
Thompson was much more aggressive in the fourth round. He scored early in the round with a strong right hook and seemed to show some life in the fight. Smith regained control in the middle of the round by using his jab. Thompson, however, finished the round strong landing a big right hand. He won the round on two of the three judges’ scorecards.
Smith regained control in the fifth round and nearly stopped Thompson with a big right hook and a flurry of punches. Thompson was defenseless and falling into the ropes as the bell rang to end round five.
The sixth round featured very little action as both fighters seemed to take a round off. They danced and jabbed, but didn’t throw much until the end of the round when Smith landed three right hooks to end the round. One judge awarded Thompson the round, while the other two gave Smith the sixth.
Thompson was tired and desperate in the seventh round. He began swinging wildly, but was able to score some punches. Smith used his jab to keep Thompson off and won the seventh round on two of the three judges’ scorecards.
In the eighth, Smith was able to hurt Thompson with a right hook and bombard with a flurry of hooks and uppercuts. Thompson somehow stayed on his and survived the round.
In the ninth, Smith landed his jab at will, but was unable to land a knockout punch. Smith won the round easily.
The tenth round featured much of the same. Smith dominated with his jab and Thompson was too tired to defend against it. Midway through the tenth, Smith asked the referee to stop the fight and began taunting Thompson, who had blood dripping from his nose at this point. Thompson became frustrated, but didn’t give Smith an opportunity for an easy knockout.
Smith won a unanimous decision. (99-91) (99-91) (98-92)
Smith dominated a very mediocre fighter in Pat Thompson. He was faster, had superior defense, and superior skill. Thompson, however, refused to go down or give up. Smith had several opportunities to end the fight, but was unable to finish.
This victory, albeit impressive, leads me to believe Smith lacks the power to be an elite fighter in the junior middleweight division.
Sheldon Rudolph vs. Lorenzo Bethea
The best fight of the night occurred after the cameras were turned off and most of the crowd had left. Bethea, an Atlantic City product, had the support of the hometown crowd, at least what remained of it. The two fighters gave the fans something that had been missing for most of the night, action and excitement. The two fighters stood toe-to-toe in the middle of the ring and landed bombs. There was no fancy footwork, no dancing, no attempt to establish a jab from four or five feet away. The two pounded each other with hooks for three and a half round. Bethea, who had dominated the entire fight, won the fight by TKO in the middle of the fourth round.