Monday October 17th, 2011

This is a difficult column to write because I don't know the answers to the following questions:

• Was Bernard Hopkins really hurt when Chad Dawson nudged him to the canvas in the second round of their light heavyweight title fight on Saturday?

• And if Hopkins was hurt, just how hurt was he?

Some of you might say, There is a medical report. I know. According to Dr. Sam Thurber, a California physician who specializes in emergency medicine, Hopkins suffered a separation of the acromioclavicular (or the A-C) joint, which connects the collarbone and shoulder blade. That kind of injury, several people have told me, can be extremely painful.

"It happened to me April 30, 1957, driving to Chicago for the Gene Fulmer-Sugar Ray Robinson middleweight title bout," longtime boxing publicist Bill Caplan wrote in an email. "My [car] did a double rollover into a ditch (no seat belts in those days) and I was taken to the hospital with what turned out to be the separation. Excruciatingly painful. Any move was stabbing. It took about six weeks for the shoulder to heal."

But this is boxing, and just getting a note from a doctor is not irrefutable evidence of a real injury. And we have seen Hopkins feign injury to try to gain an advantage before: In his 2008 fight against Joe Calzaghe, Hopkins went down in a heap -- and then enjoyed several minutes of rest in the ring -- after a surging Calzaghe tapped him with a light shot right on the belt line. Could Hopkins have been looking for a similar advantage against Dawson, only to have it backfire when the referee a) waved off the fight and b) ruled Dawson's nudge a legal move?

We may never know. Through his publicist, I requested copies of Hopkins' X-rays, with the idea that an impartial physician could give an unbiased answer. But I'm not expecting a response anytime soon.

Of course, it doesn't matter. Because I saw enough in the first two rounds against Dawson to formulate this opinion:

Bernard Hopkins should retire.

Now, it won't be long before this loss is wiped off Hopkins' résumé. Referee Pat Russell made an egregious error when he ruled that Dawson's shove was not a foul, or at the very least not a legal boxing move. The California commission will review it and in short time declare the fight a no contest and give Hopkins back his title.

But to what end? I'm convinced that if you put Hopkins and Dawson in the ring together 10 times, Dawson wins all 10 of them. It's a bad matchup for Hopkins. Dawson is tall and rangy with an excellent jab. He doesn't get flustered when Hopkins lunges in and he has the speed to rip off three or four combinations at will. No, Dawson wasn't especially effective in the two rounds on Saturday -- he landed seven of the 55 punches he threw, according to CompuBox -- but he patiently kept Hopkins in front of him and it was clear the Dawson who blew out Antonio Tarver, Glen Johnson and Tomasz Adamek had come to fight.

If Hopkins can't beat Dawson, who can he beat? Tavoris Cloud? The IBF titleholder is another volume-punching 175-pounder. Nathan Cleverly? Beibut Shumenov? Zsolt Erdei? What do any of them offer a man who will be 47 the next time he steps in the ring?

The only acceptable scenario for Hopkins fighting again is if Jean Pascal beats Dawson early next year. Pascal is tailor-made for Hopkins. He's a raw, undisciplined power puncher whose physical advantages are tempered by Hopkins' ring savvy. HBO would be interested and a third installment in the rivalry would probably draw 20,000 fans to a venue in Montreal or Quebec City.

But if Dawson beats Pascal, forget it. No one wants to see Hopkins-Dawson II, including Hopkins, Dawson and promoters Richard Schaefer and Gary Shaw. The promotion for the fight was a disaster and sources familiar with the situation described ticket sales as horrendous. Joe Calzaghe wasn't coming out of retirement to fight Hopkins before and he's certainly not doing it now. Lucian Bute is (hopefully) tied up with the winner of Showtime's Super Six tournament through the middle of next year. And now that David Haye is title-less and retired, the fairy tale of moving up to heavyweight is just that.

It's been a great career for Hopkins. He's one of the top-five middleweight champions of all time. He's the oldest man to win a major title. He's a born showman who has charmed reporters and fans alike for years. But it's time to move on. Sometimes you have to accept that there is nothing left to fight for. For Hopkins, that time is now.

I'll be weighing in on the hiring of former Showtime sports boss Ken Hershman at HBO in this week's Sports Illustrated, but I'll repeat some of my sentiments here: This was a great move.

Some people have questioned it, specifically when it comes to how Hershman -- whose budget at Showtime was significantly less than what he will have at HBO -- will handle the responsibility of overseeing such a massive checkbook. My well-respected counterpart at ESPN, Dan Rafael, made the analogy that being the GM of the Padres isn't the same as running the Yankees.

I disagree. I think Hershman's success at Showtime -- including shepherding the successful ShoBox: The New Generation series and creating the groundbreaking Super Six tournament -- on a limited budget proves he can (and will) be highly successful at the next level. I'll make a different analogy, a basketball one. Oklahoma City's Sam Presti is considered one of, if not the top executive in the NBA. The Thunder have far more significant financial restraints than, say, the Knicks. But I have no doubt that if Presti were running the Knicks, he would develop them into a powerhouse.

If you analyze Hershman's philosophies, I think he can have an immediate impact. First, Hershman comes from a company that, under the late Jay Larkin, established a "best fights, no rights" policy. That meant no long output deals or silly multi-fight contracts, the kind of agreements that have wreaked havoc on HBO's budget the last few years. If Hershman brings that philosophy to HBO, it could go a long way toward cleaning up the messy relationships the network has had with Al Haymon (whose fighters have routinely collected fat license fees fighting nobodies) and Golden Boy Promotions. The network's cushy relationship with Golden Boy has drawn the ire of many rival promoters.

Second, HBO has a smaller, prospect-heavy boxing series in the works for 2012, one very similar to ShoBox. Hershman's experience building ShoBox into one of the strongest regular shows in boxing should help him grow this new brand.

These are just the obvious benefits to hiring Hershman, who, by all accounts, had an extremely successful run at Showtime. When Ross Greenburg resigned last summer, I thought there were only two people who could do that job: Hershman and Lou DiBella, the former director of programming at HBO. But DiBella once reportedly cursed at then-HBO chairman (and current Time Warner CEO) Jeff Bewkes and then-HBO executive (and current HBO CEO) Bill Nelson during a budget meeting. He had no shot. Hershman was the best man and the right man for the job.

Richard Plepler and I believe that Ken [Hershman] is a perfect fit for HBO Sports. He has a deep and thorough understanding of the sport of boxing and that background will be invaluable as he transitions to his role at HBO. Ken has demonstrated a capacity to think outside the box, and the combination of his experience and reputation make him the ideal executive addition to HBO's already stellar sports department. --HBO co-president Michael Lombardo, announcing the decision to hire Showtime's Ken Hershman to run HBO Sports. Hershman will start working at HBO in January.

Working at Showtime was an amazing experience, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have developed countless friendships and relationships across the organization. While I am sure that I will miss them all, I am excited by the opportunity to join the team at HBO and contribute to one of television's most dynamic companies. --Hershman, who has been the top decision-maker in Showtime's sports department since 2005.

You can say what you want, but you were about to get done. I'm going to finish you off in the rematch, brother. Trust me. You lost to a 46-year-old man, twice. You were out on your feet, brother. Sit down, you got lucky [against me]. Sit down with your tight pants. This time we're going to do it in the U.S., and we'll see what happens. --Chad Dawson, who got into an argument with Jean Pascal at Saturday's post-fight press conference. Dawson says he wants Pascal, who last year handed Dawson his only professional loss, in his next fight.

I would have very much enjoyed the idea of putting my retirement on hold for six months and going in against another champion that no one gave me a chance of beating. I thrive on those sort of fights. Ultimately, though, Team Klitschko are a business, and they rarely take on tough opposition unless they are forced. --Former WBA heavyweight champion David Haye, who announced his retirement on his 31st birthday.

Bozella wins and has inspired me to make a comeback!!!!! --Oscar De La Hoya (@oscardelahoya), who tweeted that after watching 52-year-old Dewey Bozella win his first professional fight on Saturday. Bozella was released from prison in 2009 after serving 26 years for a murder he did not commit. De La Hoya later said he was not planning to come back.

Five fights I'd like to see HBO push for in the first quarter of next year:

Dawson-Pascal II: Natural matchup (with or without a title on the line) that promises to be entertaining

Sergio Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.: The WBC has ordered Chavez to defend his middleweight title against Martinez after Chavez faces Peter Manfredo Jr. next month. Though Chavez could opt for an all-Mexican showdown with Saul Alvarez, Martinez is the more meaningful fight.

Victor Ortiz-Andre Berto II: Absolutely absurd if these two don't meet again soon.

Dmitry Pirog-Matthew Macklin: More of a co-main event than a headliner but Pirog, the WBO titleholder, needs more television exposure to get bigger fights. And Macklin, who gave Felix Sturm all he could ask for earlier this year, comes to fight.

Austin Trout-Cornelius Bundrage: Two 154-pound titleholders most people have never heard of. The winner will be a unified champion, which could be enough of a carrot to entice moneymaker Miguel Cotto into the ring.

10. Please, Showtime, take a long look at Lou DiBella as a replacement for Ken Hershman. Not only does DiBella have a great eye for fights but he also would work with Hershman (as much as he could, anyway) to eliminate the childish counterprogramming that has created a rocky relationship between the two networks.

9. I like that Dawson is targeting Pascal. But that fight needs to be in Canada. Put it in Connecticut or New Jersey and you will be lucky to get 5,000 fans in the building.

8. Tony DeMarco showed a lot of heart coming from behind to knock out Jorge Linares. I'd like to see DeMarco again, maybe against 140-pound titleholder Erik Morales.

7. Speaking of Morales, if he does move to 135 pounds can the WBC, you know, just give the 140-pound belt back to Tim Bradley?

6. I'm putting Haye's retirement at six months. Remember, he screwed with the Klitschkos for years before he got the deal he wanted from Wladimir. He won't get that sweet a deal from Vitali, but if the opponents start to dry up, I think there is a good chance Vitali makes it worth his while.

5. Be nice if Showtime lets Hershman present the trophy to the winner of the Carl Froch-Andre Ward fight next month. I know Hershman defected to the enemy but the man did what many thought was impossible when he put this tournament together and has endured so many setbacks along the way. This was his baby and it brought a lot of exposure to the network.

4. I have no idea why Victor Ortiz's team is open to the possibility of fighting Devon Alexander. Did I miss something?

3. It's looking like Alexander Povetkin won't defend his heavyweight "title" against Evander Holyfield after all. Thank God. I don't know what I was more nervous about, that Holyfield was getting in the ring with him or the possibility that Holyfield might win and potentially attempt a suicide mission against one of the Klitschkos.

2. Paging, Nikolai Valuev.

1. Good luck to undefeated super middleweight prospect Will Rosinsky, nephew of SI executive assistant Joan Rosinsky, who will face hyped prospect Edwin Rodriguez in the main event of Friday night's ShoBox card at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn.

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