Nearly seven years later, Bernard Hopkins could laugh about the most devastating, embarrassing moment of his Hall-of-Fame career.
Hopkins’ longtime promotional partner and friend, Oscar De La Hoya, mentioned that infamous fight because the former light heavyweight champion who emphatically ended Hopkins’ career will headline their company’s show Saturday night in Las Vegas. Joe Smith Jr., who knocked Hopkins out of the ring to win their bout by eighth-round knockout in December 2016, playfully apologized to Hopkins when it was his turn to speak at the podium Thursday while promoting his fight against Gilberto Ramirez.
“You know, to Hopkins, I’m sorry that this is still coming up about our fight all the time,” Smith said. “But, you know, I guess, you know, when you take these risks of getting in there, you know, you’ve gotta deal with the consequences afterwards. But, you know, this weekend I’m looking to make another statement and come out with my hand raised.”
Smith (28-4, 22 KOs) will deal with the consequences of his second-round, technical-knockout loss to Artur Beterbiev by meeting Ramirez (44-1, 30 KOs) in a 12-round, 193-pound main event Saturday night at The Chelsea inside The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. The 34-year-old Smith hasn’t boxed in the 15 months since Russia’s Beterbiev (19-0, 19 KOs) knocked him down three times and stopped him in their 175-pound title unification fight in June 2022 at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York.
Between his career-altering victory over Hopkins and his devastating defeat to Beterbiev, Long Island’s Smith won the then-vacant WBO light heavyweight title by edging Russian contender Maxim Glasov by majority decision in April 2021.
Beterbiev took that title from Smith, but his fight with Mexico’s Ramirez is a WBA elimination match in each of their debuts as full-fledged cruiserweights. Ramirez is a 3-1 favorite, according to most sportsbooks, but this is an opportunity for Smith to rejuvenate his career in a main event DAZN will stream worldwide (8 p.m. EDT; 5 p.m. PDT).
Smith never weighed more than 180 pounds for a professional bout before agreeing to face Ramirez seven pounds below the cruiserweight limit of 200.
“Like Bernard Hopkins was saying, if you wanna be great, you have to fight the best,” De La Hoya said. “And when I was watching Joe Smith fight my partner at the Great Western Forum, I don’t mean to bring it up, but you know, Joe Smith dared to be great. And what did he do? He knocked out Bernard Hopkins, out of the ring! So, it goes to show you that, you know, you must take advantage of opportunities. And obviously [this] is an opportunity.”
Smith led Hopkins on two scorecards (69-64, 67-66, 66-67) when his left hook knocked Hopkins through the ropes and out of the ring, flat on his back on the floor of The Forum in Inglewood, California, early in the eighth round. Hopkins, who was 51 years old when he fought Smith, couldn’t return to the ring before referee Jack Reiss counted to 20 and lost by knockout 53 seconds into the eighth round of a main event HBO televised.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.