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Stan Hochman: A boxing book Bernard Hopkins is sure to hate

MARCEL CERDAN against Bernard Hopkins? Cerdan by a knockout! Cerdan against Roy Jones Jr.? Same result, KO, Cerdan. Hopkins defending his championship 20 times, bleagh, a giant among pygmies.

MARCEL CERDAN against Bernard Hopkins? Cerdan by a knockout! Cerdan against Roy Jones Jr.? Same result, KO, Cerdan. Hopkins defending his championship 20 times, bleagh, a giant among pygmies.

Jack Dempsey over Joe Louis because Louis had problems with bob-and-weave fighters and Dempsey was a swift, bob-and-weave guy with a punch. Dempsey against the early Muhammad Ali, too, because he would have cornered Ali on the ropes and "ripped his guts out."

And, oh yeah, Ali could have beaten Wladimir Klitschko blindfolded, no contest, name the round if he could figure a number that rhymed with Klitschko. Other than zero.

Send your letters and e-mails to Mike Silver, who has written a lively book called "The Arc of Boxing: The Rise and Decline of the Sweet Science."

"The golden age of boxing was the 1920s to the 1950s," Silver lectured recently. "Today, we've got the age of gold. I didn't write this book to fuel the debate, I wrote it to end the debate."

Whoa, before you write off Silver as a cranky geezer living and loving the distant past, you might want to read what he has to say about the bleak state of boxing and how it got that way. For reinforcements, he brings along current trainers like Emanuel Steward, Ted Atlas and Freddie Roach.

"You need an eye to see what's happening," Silver said. "You might watch a surgeon and think he's doing the right thing. Another surgeon, watching the same operation, would see everything that's being done wrong.

"Floyd Mayweather against Oscar De La Hoya. People talking about Mayweather like he's the greatest fighter pound-for-pound. He is not a great fighter. Every time De La Hoya threw a left jab, he drove Mayweather back. He had no answer. De La Hoya was five jabs away from winning the fight.

"Boxing is the emperor with no clothes."

How did it get stark naked and feeble? Silver is glad you asked. He sounds like a guy doing an autopsy, not surgery.

"The alphabet groups killed it," he yelped. "Instead of eight divisions, eight champions, you have 17 champions.

"The talented old-time trainers retired or died and were not replaced. Instead of 10,000 professional fighters, you have 3,000 now. Guys get to fight for a title after 12 fights. In the golden age you were lucky to get a title fight after 50 or 60 fights."

He also blames scheming promoters like Bob Arum and Don King, punch stats, writers who aren't savvy enough to recognize mediocrity, and let's see, has he left anyone out?

Let's give Silver a breather and hear what Atlas says about Roy Jones Jr.: "Roy uses his reflexes and his anticipation rather than technique. His technique has a lot of holes in it."

And how about this grenade from Steward: "Only a tiny percentage of today's contenders would have gotten past the better four- and six-round fighters of the 1930s, '40s and '50s. They would have been crushed by the competition."

Silver anticipates your counterpunch and ducks. "Sure, professional athletes are bigger, stronger and faster," he snarled. "But you don't measure a fighter with a stopwatch. There are no great fighters today because they don't have the training they need; they don't have the competition they need; and they don't have the experience they need."

Silver saw his first fight in 1959. "Alex Miteff vs. Wayne Bethea, Madison Square Garden," he recalled. "A very dull fight, as I remember. But walking into the Garden, seeing that ring, with the lights over it, that's how an ancient Roman must have felt walking into the Colosseum for the first time. It was magical."

Silver explored the magic, studied the history, wrote articles about it. And now the book, which Bernard Hopkins will hate.

"Take every great middleweight from 1900 to the '60s," Silver argued. "Mickey Walker, Stanley Ketchel, Marcel Cerdan, Jake La Motta, all great fighters, some of them with the speed of lightweights and the punch to knock out a heavyweight.

"And there's no way they could have dominated a division and defended a title 20 times. Hopkins did, but that does not make him better than Walker, Ketchel, Cerdan, La Motta and Harry Greb. Don't forget Harry Greb. The guys Hopkins fought are on a primitive level." *

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