Eastman left clutching at straws by Hopkins' masterclass

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The Independent Online

Howard Eastman complained bitterly and demanded a re-match after his points defeat to Bernard Hopkins for the unified middleweight world title at the Staples Center, Los Angeles, on Saturday night.

Howard Eastman complained bitterly and demanded a re-match after his points defeat to Bernard Hopkins for the unified middleweight world title at the Staples Center, Los Angeles, on Saturday night.

Eastman blamed the referee for not letting him work when the boxers were in a clinch and he blamed Hopkins for not standing and fighting. Presumably, he also blames himself for not doing any work in rounds one to four.

The fight started in round five and from that point until the end it was a marvellous spectacle. When it was over, there was only one winner, leaving Eastman's complaints looking odd considering one of the three judges managed to only give him one of the 12 completed rounds.

In the weeks leading up to the fight, there was bold talk of knock-outs and a change in the world order. However, once the bell sounded, Eastman and Hopkins danced gently away from each other in the opening four rounds.

It was similar to the tactical mistake Eastman made in 2001 when he left his home in London to fight the American William Joppy for the World Boxing Association middleweight title. His start was slow then, but during the last eight rounds he appeared to have done enough to win. That was not the case on Saturday.

Hopkins is one of sport's most amazing athletes. Saturday's victory was his 20th defence in an unprecedented 10-year reign as champion and the 40-year-old is without doubt the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world and, arguably, one of the greatest middleweights in history.

He has the ability to totally dominate without seeming to force his presence or power on his opponent. Like the legendary featherweight from the 1940s, Willie Pep, Hopkins has the ability to win a round clearly without throwing or landing a punch. He is a master tactician and beautiful to watch but is not to everybody's liking, and on Saturday the crowd waited 70 seconds before booing.

When Eastman did finally move his feet and find the range for his lazy jabs, he appeared unable to sustain the pressure for an entire round. Against a gifted defensive fighter like Hopkins, that is a stupid mistake.

The fifth and the eighth rounds were high-quality and arguably Eastman's best, but there was still a valid case for nominating Hopkins as the winner of both. There were many tight rounds, but it is hard to make a meaningful case in Eastman's favour when it was obvious that to beat Hopkins you have to go forward and throw a lot of punches. That has never really been Eastman's style.

In his corner the unlikely duo of Robert McCracken and Dominic Ingle were able to keep their boxer interested and in the fight at all times, but only Eastman can really motivate Eastman and once again on Saturday night he fell short and only has himself to blame. Criticising Hopkins for not standing and fighting like a true champion is both ridiculous and an insult.

It is possible to say that Eastman remains the No 2 middleweight in the world but unless Hopkins decides to relinquish one or more of his four middleweight belts, there appears no way for Eastman to win a championship. However, Hopkins is now looking at the light heavyweight division and that could be good news for Eastman - and bad news for any light heavyweight.

Mike Tyson, who was at the fight, said he plans to return to the ring this summer. Tyson, who has not fought since his defeat to Danny Williams last July, said: "I'm hoping to return sometime around May and I'll be looking to have two or three easy fights before stepping up."

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