The tortured individuals known as boxing fans have become accustomed to accepting that oftentimes incredible news is swiftly followed by a crushing report that sits us right back in our chairs. Today was one of those days, as Golden Boy Productions' Oscar De La Hoya made a huge announcement to ESPN, adding Bernard Hopkins to the December 17th card set to take place on HBO at the Forum in Inglewood, CA. However it came at the expensive price of the highly anticipated showdown between super featherweights Orlando Salido and Takashi Miura cancelling their bout for the same night.
De La Hoya was happy to announce to ESPN's Dan Rafael that Bernard Hopkins (55-7-2, 32 KO), the guaranteed future hall of famer and multiple-weight title holder, would be returning on December 17th to face Joe Smith (22-1, 18 KO) in a scheduled 12-round light heavyweight bout, which has been slated as Hopkins' farewell fight. Smith, who was completely unknown until a stunning first round knockout victory against WBC International light heavyweight champ Andrzej Fonfara this past June on a PBC on NBC card, has quickly made a name for himself in the division, landing him the fight with Hopkins, who wanted a legitimate contender to be standing across from him when his final fight came.
Hopkins has been inactive since losing his WBA, IBF, and WBO world titles in a crushing 2014 defeat to juggernaut Sergey "Krusher" Kovalev in a blowout defeat. Bernard still showed he had a ton of heart and talent in that particular fight, however it was apparent that Kovalev was too young and talented for Hopkins to be able to contain. He took a considerable amount of time off, with word of his comeback surfacing multiple times over the past 2 years, however Hopkins patiently waited for the perfect opponent to showcase that the 51 year old still has what it takes to compete at the highest level.
Smith was expected to be a sure-thing for Fonfara in June, however he came out and demolished the crowd favorite in the first round, knocking the former champ senseless with two quick knockdowns. This has propelled Smith into the heart of the light heavyweight division, which features an amazing array of talent such as Kovalev, Adonis Stevenson, and now Andre Ward. While Smith is the least experienced of the bunch, he showed proof of possessing the necessary punching power to hang with anyone in the division.
While the Hopkins-Smith bout will almost certainly be a great action fight and a huge success at the gates, the HBO telecast on December 17th took a major hit, as Orlando Salido (43-13-4, 30 KO), who has been in numerous fight-of-the-year candidates over the past 3 years, injured his back in training and had to pull out of his scheduled meeting with Takashi Miura (30-3-2, 23 KO) for the interim WBC super featherweight title. Miura was part of the 2015 FOTY with Francisco Vargas. while Salido took on Vargas earlier this year as well in what is a front runner for top fight of 2016. The two men are the closest thing to guaranteed action you are going to find, leading boxing fans worldwide to mourn the loss of a potential barn burner.
Golden Boy Productions has not yet stated how serious the back injury is for Salido, nor whether the fight will be scrapped entirely or simply postponed. Vargas severly hurt his hand in his fight against Salido, which required surgery and will keep him out of action until at least early 2017. With Vargas now being out of commission for the near future and Miura having an open schedule, the super featherweight division is wide open for up-and-coming talent to make a name for themselves. The division has as much talent as any, so expect another bout to be named soon to decide the next opponent for Vargas.
Fightful.com will keep you updated as more news comes out on the Hopkins-Smith bout, as well as which route Golden Boy decides to take with the news of Salido's injured back.