ATLANTIC CITY - Bernard Hopkins earned another big victory at Boardwalk Hall Saturday night.
He didn't get the knockout that he craved, but the 48-year-old legend retained his IBF light-heavyweight title with a 12-round, unanimous decision over Germany's Karo Murat before a roaring crowd of 6,324.
"I wanted to be a crowd pleaser," Hopkins said. "This is what they wanted to see."
Judges Julie Lederman (119-108), Joe Pasquale (119-108) and Benoit Roussel (117-110) all favored Hopkins, as did The Press (115-112).
Hopkins (54-6-2, 32 KOs) improved to 16-2 in Atlantic City. He began his pro career here in 1988, losing a decision to Clinton Mitchell at Resorts Casino Hotel.
The Philadelphia native prevailed in an ugly, grueling fight that featured hits on the break, punches thrown while the other fighter wason the ground and other infractions. Referee Steve Smoger deducted a point from Murat (25-2-1, 15 KOs) for hitting on the break in the seventh round and slapped Murat at the end of the bout after Murat tried to head-butt Hopkins.
Hopkins has not scored a knockout or TKO in nine years, since he stopped Oscar De La Hoya in 2004. He came close to stopping Murat on several occasions, hurting him in the seventh and eighth rounds, but Murat refused to go down.
"I really wanted the knockout because I have a 13-year drought," Hopkins said. "But he was really tough. He would give anybody in the light-heavyweight division problems. But I knew I had control. The plan was to let the dog follow the bone into a dark alley. He doesn't know what he's about to get into."
In other bouts, heavyweight sensation Deontay Wilder lived up to the hype.
Wilder (30-0, 30 KOs), a native of Tuscaloosa, Ala., rolled to another easy victory. This time, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist dominated Nicolai Firtha (21-11-1, 8 KOs) while registering a fourth-round knockout on the first televised bout on Showtime Championship Boxing.
"Every time you come to see me, this is what you're going to get," Wilder said. "A knockout."
Wilder, who has never fought more than four rounds, ended this one with a crunching straight right that landed on Firtha's forehead and send him sprawling to the canvas with his head resting under the bottom rope.
Referee Lindsey Page began to count, then wisely called a halt to the scheduled 10-round bout at one minute, 26 seconds of the round.
"I should have gotten up," Firtha said. "I wasn't hurt. I don't drink and I don't do drugs. This is my drug. I got in there with one of the world's best and I couldn't be happier."
Firtha, who works as a caddie at Firestone Country Club in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, came charging out of his corner to start the bout and actually stunned Wilder with a right cross. Wilder quickly recovered, however, and dropped Firtha twice in the first round and left him with a bloody nose.
Firtha got the crowd roaring with another early rally in the second, but Wilder stayed patient and landed a steady stream of jabs and a straight right that turned Firtha's face into a bloody mask. Wilder continued to punish Firtha until he landed the decisive punch.
"This fight was exactly what I told them it would be," Wilder said. "I knew Firtha was coming to fight. He doesn't have skills, but he's tough. I just had to have patience."
In the co-feature, WBO middleweight champion Peter Quillin (30-0, 22 KOs), of New York, retained his title with a 10th-round TKO over Philadelphia's Gabriel Rosado (21-7, 13 KOs).
Referee Allen Huggins stopped the fight at the 40-second mark of the round after ringside physican Blair Bergen determined that a cut over Rosado's left eye was too bad to let the bout continue.
"It was an old cut that was filleted wide open," Bergen said. "It was pretty bad. There was no way I could let it could continue. I know he wanted to keep fighting, but they all do. It's about the safety of the fighter above all else."
The stoppage ended a thrilling, exciting fight that had the crowd roaring throughout.
Quillin, who was well ahead on all three scorecards, earned the only knockdown in the second round, when his left hook caused Rosado to stumble backward and his glove touched the canvas.
"I feel good," Quillin said. "I feel like anybody would who has won a title. It wasn't easy, but I earned every bit of it. I'm a fighter. I was dedicated to this fight and to defending my title and I was going to do what I had to do."
After a shaky start, Rosado began to get more aggressive in the third round and hurt Quillin with a pair of overhand rights at the end of the round.
The next three rounds followed the same pattern. Just when one fighter appeared ready to take control, the other would land a big punch to swing it back in his favor.
By the seventh round, however, Quillin's punches began to land with more frequency, producing welts below Rosado's eyes. At the end of the ninth, blood was dripping from Rosado's nose and then began gushing from the cut over his eye.
"They knew (Quillin) was getting hurt and they stopped it," Rosado said. "He's a Golden Boy (Promotions) fighter. ... This is the story of my life. I'm the real Rocky Balboa. I deserve a rematch."
On the undercard, New York junior-welterweight Zachary Ochoa (5-0, 3 KOs) gained a four-round, unanimous decision over Michael Doyle (2-6, 1 KO) of Pritchard, Ala. during a boring fight that elicited boos from the early-arriving fans.
The first two undercard fights both ended in the first round.
Largo, Md. super-middleweight Dominic Wade (12-0, 10 KOs) notched three first-round knockdowns during a TKO over Roberto Ventura (12-8, 12 KOs), of Tabasco, Mexico.
Puerto Rican featherweight Braulio Santos (11-1, 10 KOs) dropped San Diego's David Clark (6-3, 4 KOs) with a left hook during a first-round TKO. Clark got up, but referee David Fields wisely stopped it.
Newburgh, N.Y. junior-welterweight Wellington Romero won his pro debut with a four-round, unanimous decision over Puerto Rico's Victor Galindo (1-3).