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Paul Hodkinson

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  • Paul Hodkinson

    One of the most entertaining warriors in the feather divisions in the late 80's and early 90's, Paul "Hoko" Hodkinson was a one-time WBC feather champion and made 3 successful defenses before losing his title to Gregorio Vargas in 1993. Standing only 5'4 but equipped with punching power and resilience as well as ferociousness, "Hoko" was a very popular fighter and one of the best to come from Liverpool. He also won the European title and ended his record with 23 wins, 22 inside the distance, and only 3 losses, 2 of them at the end of his career.

    Hodkinson was born on 14 September 1965, in Liverpool. He started boxing for the Kirkby amateur club, the same one which had fostered John Conteh. He won the 1986 ABA (Amateur British) feather title before turning pro in July that year, under the management of Barney Eastwood. He won his first 7 fights by stoppage, before drawing against Tomas Arguelles of Panama, fighting in his opponent's country, 31 July '87. Since the result was obviously controversial, a rematch was held 19 October in Ulster Hall, Belfast. Hodkinson fought often there since his manager was from Northern Ireland. He knocked Arguelles out in 6, thereby avenging his first blemish. He won the British title by TKO12 against Peter Harris, 18 May '88 in Port Talbot, Wales. He made one defense of the title at home in Kirkby and stopped Kevin Taylor by TKO2. On 12 April next year, he faced the Frenchman Raymond Armand for the vacant European title in Ulster Hall and again easily won by TKO2. He then again faced Peter Harris in a defense of both the Euro and British title and beat him by TKO9 this time. After making one more European defense against Farid Benredjeb of France by TKO8, he was ready to challenge for the world title. He got his chance on 2 June '90 and his opponent was Marcos Villasana. The title at stake was the vacant WBC one and the stage was G-Mex Centre in Manchester. Unfortunately, it would be an unlucky night for Hodkinson, who was clearly ahead on the scorecards and was getting the better of the fight before he had to retire in round 8 because of a bad swelling around his eyes. Villasana was one of the best featherweights back then and had given Azumah Nelson two tough fights.

    Hoko returned to defending his Euro title and knocked out Guy Bellehigue in 3 rounds that October. He was given another chance against Villasana, but hadn't fought for over a year when they faced on 13 November '91. at Maysfield Leisure Centre in Belfast. This time, Hoko was dominant and finally achieved glory when he beat Villasana by a wide unanimous decision. He made his first defense against Steve Cruz, who was famous for taking the world title from Barry McGuigan in 1986. The fight happened 25 April '92 at Maysfield Leisure Centre and Hodkinson easily beat Cruz by TKO3 after putting him down in the first and the third round. He then defended for the second time against Fabrice Benichou, another Frenchman, who had held the IBF super bantam title previously and was the European feather champion at the time. The fight was in Blagnac, France, 12 September '92. The fight was pretty even until Hodkinson put Benichou down with a combination late in round 4. He took over in round 6 and despite a brief comeback by Benichou in round 8, he had the fight under control before a big right hand in round 10 led to the fight being stopped because of a cut over Benichou's lip. It was Hoko's perhaps greatest victory. He made his third successful defense at Earls Court Arena in Kensington by beating the overmatched Ricardo Cepeda from USA by TKO4, 3 February '93. After that, Eastwood and Hodkinson were in talks of fighting Kevin Kelley or Colin McMillan, but before that could happen, Hodkinson lost his title against Gregorio "Goyo" Vargas of Mexico, fighting in Dublin 28 April, less than two months after his last defense. Hoko was ahead comfortably on all scorecards when he was stopped by TKO7 after getting caught by several big shots while trading with Vargas and then put down twice. Thus ended his reign. He had one more fight which was against then-WBO champion Steve "Cinderella Man" Robinson, 12 March '94 in Cardiff. It was another great brawl but Robinson was well ahead on the scorecards when he put Hodkinson down twice in round 12 to end the fight, 1 minute and 40 seconds into the round. It was a sad farewell for Hoko, who retired aged 28.

    He remained a popular figure and became an ambassador for boxing after retirement. He has appeared in several TV programs such as "A Question for Sport" quiz and "Grandstand" and has featured in opening sequences with Muhammad Ali. He still lives in Kirkby and is a father of four boys. Paul Hodkinson was a very capable fighter who always came forward and tried to knock his guy out. Only once did he not succeed, in his 23 wins. Although perhaps not a one-punch guy, he had very good power and knew how to throw his punches. This sort of fighting however led to his premature exit from boxing, as all the brawls took a toll on him early on. He will be remembered as one of the best British featherweights and historically he served as a link between Barry McGuigan era and Naseem Hamed era.