Paul Hodkinson vs Fabrice Benichou WBC featherweight title official on-site 2 fold programme, 12th September 1992, Patinoire de Toulouse, Blagnac, Haute-Garonne, France.
Hodkinson W TKO 10
Paul Hodkinson aka Hoko (born 14 September 1965 in Kirkby, Liverpool, England). Hodkinson fought at featherweight and is the former British, European and World (WBC) featherweight title holder.
Paul Hodkinson first caught the eye as an amateur bantam weight in the 1984-1985 season with a series of dazzling displays for young England and later for the full international side; but John Davidson a hard hitting and mature northerner proved a little to rugged for him and Hodkinson’s ABA title campaign came to an abrupt and unscheduled finish.
The one round defeat prompted a rethink in the Kirkby club- whose ‘old boys’ included John Conteh and Joey Singleton- and Paul decided it was time to stop fighting the scales and let his body find it’s true poundage. As a featherweight the improvement was spectacular and instantaneous. Nobody could live with Paul in the 1986 ABA title campaign and he swept aside all corners in capturing his clubs first national title since Conteh’s success in 1971.
With the Commonwealth games taking place in the summer Paul was in automatic selection and in most experts view a clear favourite for the featherweight gold. Paul had other ideas, he had already decided to turn pro. His amateur days ended in acrimony with him being ‘expelled’ from the games panel for failing to report for training. In fact Paul had reported elsewhere. He was in America where he was given the chance to spar with some of the top fighters in the World.
Paul sparred with six World champions in the shape of Sot Chitalada, Hilario Zapata, Bernado Pinango, Barry McGuigan, Brian Mitchell and Antonio Esparragoza.
Paul turned pro with B.J. Eastwood and the new team was launched at Wembley stadium on the night Frank Bruno was beaten by Jim Witherspoon, fighting in front of the biggest live audience in decades. Paul flattened Mark Champney in two rounds to get his career underway. Hoko stopped his first seven opponents inside the distance, his most memorable win coming against former British Featherweight champion ‘Sammy’ Simms in the King’s Hall Belfast. While the Welshman was just past his best, Hoko’s performance in only his fifth professional fight was a study in excellence.
In July 1987 the same year he was voted Grandstand’s Young Prospect of The Year, a title he shared with Garry Stretch. Paul travelled to Panama with B.J where he sparred with Brian Mitchell for three weeks preparing the WBA Super-featherweight king for his defence against local favourite Rocky Fernandez. Hoko fought and drew with Tomas Arguelles on the under card. The Panamanian was Paul’s toughest opponent to date but many neutral observers felt the young Liverpudlian came out on the wrong end of a ‘home town’ decision.
Paul was quick to avenge the only blemish on his record when he stopped Arguelles in six rounds the following October.
After dismantling the capable Dubliner Ritchie Foster in three rounds Hoko went to Wales to challenge Peter Harris for the British Featherweight title in just his 12th paid contest. He won the title and successfully defended it, stopping Kevin Taylor in two rounds in December 1988. By April the following year Hoko had ‘axed’ Frenchman Raymond Armand to win the vacant European title in two rounds, and was soon to win a Lonsdale belt outright when he stopped Peter Harris, defending his British title.
Hodkinson then defended his European title against rugged Frenchman Farid Benredjeb. Like Peter Harris the ‘teak-tough’ Algerian had never been stopped or been on the canvas before meeting Hoko and his French handlers, the Acaries brothers considered Benredjeb to be un-stoppable. Showing what an exciting fighter he is, Hodkinson put on a display of powerful combination punching with great accuracy and hand speed to stop the challenger. Hodkinson has now outclassed the best in Europe and was ready to fight at the highest level.
In March 1990 at the G-Mex Manchester Hodkinson fought in a World title, final eliminator when he stopped Mexican Eduardo Montoya in three rounds, but not before he was on the canvas himself for the first time in his professional career.
In the first round Hodkinson had the Mexican down twice and moved in for the ‘Kill’ when Montoya was apparently there for the taking. Carelessly Hoko was caught by a sucker right hand and paid the penalty. The Mexican wasn’t in as much trouble as he appeared to be in, and Hodkinson, misjudged the situation as did everyone else in the audience.
Unbeaten in 18 contests (17 stoppages) Paul the fought for the vacant WBA featherweight title against Marcos Villasana.
After seven rounds Paul was ahead on points on all three judges scorecards, but was forced to retire in the eighth when he could no longer see through his swollen eyes. He had put up a solid and brave performance and proved beyond doubt that he is a World class fighter.
Five months later after that defeat Paul defended his European title and ko’d Guy Bellehigue in three rounds (Oct 91), before relinquishing it and concentrating on his pursuit of a World title; an objective he achieved when he comprehensively beat Villasana in a re-match (Belfast 91).
Hoko defended his title twice in 1992. After dismantling Steve Cruz in eight rounds (April 92) He travelled to France and stopped the game Fabrice Benichon in the 10th round.
Perhaps the best performance of Paul’s career was to stop Ricardo Cepeda in the 4th round (Feb 93) for his third defence. Cepeda came with a good reputation, having failed on point to beat Villasana 18 months previously, a decision which was hotly disputed at the time. However, Hoko never allowed the Puerto Rican to settle, hitting him with a barrage of combination punches until the referee intervened.
Paul has been a great ambassador for boxing and has appeared on A Question of Sport, Grandstand and has featured in openings with Mohammed Ali. Today Paul still lives in Kirkby and is now father of four boys Kevin (21), Jason (18) Lewis (13), Dylan (9) (2008).