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Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Bernard Hopkins Era Will Continue Against Jean Pascal

Brian McDonald

Bernard Hopkins is the best fighter of his era. Now he seeks to extend that era even further by taking a fight with the Canadian champion Jean Pascal. I’m calling for Hopkins to win by unanimous decision.

Why? Because, like the executioner, I’ve got nothing to lose by it.

His defense is the thing that has made Hopkins nearly untouchable for all these years, and a defensive fighter only gets better with age, cagier, to compensate for the inevitable losses of speed and endurance. Parenthetically, announcers never tired of pointing out that at the height of Roy Jones Jr.’s career he lacked sound boxing fundamentals; rather, he relied on his freakish athleticism. After he moved up to heavyweight to fight for a belt, it seems that he slowed down and he never did regain that edge in speed and reflexes that had put him on top. The style that made him great was not meant for longevity. Bernard Hopkins’ style, on the other hand, is the paradigmatic formula for a long and great career.

With all due respect for my colleague, I have to disagree with an article recently appearing on this website. It’s time for a defense for Hopkins. While great fighters like Roy Jones Jr. and Evander Holyfield have made us cringe in the last decade with their attempts to crawl back into the ring, the Executioner has inspired awe.

Hopkins is an undersized light-heavyweight, really a natural middleweight. He probably didn’t start at a lighter weight (as boxers brought up well by managers and coaches do) because by the time he started boxing he was a bit older (prison time) than guys like Trinidad and De La Hoya were when they started. So it seems unfair to me to dismiss his victories over those two fighters and Winky Wright for reasons of size advantage. Those three wins are monumental on any resume, especially because at those moments in boxing people were ducking Wright left and right, and Trinidad was the scariest name in the game.

As far as avoiding Jones, I think it was a lack of interest on all sides: Hopkins, Jones and the fans. The first loss to Jones was the most boring fight in the history of big name fights. Roy Jones landed 3 punches, Hopkins landed 1 (exaggerating). So what is the point in seeking a rematch? I know I never wanted to see it, and I’m sure Jones wouldn’t have taken it if Hopkins had pushed. The rematch was, in the end, a sort of coming home for both fighters. The outcome is revealing: at the end of their careers it was Hopkins, not Jones, who came out on top.

The Jermain Taylor fights were, according to my scoring, close but all should have gone to Hopkins. As Hopkins pointed out, Jermain was younger, more marketable as a champion and better looking than Hopkins (Hopkins went on to add “I know I’m no Denzel, but damn”). It reminded me of Hagler/Leanard, but instead of retiring and moving to Italy, Hopkins went on to become the best 40+ fighter ever, defeating a list of fighters who in their moments were very good. Their moments passed, usually in culminating losses to Hopkins. The executioner finished off the careers of Kelly Pavlik, Antonio Tarver and Winky Wright. Their moments collectively add up to make the last stretch of The Hopkins Era.

Hopkins is the last of an old school mold of fighter. He fights like a true Philly fighter. He may no longer be in the argument of best pound for pound on earth, but he’s still in the ring, still boxing for the love of the sport, yes, for the money as well, but more just to prowl, to be the old veteran: tough, wily and there to prove that he’s afraid of no youngsters. On the contrary, they should be afraid of him.


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