We are a few days removed from the 50th birthday of Bernard Hopkins. The purpose is to celebrate the career of one of the greatest fighters of this generation.
“I love these two guys I’m about to mention. Sharing the spotlight with Roy Jones Jr. in the 90s and James Toney. I was the third child in the house and now I get a chance to be in the house and get the light on myself, even though at 48.”- Bernard Hopkins during his post-fight interview win over Tavoris Cloud on March 9th, 2013
It wasn’t easy to do but I did it. I narrowed down my favorite moments of Bernard Hopkins to a single moment. October 18th, 2008. B-hop had just finished battering Kelly Pavlik through 12 rounds. Afterwards, he proceeds to go to the corner of the ring and stare down the members of press row as if to say, “How dare you bet against me?” As I sifted through analysis after analysis doing research something hit me. Why in the world was this 40+ year old consistently given a chance against fighters 15 years his junior? Tavoris Cloud particularly stands out. Now it is easy to Dismiss Cloud, as he has dropped his last 2 fights by knockout. But he was at one time the undefeated IBF Light Heavyweight Champion. To further the point even more, he was also a potential opponent for Andre Ward at one time. In a way Hopkins has been a victim of his own success. It seems as if people say yeah, yeah, yeah, 46 year old Hopkins is fighting yet again, so what?
The fact that Bernard Hopkins has continuously excelled in competing at the highest level in one of the most brutal sports in the world had become normal to the boxing world, and had been glossed over as a result. Insane. Truthfully, Hopkins has been glossed over his whole career.
Referring to himself as the “Third Child” couldn’t be more spot on. Hopkins was given a backseat (in the middle and light heavyweight divisions) through the late 80s and most of the 90s in favor of a flashy athletic fighter by the name of Roy Jones Jr., and a defensive expert by the name of James Toney. Despite having a sensational list of achievements of his own at the time, (including a record 20 defenses of his middle weight title and unifying all 4 belts in 2005) Hopkins was still slighted, and largely ignored. Fast-forward to 2014 and Hopkins is yet again making history by unifying the light heavyweight titles. Hopkins’ blue-collar approach to the sport may have been one of the reasons why fans were a bit put off. He never truly excelled in any one category such as speed or power. However, there was one area that he excelled in that was just as, if not more impressive than speed and power. Intelligence. Simply put, the only way a man could even “attempt” to compete in boxing at his age would be if he had what Liam Neeson would call “A special set of skills.” Bernard had these skills in abundance, mainly by slowing fights down to a pace were his elite I.Q. would carry him through, rather than physical attributes.
In his last time out Hopkins was beaten by Sergey Kovalev, a man accurately nicknamed “Krusher.” Although Hopkins was clearly beaten, his legacy didn’t take so much as scratch. If anything the legend of Hopkins grew even larger; Bernard Hopkins, a fighter who took on all comers no matter the risk. Quite frankly, that is what champions are supposed to do. But in an era where it is more common for them not to, credit must be given to Bernard Hopkins for doing this for his whole career. Hopkins has said he wants one more fight at 50 before he hangs them up, and not just against anybody. The fact that I typed this and did not bat an eye, and you read it and probably didn’t bat an either eye says everything you need to know about the man. Well-done Bernard Hopkins, and thank you for your dedication to the sport.