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Inspiration: Bernard Hopkins Gives All Of Us All Hope

By Charles Jay

I guess you could say that B-Hop gives C hope.

“C” being me, of course. Those of us who are long in the tooth really get inspired when we see someone who most would have put out to pasture long ago, if others had their choice, taking advantage of the opportunity to show the younger generation a thing or two. Of course, I am being a little tongue-in-cheek about that, because more often than not the plans of those who attempt to beat Father Time fail. We saw that much from Roy Jones – a fighter who hasn’t aged nearly as gracefully as Hopkins – on the very same day.

PHOTO CREDIT: Tom Hogan – Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions

But every once in a while, there’s someone who comes along and shows you that age is just a number, especially if you prepare the right way and show that you are fully capable of bringing all that you have learned into the ring against someone who still has quite a bit to absorb.

That’s what it’s about for Hopkins, who not only has all the tricks in the book, including a few that allow him to get away with a foul or two without being flagged for it, but enough speed and timing to beat Jean Pascal to the punch an awful lot, landing some big right hands, getting the better of a lot of the exchanges, and scoring a couple of knockdowns that were seemingly unnoticed by referee Ian John-Lewis, who is 48 years old but obviously not as mentally nimble as our new light heavyweight champion.

But hey, even though I haven’t been in the business for a few years, it was comforting that one thing I’ve experienced still holds true – so-called “neutral” officials are still willing and able to rob from the out-of-town guy, or try awfully hard anyway. Oh, the stories I could tell you….

And by the way, that segues me into something else about hometowns. Some years ago, I went to Philadelphia with historian Hank Kaplan and a camera crew, and we interviewed a whole bunch of fighters from the Philadelphia area, including several of the guys who constituted that city’s great middleweight tradition. We talked to the likes of Joey Giardello, Willie “The Worm” Monroe, Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts and Eugene “Cyclone” Hart (we tried to get Bennie Briscoe, but his wife wouldn’t let him talk to us – LOL).

What was interesting about the middleweights in particular was that while all of them greatly respected Hopkins and rooted for him, they weren’t quite ready to label him a classic “Philadelphia fighter,” in the same sense they felt they were, and it was because while those guys essentially had to fight their way out of the city (often against each other) first before taking on the world, that wasn’t the same experience for Hopkins.

Maybe there was some resentment there from guys like Monroe and Watts, who had both beaten Marvin Hagler, yet never became world champions. But I don’t think so. I think it was just a point of pride; that they were part of a “club,” so to speak, and they weren’t quite ready to give Hopkins membership.

That’s probably unfair to Hopkins, simply because of the fact that when he was moving up the ranks, the talent supply in the city was much thinner, and so when he fought at places like the Blue Horizon it was against a lot of out-of-town opponents. Still, what I really admire about Hopkins is that he’s had no problem going into enemy territory to fight. He went to Ecuador to fight Segundo Mercado (to a draw) and although I didn’t see the fight, I’m sure that was a bizarre experience. He fought Andrew Council in the D.C. area. When he encountered Felix Trinidad at Madison Square Garden, he found a large Puerto Rican contingent for Trinidad. It’s safe to say there was a pro-Oscar De La Hoya crowd in Las Vegas for their fight. And now there were these two fights with Pascal in Quebec.

I don’t want to go overboard about it; I just want to point out that Hopkins had paid his dues outside his comfort zone. He also has the kind of personality that can withstand a little hostility. I’m sure he encountered plenty of that with his ill-advised words about Donovan McNabb during fight week. Put me down in the column with the people who think he should be accountable for a statement like that; I think that if we are going to call out white people who say certain things, sometimes even letting their detractors dig really deep between the lines to find something “racist” about those comments, we should ask Hopkins what he means when he says someone is “not black enough.” What would constitute being “black enough,” for example? What does someone have to do? You shouldn’t get a free pass for that.

Of course, without making any excuses or apologies for him, I’m willing to believe that this was a rather well-placed dig that was designed to drum up a little extra publicity for his fight. He’s “crazy like a fox” that way. And maybe crazy enough to let Pascal go on believing that he was ingesting some kind of “secret juice” that gave him a physical edge. There are some secrets alright, but they’re the type of secrets that one can only accumulate when they’ve had a lot to file away and a quick mind to do it with. Hopkins may not be as hard to hit as he used to be, but he’s always going to be hard to figure out. And with wins over Antonio Tarver, Winky Wright, Kelly Pavlik, Jones and now Pascal, he is arguably the best over-40 fighter we’ve seen.

Some of us wonder if someday he’ll be the best 50-year-old fighter as well. As Hopkins has said, it’s not what happened, it’s what happens next. There could be some bragging rights in it for his “generation,” and he knows it, just as George Foreman knew it before him. He seems willing to make that trek. I don’t mind following him to see where it ends up. .

That probably goes for those Philadelphia old-timers too, because I bet they’re ready to put him in their “club” by now.



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