By Sean Crose
As of this Wednesday, Bernard Hopkins will be forty-nine years old. The fact that the man remains one of the top boxers in the world is nothing short of amazing. What’s more amazing, however, is the fact that one day, probably in the near future, there will be many others like Hopkins.
Well, not EXACTLY like him. There’s only one Hopkins, after all. Still, we can expect other top boxers to succeed in the ring well into their fifth – and even sixth – decades in the years to come. Detractors may see Hopkins as a relic, but in truth, he’s a pioneer. In short, this aging athlete is the face of the future.
Look about if you don’t believe it. Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao are both closer to forty than they are to thirty, yet they remain on top of the game. Vitali Klitschko recently stepped away from the ring at the age of forty-two, not because there was anyone out there who could beat him, but because he wanted to enter politics. In other words, he gave up the heavyweight title by choice…and while being on top.
Let’s not forget Sergio Martinez. There’s a guy who didn’t start boxing professionally until he was well over twenty. Martinez not only still rules the middleweight division, he remains one of the most popular figures in the sport. Oh, and the man who may replace Martinez as middleweight king? He’s over thirty. That’s right, folks, Mr. Golovkin, the biggest up and comer in boxing, is no kid himself.
So what’s the reason for this notable slowing down of boxing’s aging process? Well, it partially has to do with the development of the human species. People keep living longer, after all. Therefore, boxers are now excelling well past what would have recently been considered their prime years.
Yet there’s another reason…and it has to do with George Foreman.
That’s right, smiling George did more than recapture the heavyweight title when he knocked out Michael Moorer in the mid nineties. He showed that sometimes age can be dealt with rather than surrendered to. The Foreman of the nineties may not have been the Foreman of the seventies…but in some ways he was actually better.
Think about it: time and the aging process made Foreman an exponentially smarter fighter than the one who had punched himself out against Muhammad Ali. For instance, Gil Clancy pointed out that the nineties’ Foreman employed an effective jab, something the seventies’ version wasn’t known to do. In summation, George didn’t so much fight Father Time as learn to deal with him.
As for Hopkins, he’s simply taken Foreman’s lesson and run with it. Through clean living and incredible discipline, the guy’s adapted to the passing of years. You probably won’t see anything like his knockout of Oscar De La Hoya again, but you certainly may not have seen his last big victory, either. Any young, talented fighter who steps up to face Hopkins does so at his own risk.
Oh, and there’s something else worth noting. It’s the fact that Hopkins picks himself up and moves on after he loses. That may seem odd in this day and age, when the fight world appears completely obsessed with perfect records. If Hopkins shared that obsession, though, he’d have packed it in after losing to Roy Jones Junior over two decades ago. Rather than falling apart after a tough defeat, however, Hopkins is a man who just keeps plugging away until another shinning moment arises.
Of course each boxer only has so many rounds to fight before the end has definitely been reached. Hopkins, incredible though he is, will himself reach that final round someday. It won’t matter, however. Not a bit. At this point, a Bernard Hopkins’ victory is akin to a cherry atop a sundae; a nice touche, but certainly not something that’s necessary.
If the man never won another bout, he’d still go down as one of the all time greats.