Hopkins-De La Hoya: The Final Countdown
By Jim Cawkwell (September 18, 2004) 
Photo © Chris Farina
Hopkins weighs 156lbs
De La Hoya weighs 155lbs
As a writer, I am certainly appreciative of the fact that fighters are not crude, monosyllabic imbeciles. Indeed, the volume, quality and variety of their articulated expressions are the focal points of much of boxing’s media coverage. However, sometimes I cannot help but feel that some people have so much to say and so much time to say it. Thankfully, and specifically regarding Saturday’s star attraction, the time for talking shall soon be at an end. Presently, Bernard Hopkins and Oscar De La Hoya will decide the fate of the undisputed middleweight championship of the world, and that is my last ridiculously obvious statement on the matter.

If you are reading this page, it is highly likely that boxing is akin to a substance coursing through your veins, and by this time, having the career statistics of both fighters drearily paraded before you at the expense of more prescient information is a prospect that rightfully appalls you. Therefore, I shall assume that you are fully aware of the relevant backgrounds and defining moments, that you are feverishly anticipating Saturday night and humbly offer you my perspective on the big fight.

In my opinion, the term 'super-fight' holds connotations of excitement and grandeur. An occasion in which two fighters of comparable achievement and status, respectively superior ability to their peers and magnetic personalities combine to create an event that is certain to not only change the boxing landscape of its time, but to also write a new chapter in the history of the sport. Clearly, Hopkins-De La Hoya is a luxury afforded to this era, gratefully accepted in the absence of a heavyweight division even vaguely resembling its former glory.

De La Hoya possesses many of the intangible cerebral strengths inherent to the brotherhood of pugilists, but now, in his greatest challenge, against his most hostile and ominous of opponents, the question of his greatness and his capacity to provide an answer have never felt more threatened. Considering this, I find great intrigue in the mystery of precisely which element of his fighting persona will dictate the movements of his physical self, an unpredictable factor that features largely in the matter of the De La Hoya enigma.

A specific selection of his previous combative exploits have been colored by happenings external from the ring or by the ghosts of past errors inside it which contributed to the immovable setting of his will. The irreconcilable damage done to his psyche in choosing to coast the championship rounds before losing to Felix Trinidad manipulated his mentality towards blind aggression. Subsequently he propelled himself into too many Shane Mosley right hands and perhaps his only decisive and inarguable career loss.

De La Hoya’s passion for fighting is eternally more predictable and undoubtedly the key element in what I viewed as an overly charitable invitation to Mosley for a rematch in what became Mosley’s brief reintroduction to elite championship class. Haunted by his past recklessness, De La Hoya chose a measured approach, hoping controlled aggression would erase the pain and embarrassment of his past miscalculations. It did not. De La Hoya’s will is unbreakable, but the emerged pattern evident since his loss to Trinidad forces me to severely question the wisdom behind it. History revealed as such leads us irresistibly to De La Hoya’s dubious WBO title win earlier this year, an event that would appear to add increasing pressure to his plight. Why? Because winning in Vegas is something Oscar has done, most recently with difficulty and to little acclaim. However, truly beating Bernard Hopkins is a feat that could never be disputed. Ironically, De La Hoya finally faces a man in Hopkins who could render all of his training, tactics and strategies completely redundant.

Bernard Hopkins is a survivor whose journey to his current position has been a turbulent one, riddled with deceits making him mistrustful of even those closest to his professional progress. In the ring, he exudes the inevitability inherent to great fighters and yet, despite his ample physical capacity to exercise self-preservation, Hopkins chooses to manipulate the psychological aspect of his fights. Remembering the catalogue of allegations evolving into lawsuits not to mention his years of vehement self-justification against a skeptical public and an industry with hidden agendas is to glean a slight understanding of Hopkins’ paranoia. Suddenly, why one as intimidating as he would opt for extra insurance becomes clearer.

The boxing world stewed over Hopkins’ pre-fight disappearance and remonstrations with NSAC and HBO executives over the assignment of referee Joe Cortez to his bout with Robert Allen this past June. Hopkins appeared to have lost his mind, however, he was probably never more in control of it. Contrary from walking away from millions of dollars, he ensured that they would not be stolen from his grasp by what he viewed as potentially misguided officiousness. Such occurrences are usually accompanied by a sickening reek of incompetence, indifference and sheer laziness that emanates from an increasing number of state commissions to blur the reality of sinister situations, a distractive scent to busy us while the smoke clears.

Stories reported directly from the fighters close to the eve of the fight itself seem to hold some significance to its eventual outcome. An innocent eye might wonder if the mounting pressure of the final confrontation makes the concealment of a fighter’s true feelings more difficult. Predominantly though, they are calculated manipulations and Hopkins has indulged himself once again. Hopkins has prophesized that De La Hoya’s father will stop the fight before his son incurs severe injuries, making sure that the world heard him. Knowing that De La Hoya will not walk away, this taunt may guarantee restraint from the 'Golden Boy’s' concerned supporters, leaving Hopkins to administer the full extent of his promised punishment.

With now merely hours to wait, we anticipate a fight that should reckon with greatest of our time. Two great champions, two remarkable stories. Hopkins: the convict who became a champion and the definitive middleweight of his era, De La Hoya: the Olympic champion whose appetite for glory has not been satiated after achieving titles in six weight classes. It will be a night when history unfolds before our very eyes; my sincerest hope is that if they are required, the judges have kept their eyes wide open.
© Copyright / All Rights reserved: Doghouse Boxing 1998-2004