When the smoke clears where will Hopkins and De La Hoya stand?
By Rob Scott (September 17, 2004) 
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Huge! This is the word that best describes the upcoming undisputed middleweight championship fight between Bernard 'The Executioner' Hopkins and 'The Golden Boy' Oscar De La Hoya. What can be said about this fight that hasn’t been said already? The anti-Oscar sentiment says he is too small and many believe he will run out of gas the way he has done in the past. Even at the opposite end of the scale there are a few who think that Hopkins will be a former champion at the end of this encounter.

The similarities and the disparities in the opinions on this fight quite interesting, but a real point of interest to this writer is the aftermath. What becomes of these two fighters if they win or lose? The word legacy has been used on numerous occasions during this promotion. Both know that this one fight could make or break their standing in the annals of history.

Bernard Hopkins, 44-2-1, 1NC (31), has been the middleweight champion since 1995. He hasn’t experienced the feeling of losing since 1993, when he lost a unanimous decision to Roy Jones Jr. in his first attempt the win the middleweight crown. It’s been an uphill battle for the ‘Executioner’; while he has been champion for the last nine years, notoriety and acknowledgement just entered into his life three years ago, after his defeat of Felix 'Tito' Trinidad. Prior to this monumental win, Hopkins had his fare share of struggles, though not so much in the ring. From his much publicized jail stint to his duels with past promoters, Hopkins has had many obstacles to overcome in life, as well as boxing. Whether it was his strict negotiations or legit wrongdoings of his handlers, Hopkins’ star was slow to rise.

Oscar De La Hoya, 37-3 (29), is a 1992 Olympic gold medalist and six-division world champion. Oscar’s accomplishments have made him the top-grossing non-heavyweight in the history of the sport. He has had a career sprinkled with words of greatness, but just as there is a contrast in grains of salt and pepper, he has been sprinkled with words of negativity as well. Though he has had an accomplished career, some performances and victories have been less than stellar, leaving room for criticism.

As huge as this fight is, a victory or a loss would have a significance that will change the make-up of these fighter’s careers forever. Of the two though, De La Hoya has the views in his favor. If he loses the impact would be less catastrophic than that of a Hopkins loss, especially with a decent showing. It can be thought of as a fighter coming out on the short end of the stick against a bigger and stronger opponent that he wasn’t suppose to stand a chance with anyway. His past accomplishments and failures really won’t be perceived any better or worse and other fights can be made. A Hopkins loss could put a dent in the legacy that has taken him 15 years to make. His victory over Trinidad made his detractors take notice. Post Trinidad has seen Hopkins fight only four times against somewhat questionable opposition. These victories have slowed down the momentum that he achieved with the Trinidad victory. A loss to De La Hoya would bring the Bernard Hopkins express to a screeching halt. Without the title, he won’t get fights and the potential paydays that would come with those bouts.

A victory by Hopkins will be an accomplishment indeed, especially if it is by KO, which many are predicting. It will add life and a measure of prestige to Hopkins' much-treasured legacy. In comparison, you have to feel that a De La Hoya victory would be a monumental moment that would wipe the slate clean of all his past perceived negatives. The slate would be wiped clean, but I have a fear that it will be wiped so clean that a few would want to put him too far up there with the all time greats. Would a De La Hoya victory mean more than Leonard’s victory over Hagler? As it has been said before, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Hopkins made his first million-dollar payday in his fight with Keith Holmes, which was one bout prior to his clash with Trinidad. Post Trinidad, Hopkins hasn’t exactly broke the bank. He is to receive a minimum $10 million in this fight, while De La Hoya is to make upward of $30 million. If Felix Trinidad beats Ricardo Mayorga on October 2nd, then a megafight with him awaits the victor of Saturday night’s clash.

Who will win this test of wills and skills? Whoever comes out on top – to the victor goes the spoils.
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