An Open Letter to Bernard Hopkins
By Chris Ackerman, (December 14, 2005)
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Also See:  Hopkins Wants Roy Jones Jr. Dp

---I wrote this on the plane returning home from Las Vegas following the much-anticipated rematch between champion Jermain Taylor and legend Bernard Hopkins. Ironically, it came to me as I was being jerked around (by turbulence). There was only the slightest inclination to publish this, but a visit to various message boards and a reading of a random sampling of recaps and advice pieces convinced me to proceed—

In the lead up to Saturday’s rematch with Jermain Taylor, we saw the Vegas line change dramatically to a final call favoring JT at –135. The smart money, it seemed, was on the young champion and speculation in the media room and casino floor suggested we may witness a KO. Fan forums blared with ridiculous claims from fans fortifying polar opposite positions espousing the inevitable and career-ending beating either you or Taylor were sure to take.

The recurring theme surrounding your last few fights has been the unlikely ability of a man with 40 candles on his last cake being able to TCB. Over the weekend and into the new year, this issue will be discussed and commented on repeatedly. The thread usually takes a form something like: it’s incredible for a 40 year-old fighter to do the things Hopkins does against much younger and stronger competition. It’s true. However, as I sat in on the Balboa-Dixon weigh-in and eavesdropped on the crowd, a parallel struck me. 59 year-old Sylvester Stallone dropped the terry cloth and hit the scales, prompting the surprised crowd to comment on how good he looked for a man his age. The fact is he is put together and looked great even for a man half his age. The same can be said of your performances against Jermain Taylor.

In analyzing the recent career of Bernard Hopkins, I felt the media and public were so caught up with the age issue that much of the adulation directed your way was based on this alone. If any detractor dared question the level of competition brought by a William Joppy or Howard Eastman, the instant shout down was always related to the length of your reign at middle, number of defenses and which birthday you had just celebrated. I have been among those questioning the talent you have faced, pointing out what I considered strategic flaws glaring from less experienced opponents and their relative size, but never really handed it to you for always getting the job done. That means I have been remiss in my role as an objective observer and analyst. Putting the age issue aside, just as you have done (it simply hasn’t been a major factor in your performances in the ring) I, as a detractor, owe props for what I witnessed from ringside last Saturday night.

You have identified, in not so many words, just what southern, ring-like part of the anatomy opinions are like and should have that pretty engrained by now considering the variants in analyses your career has produced. However, I don’t think there are many among the legions of fans and media that cover boxing, who are willing to publicly cut themselves a slice of crow and give credit where it is due. I’m one, and hope to lead the charge because you showed us all something in spite of the judges’ final ruling.

It was an ugly fight. It was a close fight and, like the first, it will be discussed for years to come in terms of both the outcome and the implications for your place in the history of the middleweight division and sport as a whole. I like Jermain Taylor. He needs discipline and polish; however, he is a handsome, charismatic and marketable young man who is very good for boxing and its future ability to garner a larger fan base. I think he won the first fight and commend him for his showing in both. I also applaud him for giving you respect at the post-fight press conference on December 3. I had the rematch at 115-113 in your favor but I won’t bore you with another irrelevant opinion/sphincter, nor will I feel too bad for a man cashing a $10 million+ cheque (as per your advice). The bottom line is the changing of the guard did not occur in devastating or embarrassing fashion, as is so often the case. The former champion and future Hall-of-Famer was at least an even match for the heir apparent. That is a cool note to go out on.

While your ring performance was enough to earn my respect, your words to the media and fans afterward gave me pause. In short, it was the Bernard Hopkins I always wanted to see. The Bernard Hopkins that was completely over-shadowed by the antagonistic, difficult maverick who was always going on about the latest raw deal. The Bernard Hopkins those close to you, including your publicist, vehemently defended you as being. You were eloquent, gracious, witty and completely real…somehow finding the perfect balance between proud and humble. I doubt anyone present will forget that moment. You showed the class and grace that separates champs of the day from champions of all time. It was a classic moment in the sport of boxing.

The accolade of the press is obviously something you never gave two about, but a nut hug is not what this is. This is about setting things straight for my part by giving due where it’s due. It is about prompting all fans and media, in your corner or not, to take their hats off, raise a glass or otherwise hand over props for doing your thing and for raising the bar for others and for yourself, even though this last battle didn’t go your way.

Enjoy the ride to the sunset, there’s no need to do other than enjoy the fruits of a great career.

Also See:  Hopkins Wants Roy Jones Jr. Dp

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