Who Is the Real Bernard Hopkins?
By Ken Hissner, Doghouse Boxing (May 16, 2011) Doghouse Boxing
Bernard Hopkins
This writer recently read a story and I thought was pertaining to Philly’s baddest middleweight of all time, none other than “Bad” Bennie Briscoe! To my disappointment it was about Bernard Hopkins. We had a poll a year or so ago in Philly who was the best middleweight the city has ever had? Four of us got our opinions together and the others didn’t think an active fighter should be in it. This writer was the only one that thought Hopkins should be included.

Joey Giardello was the overall winner. On May 21st a statue of Giardello will be erected near the gym he trained at in South Philly. George Benton was another choice in the running as was Briscoe. Philly had some top middleweights in the 70’s like Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts, Stanley “Kitten” Hayward, and ”Gypsy” Joe Harris to name a few. There was doubt the “Executioner” would get into the top “3” if he was voted on. Hall of Fame Philly promoter J Russell Peltz claimed at Briscoe’s induction to the PA HOF “Bennie would have beaten Bernard Hopkins!”

I believe what Hopkins lacks compared to all the before mentioned is the Philly personality! They didn’t have to tell those in the gyms or the streets just how good they were. It seems Hopkins like another Pennsylvania boxer named Larry “Peanut Head” Holmes think they are the second coming of Rodney Dangerfield. Every time either one gets on their “pulpit” you are waiting for the “I get no respect” routine! Getting respect in the ring is a bit different then getting it outside the ring.

The story I read said how bad an area Hopkins grew up in as if you were expected to be in some kind of trouble. It just so happen’s that one of the more popular former Philly boxers who would go onto win the IBF Light middleweight title was the next door neighbor of Hopkins. That was none other than Rob “Bam Bam” Hines. What other former world champ calls a writer up to wish him “Happy Father’s Day?”

Hines defeated Hopkins in the amateurs and as he put it “I kicked his ass in the gym when he was a pro.” Hopkins claims “Rob Hines was the best southpaw I ever fought.” That may have been before a “white boy” named Joe Calzaghe came over from Wales and “slapped the shit out of him!”

One story in Hopkins favor is he gave 100k to the widow of Reading’s Steve Little. When Dave “TNT” Tiberi was training for his fight with the then middleweight champion James “Lights Out” Toney he had an interesting group of “sparring partners”. Hines, Hopkins, Little and then IBF Light heavyweight champion “Prince” Charles Williams. They got Tiberi ready and he whipped Toney’s ass.

Two of the judges were imported at the last minute from out of state including Toney’s Michigan, breaking the rules and both “gave” it to Toney, while the NJ judge had Tiberi ahead by 6 points. Was it a surprise the out of town two had the identical scores? Tiberi turned down close to half a million offered by Top Rank for the rematch saying “I don’t go in the ring without my belt”. Tiberi is one of the most honest people this writer has ever met and certainly one of Delaware’s most popular boxers of all time. Tiberi would never box again. This writer’s story “Surrounded by Champions” tells it all.

The story went on to say how when Hopkins is done with you your career is over. He lost to Roy Jones, Jr., in 1993 and got the rematch in 2010. Jermain Taylor took the titles from Hopkins and 5 months later repeated the win! Robert Allen and Hopkins fought in August of 1998 when Hopkins found himself being pushed out of the ring by referee Mills Lane ruling a No Contest in the fourth round. Just 6 months later in 1999 they had their rematch while the “rubber match” was in 2004. Antwun Echols fought Hopkins in 1999 and one year later in 2000 fought the rematch. When Hopkins fought for the vacant title to a draw with Sequndo Mercado in December of 1994 they had their rematch in April of 1995, just 4 months later with Hopkins becoming the IBF champion. I know there’s room for an argument here.

The story said Hopkins had 22 successful title defenses when he had 20. It still put him in a tie with Holmes in eighth place of all time so far. Who knows maybe winning the WBC light heavyweight title in Montreal on May 21st will put him back in the running after the records of Joe Louis and Julio Cesar Chavez. Calzaghe by the way had 21 defenses.

The latest is Hopkins once again belittling former Philly Eagles quarterback Donavan McNabb. Got to admit, he was never a favorite of mine. Some of the latest outburst from Hopkins were “McNabb has “got a suntan, that’s all”. Meaning he’s too white. That didn’t seem to stop him from proclaiming Barrack Obama as the next president after his victory over Kelly Pavlik.

Matter of fact this writer objected to it and was waved down by the “white” woman running the post conference afterwards as I stood up for a question. If Hopkins was a man of integrity he should have told her “wait, the man has a question”. This white writer sat down after staring at Hopkins for several seconds to see if he would override her but he didn’t.

McNabb’s agent Fletcher Smith released a statement saying Hopkins racially tinged insults about McNabb “are dangerous and irresponsible”. Hopkins even made a crack “look at professional boxing. I’ve never seen a suburban boxer be successful.” Tell Easton’s Larry Holmes and Coatesville’s Calvin Groves that to name a few. One of Philly’s top trainers recently said “maybe McNabb should get in the ring with Hopkins.” Well, Hopkins certainly isn’t going to get on the football field with McNabb.

Finally, on the 56 months he claims to have been in Graterford Prison. I’ve been told he spent time in Dallas (PA). That’s from a Graterford inmate and a prison guard who happens to be a Pennsylvania referee. This writer never read that so Hopkins could be right. At 17 he was sentenced to 18 (5-12 and 3-6) years in Graterford and did 56 months. It seems like the system was more than kind to Hopkins letting him out that early. Probably some “cracker” lawyer or “milk toast” judge worked out a short stay.

When Hopkins talks about his prison time he only blamed himself. The one person that stood by him visiting the max 2 times a week was his mother. “My girlfriend left me. My friends wouldn’t accept collect calls. But my mother was always there; in the rain, in the snow, going through the indignity of having her body touched when they searched her….” . This writer knows having done my share of visiting prisons. What Hopkins should attempt to do is get “over it” because boxing owes him nothing. The same way he took the blame for going to prison he should consider the fact he got plenty out of the game because he put plenty into it.

His lawsuits from trainer Bouie Fisher and promoter Lou DiBella are people he tried to get over. Word is he donated equipment to a gym in Camden, NJ, but yet hasn’t helped one gym in Philly that anyone is aware with and they let you know about it whenever his name comes up.

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