. More Boxing News-------------------------- Boxing Interviews---------------------------- UFC/MMA NEWS
The ‘Bernard Hopkins Mystique’: Manufacturing a Hall of Fame Career
(May 17, 2004) 
Bernard Hopkins
Quick...what does a boxer have to do to ensure himself a plaque on the hallowed halls of the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York? Okay, so maybe there are more ways than one to answer the question, but I have an easy answer for you: Win an alphabet belt, put together a long string of title defenses, and win a superfight or two against great fighters who began their careers at least two divisions lighter than you. Although it isn’t quite that simple, this has essentially been the formula followed by undisputed middleweight king Bernard Hopkins, and it has been a rousing success.

Since when does one superb performance in a big fight put a rubber stamp on a fighter’s hall of fame application? Hopkins is unquestionably a very good fighter, and in fact, he has been the best among a weak field of middleweights for a very long time. When one looks up and down the names of victims on his professional ledger, however, should it not be questioned whether Hopkins is just the teeniest bit overrated? Just a little bit?

After being soundly defeated in a highly anticipated fight against Roy Jones in 1993, a snoozer of an affair if there ever was one, Hopkins got a second shot at the IBF middleweight title on December 12, 1994 against Segundo Mercado. No one is ever going to confuse Mercado with Roy Jones, yet Hopkins was still floored twice in that bout on the way to a twelve round draw. Hopkins improved in the rematch by stopping Mercado in seven and finally won the vacant IBF belt. Since then, Hopkins has reigned for over nine years as a middleweight titlist and has made 17 successful defenses. Those are impressive numbers to be sure, but do they justify Hopkins’ God-like status in the minds of many boxing fans and experts?

Hopkins has beaten plenty of good fighters. Joe Lipsey, John David Jackson, Glencoffe Johnson, Simon Brown, Antwun Echols and William Joppy are a few of the names that come to mind. This is a decent enough lot, but with the possible exception of Simon Brown (who was beyond shot), there isn’t a hall of famer among them. Where were the fights against the big guns like Gerald McClellan, Julian Jackson, Nigel Benn, or even Mike McCallum, when they were still around? Fights against one or more of those men could have made Hopkins as a star a long time ago and would have bolstered his claim as an all-time great.

The truth is that no one ever took much note of Hopkins until that late-September night in 2001, when he put on one of the most dominating big fight performances in boxing history against Felix “Tito” Trinidad. But Trinidad was a blown up welterweight who had arguably been bested by Oscar De La Hoya, and in retrospect Hopkins’ easy win should have been foreseen. This is not to retroactively take away from Hopkins’ victory, but the fight must be viewed in the proper perspective.

Based on that fight, people who claim to know boxing went absolutely bonkers. Suddenly, Hopkins was a boxing immortal who had somehow flown under the radar for so many years and just now shown his greatness on one glorious night. Instantly elevated into top two or three pound for pound status, Hopkins, who has always cultivated his “bucking the establishment” image, kicked his outspoken demeanor into overdrive. His profile was increased by the strategy, but some critics turned on him for his refusal to accept competitive big money bouts when he was not financially satisfied. As a result, more people, fans and critics alike, will remember him more for the man he was outside the ring rather than the fighter he was inside it.

Most of the boxing media loves Hopkins, and the post-Trinidad euphoria is evidence of that. He is praised for being “old school,” and it is true that few know their craft as Hopkins does. A piece like this one is what fuels Hopkins’ fire to rant against the critics, but it’s what we do. We critique, and yes, in many cases, we have never walked a mile in the shoes of a fighter. Our opinions are voiced nevertheless. It is simply asserted here that the quality of one’s opposition and victories in the same vein be foremost among hall of fame considerations. In spite of today’s watered down championships, it still takes a tremendous amount of talent and fortitude to win and hold onto one for as long as Hopkins has. Nine years as champion, seventeen defenses, and still going strong at age thirty nine are indeed impressive, if numbers is your thing. If that is the case, a couple more numbers might be fascinating to note. Number of fights against bona fide future hall of famers: 2. Record in those fights: 1-1.

After Hopkins disposes of Robert Allen for a third time (and that’s right, I said “after”), he will have a chance to improve on that mark against De La Hoya. This is another fight against a boxer who has moved up in weight, and one who actually made his pro debut as a junior lightweight. Additionally, De La Hoya has lost twice to Shane Mosley, who originally fought as a lightweight, and to the aforementioned Trinidad. This should be a no-win situation for Hopkins, but because much of the boxing media is under the Hopkins mystique, it is being billed as the biggest fight of the year. Hopkins’ personality is a big reason for that, and others like me must begrudgingly give him credit for this, if nothing else: He is a great self-promoter, and if there were such a category in the hall of fame, he would be a shoo-in for induction under that heading as well.

The recent fight between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez was very entertaining and had drama of the highest order. Just a few observations: Joe Cortez was one of the heroes of the night and should be given credit for not stopping the fight after Marquez slumped to the canvas for the third time in round one. After three knockdowns and considering the shape, or lack thereof, that Marquez’ nose was in, it is unlikely that anyone would have second-guessed Cortez had he made the decision to end the fight then and there. Thanks to his discretion, we got a helluva fight......Larry Merchant was dead on when he said that the first round fireworks were what created the drama witnessed later in the fight. Without the knockdowns and Marquez’ display of heart, the fight would not have been nearly as exhilarating.....Now that he knows to watch out for Pacquiao’s speedy straight left, and given the fact that Marquez controlled the biggest part of the bout post-round one, a Marquez win seems likely in a rematch.....Isn’t it funny how sometimes things drop into your lap by the strangest coincidences? One month ago I became interested in locating 1990’s heavyweight contender Alex Garcia, but was having considerable difficulty in that objective since everyone I spoke to had not seen him in a couple of years. I called a friend, Dave Selwyn, who has a wealth of boxing contacts, and told him of my search for Garcia. Amazingly, the next night Dave goes to the Attila Levin-Jeremy Williams fight, and who should he run into at the door? You guessed it. Thanks Dave, I owe you one.
© Copyright / All Rights reserved: Doghouse Boxing 1998-2004