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Bernard Hopkins - A Voice Apart
By Jason Petock (April 28, 2004) 
Bernard Hopkins
Being loyal advocates and purveyors of the sport of boxing, it is hardly in question that many of you missed the small vignette on Bernard Hopkins featured on HBO’s Real Sports. If you did fail to see it, you missed one of the shortest and most telling bits in quite some time. It spoke volumes not because of the way it was presented, but because of the man who was featured. Bernard Hopkins represents the pure essence of the old school of boxing. He is a renegade soul in a business of controllers and those being controlled. And no one controls “The Executioner”.

Hopkins has definitely always marched to the beat of a different drummer. What few fail to see about this legendary fighter of our era is his intelligence. He has an inherent tenacity and focus that is rarely seen in our modern world, and hints to rougher days and much greater men. Bernard has been the Middleweight Champion since April 29, 1995, and has successfully surpassed Carlos Monzon in title defenses with 15, aiming to concrete his legacy with an estimated 20 or more defenses before his retirement.

Bernard Hopkins is the legitimate Middleweight Champion, holding the WBC, WBA and IBF belts. Many consider him among the top ten best fighters in the world, and I have to whole heartedly agree. He has solidified his place in this era, and continues his drive and career aspirations to this day.

When Bernard was a junior in high school he got charged with multiple felonies and went to the pen. Many great fighters come from this type of background and rise from their personal winters of discontent. Hopkins is one of these men. He earned his high school diploma while incarcerated and participated in the prison boxing program, earning his stripes. He captured the National Middleweight Championship 3 times during his 8 month bid, an omen of things to come.

“The Executioner” has always represented the legendary fight town of Philadelphia to the fullest. Staying true to his roots, he’s always agreed to take on all comers. Not one for being taken advantage of however, some fights haven’t come off because the numbers weren’t right. Some would criticize him for this. Hopkins knows his worth and is a champion in all aspects, and should not only be afforded social respect, but economical respect as well.

Bernard is regularly overlooked by many “experts”, as they like to call themselves lately, because of his shrewd business savvy and unorthodox business skills. He brings the same ferocity and never – say – quit attitude from the ring to the negotiating table. He is self managed and handles himself much like a former opponent who he lost a 12 round unanimous decision to on May 22, 1993, Roy Jones Jr, for the Middleweight title. Hopkins was still relatively green at that point, but that fact that he got decisioned against Jones, even in his early stages, shows he was in line for something more, meaning his development was apparent, even in defeat.

William Joppy announced his retirement after Hopkins punished him in their fight, and Hopkins then squared his bet for $50,000 with Joppy, for lasting the fight as agreed. Bernard has 2 fights scheduled for this year. On June 5, 2004 he fights Robert Allen in Las Vegas for the Middleweight throne, and faces Oscar De La Hoya three months later on September 18, 2004 in a non-title fight for validation. Both should be excellent bouts with Hopkins showing up with his game face as usual.

I won’t offer predictions because I do not view myself as an “expert”. I’m a fan, first and foremost. A spectator. An admirer. I love boxing and have profound respect and admiration for its valiant warriors. To offer my humble speculation in contrast wouldn’t do these match ups, or any for that matter justice. I prefer to watch the art of boxing, not judge it. Too much judging goes on not only in our sport, but in our culture as well.

Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins is a fighter who has lived under the microscope his entire career, much like many of his counterparts. He has always been judged, more often than being recognized for what he is – a great fighter, period. The main problem it seems is that no great fighter or champion in this beautiful sport of ours can ever seem to do enough. They can’t seem to defend their titles enough, or get enough knockouts, or please the public eye enough. Individuals tend to forget that much like themselves, these boxers are also people. It definitely takes an extraordinary person to lace up the gloves and give it a go. There’s no denying that.

The technical aspects of the game have been replaced with an almost MTV like, shallow quality, filled with screw faces and cocky smirks. Not all of the fight game is like this, but it does happen from time to time. I don’t know what I’m going to do if I see another boxer in a rap video throwing mock punches in the air and preening. I guess they’re entitled to have some fun and live a little just like us. I guess.

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Bernard Hopkins is a voice apart. He stands alone and in defense of himself both in and out of the ring, taking on everyone who crosses his path and prevents him from his goals of victory. We need more fighters like him in boxing, men with not only tremendous talent, but also a vision of where they want to be, and where the sport should stand.

Bernard said in his Real Sports interview that, “I did it the Old Blue Eyes way.” Frank Sinatra would be proud, because that’s one to grow on.
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