And The New… Howard Eastman
By Rob Scott (February 17, 2005) 
Photo © German Villasenor
“Good things come to those who wait”; if there is any truth in that statement, then Howard Eastman has a lot to be optimistic about when he finally gets his long awaited opportunity to face undisputed middleweight champion Bernard ‘The Executioner’ Hopkins on February 19th in Los Angeles’ Staple Centre. Eastman, 40-1 (34), has practiced the art of patience and hopes that it pays off with him ultimately getting the acknowledgement that he feels he deserves; it’s the type of acknowledgement that eludes many from across the pond.

Who in any profession doesn’t want to be considered the best? Many in this sport strive for that one goal. Howard Eastman has conquered England, winning every notable middleweight championship there; but once again Eastman has set his sights on ‘The World’.

‘And the new…’ are the words the Guyanese, by way of England, native hopes to hear when all the smoke clears; but before that will ever happen, Howard Eastman knows, ‘And the new’ must be taken from a different angle. Howard Eastman has to be a ‘new’ fighter. Eastman’s last trip over the pond was a November 2001 attempt to win the vacant WBA middleweight title against former champion William Joppy. While many felt that Eastman did enough to pull out the win, when the decision went to Joppy there wasn’t anyone calling for a Senator John McCain inquest. By his own admission, Eastman made the tactical era of coming on too late. The Eastman that faced Joppy cannot resurface. If that reality isn’t in the mind of Howard Eastman, then, to a large degree, he has lost the fight already. The sayings, “To be the champion – you have to beat the champion”, must be the forethought; and make no mistake about it, Bernard Hopkins is every bit the ‘undisputed middleweight champion’.

Bernard Hopkins, 45-2-1 (32), isn’t considered the best fighter in the game for nothing. It’s been a long journey for ‘The Executioner’ who has held the middleweight title since April of 1995 with 19 successful defenses. Hopkins aims to make an unprecedented 20th title defense when he faces Eastman this weekend. Hopkins has earned his due. He has excelled to the perceived height of invincibility by many boxing scribes and fans. We’ve heard it all before and will hear it in the future; it’s not uncommon to hear words like, “There’s nobody out there to beat Roy Jones”; “Mike Tyson is unstoppable”; “Felix Trinidad will win the middleweight tournament, beat Roy Jones and then retire undefeated”. When statements like these are being said, all who utter them say so with conviction. The bottom line is their belief that these fighters will ‘never’ lose. Eastman would like to make everyone keep in mind that if it’s one thing we all should remember about this sport, is to ‘never-say-never’.

Consistently calling his challenger a B-level fighter, Hopkins looks at his chances of being dethroned, not as a case of ‘never-say-never’, but of one in which he’ll recite the word ‘never’, in fact, forever. Hopkins has himself indeed lost, but his last defeat was in 1993 against Roy Jones Jr. Since then, Bernard has gone through a metamorphosis and has become ‘Mr. Hopkins’. There is that unbeatable aura surrounding the champion from Philly that makes the English challenger’s chances questionable. Hopkins has met and destroyed the likes of Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya, while Eastman’s resume is filled with names that don’t ring the bells of the avid or occasional American boxing viewer. Hopkins’ loss to Jones Jr. seemed to have happen in a different lifetime. If anyone from these shores has a memory of Eastman, it’s from the controversial, yet recorded, loss to William Joppy. The American public knows nothing else about the challenger. For these various reasons many have made up their minds of an inevitable Hopkins victory.

Never-say-never, as boxing’s history has its share of unknowns who have become known with one defining fight. James Toney wasn’t a recognizable name before he flattened the talented Michael Nunn to win the IBF middleweight title in May of 1991. Realistically, even though he has been IBF middleweight champion since 1995, Bernard Hopkins himself wasn’t a household name until his defeat of Trinidad in 2001 to win the undisputed crown.

Who was Morrade Hakkar? We found out one thing – that he was a bogus mandatory for Hopkins. Howard Eastman’s aim is to show that he is the truth. He wants to show that the Hopkins aura is the real hype; one that he doesn’t believe. This Saturday Eastman doesn’t plan on playing the role of Tony Blair to Hopkins’ George W. Bush; there will be no allies when the bell rings. The ‘Battersea Bomber’ will have his weapons pointing directly at Hopkins.

Not many people know Howard Eastman – but he knows himself. Not many have faith in Eastman’s chances, but he has faith in himself. Boxing is not only a sport, but also a business; he has waited patiently preparing for his shot at Hopkins. He promises a new Howard Eastman; he promises that he’ll knockout the defending champ in 5 rounds; he promises that we’ll hear the ring announcer say “And the new” when the smoke all clears. Just imagine if he keeps his promise

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