Bernard Hopkins: Time will determine just how Great
By Rob Scott (February 26, 2005) 
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A big congratulation goes out to Bernard ‘The Executioner’ Hopkins who successfully defended his undisputed middleweight title with a methodical 12 round unanimous decision over the mandatory challenge from England, Howard ‘The Battersea Bomber’ Eastman, 40-2 (34). The kudos have to be sent to Mr. P4P because with every outing, some question is being answered; some new level is being reached; and he has made yet another critic change his tune. Various pens that have been used as scalpels to dissect Hopkins are now being used to engrave his name along with the all-time greats. Unfortunately, where one begins to believe, another one mentally travels the opposite route.

There is a certain reality in the words, “No matter how hard you try, you’ll never satisfy everyone”. We all have our favorites and in many cases, fans and critics alike, just don’t want to admit that one fighter is better than another. Going in to last Saturday’s bout, what remaining negatives were still being thrown at the champion? One in particular that has been echoed every now and then concerned his dismantling of Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya. Those victories catapulted him to the #1 spot in the eyes of many, but there have been the sprinkled words and thoughts of “He only beat blown-up welterweights”. In Howard Eastman, the challenge of facing a legitimate middleweight opponent was presented to Hopkins. What did the ‘Executioner’ do with this challenge? Whatever he wanted to do.

Yes, in the end yet another question had been answered; with his successful 20th title defense, yet another level was reached; and finally yet another critic had been silenced. Hopkins’ job in his era of middleweights has been so thorough that his thoughts on himself being bigger than the belts may ring true. He is ‘The’ champion and if any one else wins a vacant title, the ‘B’ in the organizations’ acronyms would stand for bogus instead of boxing.

Critics will always exist. No matter what point Hopkins or any one reaches, there will be someone there to express his or her different critique. I even have to admit there is a ‘but’ which must be inserted in the story of Bernard Hopkins as well. That ‘but’ is at the point when you make comparisons to the other greats. In HBO’s pre-fight piece, Hopkins said he shouldn’t be penalized for his lack of competition. He stated that it wasn’t his fault that he was placed in this era. If that is the case, then how much can we penalize Roy Jones Jr. or Mike Tyson? As unfair as it may feel to him, it would be as unfair to place Hopkins ahead of the fighters mentioned in the pre-fight section aired by HBO.

This is yet another of my articles where I have to express my thoughts on the ‘too much and too littles’. True, keeping him out of the boxing great fraternity would be an insult, not only to Hopkins, but it would be a self inflicted blow to ones own intelligence to think he didn’t deserve to be a member. A classic case of giving ‘too little’ credit would definitely be shown in that instance. The example of giving ‘too much’ credit would be when there is an oversight of the difference in competition between Hopkins’ era and those of past greats.

Looking back at the 20 defenses Hopkins has made, I ask, could ‘Sugar’ Ray Robinson, “Marvelous’ Marvin Hagler, Carlos Monzon, etc. have made the same amount of defenses if they were in this era? Only the diehard Hopkins fan would say no. From my vantage point, overemphasizing and using Hopkins’ 20 defenses as a basis for placing him on the top of the heap is, in essence, a case of penalizing the aforementioned greats for being born in their respective eras. There are those who see it differently from me and possibly neither one of us are looking at it with 20/20 vision.

Usually it seems no one shows true appreciation until someone is gone. Hopkins wants and thinks he deserves legendary appreciation now. Even fighters like ‘The Greatest’ Muhammad Ali, who was extremely popular, had to have time elevate him to unquestionable legendary status. His nitpickers and naysayers had no other choice but to recognize that Ali was, in his words, “A bad man”.

Make no mistake about it, Hopkins’ accomplishments have undeniably placed him in the class with the middleweight greats; but I fall short of making him the class president. Will history treat him like ‘Sugar’? Just how ‘Marvelous’ will Hopkins’ name ultimately be? ‘The Executioner’ and his fans have their side; his detractors have a side as well; but ultimately time will be the third and deciding side in this story.
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