Hopkins needs to step up, not down
By Rob Scott (September 20, 2004) 
Photo © HoganPhotos.com
Hats go off to Bernard ‘The Executioner’ Hopkins for his ninth round knockout of ‘The Golden Boy’ Oscar De La Hoya on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. With a career filled with trials and tribulations, Hopkins is finally getting the exposure that he deserves. He received a minimum $10 million for his troubles this past Saturday, by far his largest purse. He has victories over Felix Trinidad and De La Hoya, two of the premier names in boxing. The question now is – what happens next? Will Roy Jones be his next opponent? Will ‘The Executioner’ take on Antonio Tarver instead?

This past Saturday Hopkins feasted on a fighter that most thought he would destroy anyway. While De La Hoya put his best foot forward and tried to make a fight of it, the size and strength difference became apparent as the fight went on. Every fighter deserves a signature fight in their career, but every fighter at some point in time has to seek true challenges as well. De La Hoya was indeed a signature fight for Hopkins, but was he a challenge? It is said, “Seek and you shall find”; in Hopkins' search it seems that he has been looking down instead of up. After Mosley’s second win over De La Hoya, Hopkins made a challenge to him. After his rematch with Antwun Echols, he expressed his desire to face the winner of the Felix Trinidad and Fernando Vargas fight that would to take place the next day.

Let’s look at it realistically. Hopkins wanted a piece of the notoriety that all of these fighters were getting. That was the businessman in him that came out. He knew that a victory over these names would bring him the acclaim he desired. He finally got his wish when he faced and defeated Trinidad in September 2001. The problem is, just how much did he get and how much should he get? He loves to speak of legacies, but let's face it, the legacies of De La Hoya and Trinidad really didn’t take an incredible hit. What was thought of them before is still thought of them now. There is still that sense that a loss to either of them would have been the nail in the legacy of Hopkins.

Hopkins once said that fighters like De La Hoya, Mosley, Vargas and others were taking diet shakes so that they didn’t have to move up to face him. Thus far it seems that Hopkins is leaving room for the same to be said about him and his ascension in weight; it looks as if he has taken his fare share of diet pills.

After his victory over De La Hoya, Hopkins had expressed his desire to face Roy Jones and Antonio Tarver. The problem with that is we have heard this before. There has been talk in the past but nothing ever materialized. He was offered millions to face 168lb champion Joe Calzaghe that he flatly turned down. He was offered $6 million to face Jones and it was a figure that Bernard turned down as well. At the point of Jones’ offer Hopkins' largest payday was $2 million that he received after the Trinidad fight. Jones had a name, but that fight didn’t happen. Also, what ever happen with the proposed fight with James Toney?

Bernard talks of his legacy, but these are things that fans and boxing insiders alike can see and they will form their own opinion. Granted, other greats have taken the same route of fighting names that were moving up, but those wins had left more of a lasting impression. Marvin Hagler’s defeat of Thomas Hearns left such an impression, that when he finally faced Leonard and lost, his reputation didn’t get any worse. Another aspect is Leonard’s impact has been felt more than that of a De La Hoya or Trinidad.

He is without a doubt one of the best in the game, with his middleweight greatness intact, but a walk up the stairs of the divisions is needed instead of adding yet more of the lower weighted fighter to his hit list. Jones and Tarver have expressed that they would indeed meet Hopkins at a catch-weight. A loss to one of them, in this writer’s eyes, should put him in the same area that De La Hoya was in, where rightfully his reputation shouldn’t take a hit. A win would definitely put his reputation on a different level.

Will it actually happen? Bernard is one of the best speakers in the fight game, but let’s hope that Hopkins not only tells us that these fights will take place, but that they actually do happen. With his Sinatra-esque "I did it my way" attitude, he has rubbed more than a few people up the wrong way. After his Trinidad victory, Hopkins spoke of his legacy as if it was his very best friend. If he takes these steps up, by the conclusion of his career his beloved legacy will thank him for it.
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