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Forgotten History
By Joe Trabucco (April 16, 2004) 
Bernard Hopkins
When people look back at the history of boxing, names
like Ali, Louis, Robinson, etc. are what we recall. These are the legends of the sport. Winning, but often times winning dramatically. That's how a legend is born. Like other sports, boxing defines itself by its legends.

But, if I may be sacrilegious for a moment, is this really Boxing History. The reality of boxing, as in life is (and I'm quoting George Carlin), that there are a few winners and a whole lot of losers.

Living in a society that embraces the story of the underdog shouldn't we, once in a while, give due to those that truly keep the sport alive? Men who risk their lives for the extra couple of dollars it will put in their pocket. Who take the pounding, not to achieve greatness, but to help them survive a tough world.

How many people know whom Clinton Mitchell is? Not too many, to be sure. There is one person who remembers Clinton Mitchell. He is the Undisputed Middleweight Champion of the World, Bernard Hopkins. Hopkins has been one of the most dominant fighters of our era. Most boxing commentators will point out that his last loss was to Roy Jones, Jr. Sometimes, they will go as far to tell you that his first loss came in his pro debut. I don't recall a time, however, that Clinton Mitchell was identified as that winner of that bout. It would be a bit awkward to include him in the same breath as Roy Jones, Jr.

I wonder if it's intentional, though, to exclude his name. The thought of a great fighter losing to some guy from Brooklyn named Clinton Mitchell would make the Champion seem almost human. We hate when we put people on pedestals only to realize they are not perfect.

In all fairness to Hopkins, the fight was at light heavyweight. This was obviously long before he became the best-conditioned fighter in the world. On that October night in 1988, Mitchell would win a close 4 round majority decision. Hopkins, rededicated himself to the sport, and is in the position he is in today because of his hard work. Mitchell would not fight for another 7 years. Most likely, he was just looking for a payday, and got what he came for.

In an interesting note, Mitchell would return to the ring after Hopkins won the IBF Middleweight Title. I assume that he was silly enough to think that one victory somehow validated him as a professional. He would fight 4 more times. Winning twice with one draw and, in his final bout, being knocked out in the first round by someone named Robert Lee Fredericks. He hasn't been in the ring since.

King Solomon is a name that Arturo Gatti would probably like to forget. Or, more accurately, has already forgotten. Not to be confused with the guy who had those mines, King Solomon was a young, up and coming Jr. Lightweight more than a decade ago. However his career was brief. Spanning 4 years and 10 fights, Solomon's career was unremarkable. Well, it was unremarkable until Arturo Gatti showed up on HBO, and became the most exciting fighter in the sport.

On Nov. 17th, 1992, Solomon was to be another victim for a young power puncher who was reminding everyone of a young Roberto Duran. Gatti had won 5 of his first 6 fights by knockout. And these were exciting knockouts that combined speed and power. This fight was supposed to be a showcase for Gatti. Instead, the slick Solomon would box his way to a six round decision.

Gatti has become a crossover star, that even the most ambivalent fan will take time to watch. Solomon would never fight again after that night. He may have made himself unmarketable. He wasn't exactly thrilling, with no knockouts in his brief career. And what manager wants their young fighter thrown in with someone who will just make them look bad. He would never fight again after that win.

These are just two fighters in an extremely long list. I wonder if they sit around, and wonder what might have been. I'd like to think they don't. I prefer to believe that they have become small legends in their own neighborhoods. That when someone asks, "Who is that guy". The response is something like, "Who's that?!" "That's Clinton Mitchell. The man who gave Bernard Hopkins the beating of his life!" Greatly exaggerated, yes. But then again, what legend isn't?
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