LAST OF A DYING BREED
Short and sweet: my grandpop BHOP did his thing again. As you know, a live fight atmosphere is much better than watching on TV. It was a lively crowd in Brooklyn at the Barclays with beautiful Corona Girls giving away T-shirts, a live DJ (New York DJ, you know the difference), this was not a stale Casino audience, it was a lively local crowd and the place was packed.
Anyway, BHOP delivered. He is just a genius, and I talked to Andre Ward after the fight, people just do not respect the nuance of the fight game. If guys are not coming face first like Arturo Gatti and Brandon Rios they are not respected, better yet, understood. BHOP can still dominate at 50 because he’s mastered every aspect of the game, and he has enough things he can still do at 50 to win. These guys have one thing they can do, be strong and bang, well, if the guy won’t stand there and be a heavy bag what can these young guys do?
BHOP is the last of a dying breed. Ward told me these guys learn how to use their hands, but if you take their hands away they are done. He said BHOP learned the game from the ground up, learned to use his feet and his hands, he can beat a guy with subtle movement, never in position to be hit and out of the way before the counter. It is a thing of beauty, a master at his craft. He moved when he wanted to, got in close and threw hard enough to get respect, backed Cloud off when he wanted to get aggressive, and just did what he wanted. He completely befuddled Cloud, who just followed him around the ring in awe. I respect and appreciate his game.
I do hope he retires off of this victory, but I’m sure he won’t, which will lead to losses. He needs to retire on top, not with a loss and be like Evander Holyfield, searching for victory or another title. – JCB
Of course Hopkins will be back. This victory enhances his already respectable market value and ability to sell tickets (especially on the East Coast). He’s not just a great boxer; he’s a promoter, and he and his Golden Boy Promotions partners are going to want to capitalize on this latest “history making” buzz with him headlining another big show at Barclays and then possibly taking the “Bhop show” on the road – to the UK for Nathan Cleverly or to Quebec for the Pascal-Bute winner – in what could be his swan song. But we can never say never with Hopkins.
He’ll leave boxing on his terms. That’s fine with me. And I’m OK with him going out on a loss or two, or three. He’s already established something most fighters of this era – even those who will one day be inducted into the hall of fame – will not achieve: greatness.
Once a fighter secures greatness – true greatness, not media and promotional hype or fan adoration, but total respect from the old timers, historians and students of the game – he cannot lose it. The greatest boxer of all time, Sugar Ray Robinson, lost five of his last 10 bouts (with one No Contest). Those losses – most of which came to solid young fighters, but no champs or world beaters – don’t damage Robinson’s legacy at all.
You are absolutely right that Hopkins is a master at his craft. I’m thinking he should change his “BHop” nickname to “Master B” or extend it to “the Immortal Bhop” because with his ring generalship (and amazingly fresh legs) he can probably fight at the world-class level into his early 50s (as you noted).
Regarding Ward’s comments to you about most fans not “respecting the nuances of the fight game” and technical ring generals like Hopkins (and himself), I think he, Hopkins, Paul Malignaggi and trainer Naazim Richardson – all of whom I have the utmost respect for – complain about this way too much.
I’m not going to say that Hopkins doesn’t have the right to lament the fact that he and his style aren’t as appreciated as he believes it should be during the post-fight press conference – because he boxed brilliantly against Cloud and part of the winner’s spoils is the right to hold court after his victory – but I am going to say that this is a cultural war that he and Ward and all the “boxing purists” out there will never win.
The raw naked truth about human beings is that we like action, crave excitement and are generally fascinated by violence. There are a few exceptions, but in general, history’s most popular and iconic boxers were bombers and bangers like Jack Dempsey, Henry Armstrong, Joe Louis, Rocky Graziano, Rocky Marciano, all the way up to Mike Tyson. Robinson was a beautiful practitioner of the Sweet Science, but he could – and often did – ice a fool with one shot from either hand. Make no mistake, that brutal KO power was an essential part of his mystique and people paid good money to see him fight because of it.
I’m not going to argue with anyone about the merits of a boxer learning his craft and “mastering every aspect of the game,” as you put it. It’s the best way for a boxer to protect himself and to win fights, and when it’s done right, it is indeed a thing of beauty. But I don’t expect everyone to appreciate it and I think it’s silly for some folks to get upset when people clamor for blood-and-guts sluggers like “Bam Bam” Rios. Most sports fans want action and drama, and that’s what Rios delivers.
You and Ward shouldn’t assume that those “blood thirsty ghouls” who cheer for brutes like Rios don’t know the difference between a left hook and a fish hook. Some of those fans do recognize the nuances and complexities of the sport and also appreciate Sweet Scientists like your grandpop Bhop, but they don’t always want boxing at its highest level when they go to the fights. Most of the time, they just want to have fun!
It’s like Jazz and Hip-Hop, my friend. There’s no doubt that jazz compositions are a more complex – and I would say superior – form of music than your average rap tune. But what do people want to hear when they go to a sporting event? What was that New York DJ pumping during the Hopkins-Cloud card? Was it Duke Ellington? John Coltrane? Miles Davis? Come on, man! I wasn’t even there and I know it was Jay-Z! LOL.
Thanks keep up the good work. – Ryan
I would definitely rank Hopkins among the top 50 boxers of all time. Where between 1 and 50? I don’t know. That would take days, maybe weeks, for me to really research and ascertain.
It doesn’t matter where exactly Hopkins ranks among the best of all time. The bottom line is that he BELONGS. He IS a great fighter. Boxing fans and scribes like me – total nut cakes who immerse themselves in the sport’s vast history and revere the Golden Age figures – don’t throw the word “great” around.
We know that it takes more than awesome talent, sublime skills, natural ability, warrior spirit and impressive accomplishments to be “great.” We know that it takes character.
Some of the best boxers and most accomplished fighters of the past 30 years don’t pass my “character” test. I consider Mayweather and Pacquiao to be among the best of their era and first-ballot hall of famers. But I don’t consider them to be great. Why? Real simple: they didn’t fight each other. They both came up with excuses not to fight when that matchup really meant something. They had a three-year window to get it done and they bitched out.
I think James Toney had as much fighting ability, toughness and heart as any fighter who ever lived. And yet, I don’t consider him to be great. He’s a first-ballot hall of famer, in my book, but not great. Why? He wouldn’t or couldn’t keep his ass in shape. He had world-class skill and ability without world-class conditioning and commitment to the sport.
Roy Jones was talent personified. He was a super athlete who always entered the ring in immaculate physical condition, and he had real boxing skill. He could break all the rules of the sport and still win in amazing fashion, but he didn’t challenge himself enough during his prime. He did just enough – winning his first two major belts against Hopkins and Toney – to let us all know that he was once-in-a-lifetime talent and then he played it safe for most of his peak athletic years. What a sad waste.
Hopkins didn’t have Jones’ talent, Toney’s or Mayweather’s natural ability, or Pacquaio’s physical gifts, but he mastered the art of boxing, completely dedicated himself to the sport and he always challenged himself. Even after he unified all the major middleweight belts, broke the division title defense record, and established himself as a star by beating Oscar De La Hoya, Hopkins still sought out the young, hungry beasts of the divisions he campaigned in.
I consider George Foreman to be a great fighter, but even Big George was kind of careful after he KO’d Michael Moorer to become the oldest champion in boxing history at that time. He fought Axel Shultz, Crawford Grimsley, Lou Savarese and Shannon Briggs after beating Moorer. They were strong, young heavyweights with good records but they were not top five, or even top-10, contenders at the time Foreman faced them.
When Hopkins beat Antonio Tarver (as a significant underdog) for THE RING’s light heavyweight title, he took on guys who were at the top of their divisions (Winky Wright, Joe Calzaghe and Kelly Pavlik). After breaking Foreman’s record as the oldest champ by beating WBC/RING light heavyweight titleholder Jean Pascal, he faced fighters who were at the top of the 175-pound division: Chad Dawson and Cloud.
Again, that’s character. That’s what defines greatness, in my opinion.
It’s not about your talent or ability or skill set – it’s what you do with it.
THE 48-YEAR-OLD BALLERINA
The old man is just too hard to hit. His footwork is so good. Cloud kept trying until the 9th round, but 9 rounds of hitting mostly air – and being pot-shotted with sneaky right hands and bull rushes from Hopkins’ big head was enough. I’d still like to see Tavoris again. I think he’s a solid fighter.
Take care. – JW
I agree with you, JW. Hopkins has amazing footwork for a 48-year-old man who has been a pro boxer for nearly a quarter of a century, and Cloud is a solid pugilist.
I don’t think Cloud fought the right fight against Hopkins (he needed to take a page from Jermain Taylor’s book and bum rush the old man), but as someone who has been on Bhop’s s__t list and has had to deal with his wrath outside of the ring, I can only imagine how stressful and difficult the man is cope with inside those ropes. Hopkins is a born intimidator and manipulator. He can make the strongest of individuals doubt themselves and con them into doing exactly what he wants.
There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that Hopkins got in Cloud’s head on Saturday. But I’m not going to hold that against the former beltholder. I thought he gave his best against a great fighter and had his moments.
I don’t think he was completely dominated as many fans and boxing writers have claimed. I think Cloud will learn from the 12 rounds he went with “the master” and I think he eventually will become a better fighter from the experience. Of course, for that to happen, he needs to fight more than once a year.
If Don King is put out of business as Hopkins believes, I hope another promoter takes a chance on Cloud. I’d love to see him face the likes of Pascal, Cleverly, WBA beltholder Beibut Shumenov, the winner of Tony Bellew-Isaac Chilemba and upstart Andrzej Fonfara.
I’m sure you’ll have loads of emails about the Hopkins vs Cloud fight, unfortunately I couldn’t watch it live but I’m looking forward to seeing it. What a living legend! I picked BHOP to win, but I didn’t expect him to school Cloud.
What next for Hopkins? A unification fight with Nathan Cleverly? To be honest the fight I would like to see him in next would be against Carl Froch (if he gets past Kessler). If Froch came up to light-heavyweight to face Hopkins I think that could be a career defining fight for him. Although on Hopkins performance this weekend I would have to pick BHOP to win a close hard 12 rounder.
I enjoyed reading the 10: Best Over-40 Fighters last week, do you think Hopkins now deserves the top spot? Also with regards to the over-40 heavyweights on the list who do you think would win in these mythical match-ups;
George Foreman vs Larry Holmes over-40 (I’d pick Forman with a late KO)
Forman vs Archie Moore over-40 (this is tough to pick but I think Forman would clip Moore later down the stretch)
Holmes vs Archie Moore (I’d go with the Mongoose on a late TKO)
Also just out of interest…
George Foreman (prime pre-rumble in the jungle) vs Larry Holmes prime (This is also tough, but I would have to go with Forman with a KO, although I could see Holmes pulling off an upset…)
As always looking forward to hearing your thoughts. Thanks. – Andrew, North Yorkshire, England
Thanks for writing and for the kind words for me and for Lee Groves’ most recent 10 list (the best over-40 fighters of all time), Andrew.
Here are my picks on your over-40 mythical matchups:
George Foreman vs Larry Holmes (over 40): I like Holmes by close decision in this one. His jab would trouble Foreman and his underrated defensive prowess would prevent the better puncher from landing a fight-ending or fight-altering bomb (see his over-40 fights with Ray Mercer and Oliver McCall for examples of his excellent blocking ability).
Forman vs Archie Moore (over-40): Foreman by late TKO. Moore is the better fighter, pound for pound, but Big George is the better heavyweight.
Holmes vs Archie Moore: Holmes by decision for the same reason I see Foreman beating the Old Mongoose.
George Foreman (prime pre-rumble in the jungle) vs Larry Holmes prime: Holmes by decision. The so-called prime pre-Rumble In The Jungle version of Foreman was too raw, in my opinion, to beat Larry.
As for what’s next for Hopkins, my guess would be that he would face fellow light heavyweight beltholder Cleverly before fighting Froch. I agree that Hopkins-Froch is a bigger fight, but The Cobra has to get by Mikkel Kessler first and he’s going to be tougher for GBP and Team Hopkins to negotiate with than Cleverly. Froch is a veteran and bigger star than Cleverly, so he’s going to want more money and make more demands (including what weight class for the bout to take place in) than the young WBO beltholder from Wales.
SICK OF HOPKINS
Just wanted to tell you that I’m getting sick of watching Bernard Hopkins fight. I should have stopped watching him years ago a couple of fights after the De La Hoya body punch but you always have hope that he might get involved in an entertaining fight again. And it’s not happening. It’s always boring and he always seems to be content in getting a decision as long as he’s breaking some record. He has no will or passion to destroy his opponents. It’s all about making history…
Am I asking too much of the wily veteran? I’m not asking him to be a Gennady Golovkin in there but damn it I really don’t understand why the media will not criticize him more on this matter instead of celebrating his boring record-breaking over and over again. The man hasn’t scored a KO in almost 10 years – why the hell are we still watching him? Am I missing something here?
Thanks for your time. – Guy
Well, part of the reason people watch Hopkins is that he takes on fighters many of us believe will beat him – and maybe even knock his old ass out. So even fans who don’t like him or don’t like watching him fight tune in to see him get beat, but that rarely happens because let’s face it, the man knows his way around the ring.
The boxing media doesn’t criticize him much for two reasons: One, they’ve done so for many years and Bhop hasn’t gone away, he’s just beat more odds and broken morerecords, so most have given up on giving him a hard time; and two, he’s a vindictive old bastard who keeps track of who writes negative things about him (or even picks against him) and he makes sure to give those individuals lots of s__t whenever he sees them.
For the most part, us boxing writers are a bunch of chicken s__ts, Guy. We don’t want deal with an angry Hopkins, even though it’s outside of the ring. (Trust me, he’s a scary mother f___er when he’s got his hate on for you.)
You’re not the only fan who is sick of Hopkins, but and the other “haters” shouldn’t let the old master get under your nerves so much. He doesn’t fight all that often (averaging just under two bouts a year since 2006) and he doesn’t have many fights left in his amazingly preserved 48-year-old body.
My guess is that he’ll fight twice more before calling it a career. Nobody will make you watch those two bouts, but I bet you will.
APPRECIATION FOR THE MASTER
I also enjoyed watching Hopkins do his thing vs. Cloud, even though the younger man drove me crazy by not pressing the advantage he occasionally had when he hurt and rocked the older man (which was missed my the HBO broadcast booth and many of the Twitter fans following the bout).
If he were 28 or even 38 I probably wouldn’t have appreciated him as much as I did. But I recognize that he’s a marvel to be able to do what he did at his age. I think the Cloud fight was one of the best victories of his career and definitely the best of his post-40 performances. The fact that he’s almost 50 is mind boggling.
BHOP’S MYTHICAL SHOWDOWNS
Calzaghe vs Hopkins @ age 30
Thanks for your time. – Nathan
You are welcome, Nate.
Calzaghe vs Hopkins @ age 30 – Bhop by close decision (he would never have an easy night with the talented Welshman)
I think Bhop’s record against titleholders at middleweight and light heavy are about even.
At 160 pounds he faced Lupe Aquino, Simon Brown, John David Jackson, Roy Jones, Glen Johnson, Keith Holmes, William Joppy, Jermain Taylor, Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya. (Tito and Oscar were naturally smaller but future hall of famers who were still somewhat in their primes. Aquino and Brown were smaller and old. Jones beat him, but RJ – a future hall of famer – was at his physical peak.)
At 175 pounds he faced Tarver, Wright, Pavlik, Jones, Calzaghe, Pascal, Dawson and Cloud. (Wright and Pavlik were middleweights, but still at or near their physical primes. Calzaghe – a future hall of famer – beat him, but it was a very close fight. Taylor beat him, but both losses were controversial decisions. Dawson beat him in their rematch, but he’s top light heavyweight. Jones was shot when they fought their ugly ass rematch.)
I think the light heavy competition was a little closer to their primes (on average) when Bhop fought them, but there he had more middleweight comp and they were more accomplished (on average) thanks to Trinidad and De La Hoya.