Saturday, February 26, 2005

Hopkins is King

By JE Grant

After 20 title defenses, including crushing wins over Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad, Bernard Hopkins can rightfully proclaim that he is the current King of the Ring.

Hopkins is a fighter that a promoter would not envisage. Although he is clearly very smart, and possesses far more business acumen than anyone credits with, he does not possess the "wonder-boy" charm of Ray Leonard or De La Hoya. He isn't a devastating puncher. He doesn't dance. He hasn't needed to climb off the canvas to eke out a victory. In short, he's no crowd-pleaser.

What he does, and does so well, is win convincingly. And he does it with astonishing consistency. Not that anyone would have thought he would one day hold a title for 10 years --- especially after losing his very first fight. He also failed to impress in his first venture into a major fight when he dropped a decision to Roy Jones. It wasn't an embarrassing loss but he sure didn't look like the "Executioner."

Since that time he has accumulated title belts, money, and respect by simply being the best fighter in the game. Going into his title defense against Trinidad, he was actually the underdog. Trinidad, unbeaten at the time and himself considered a top pound-for-pound champion, was to be too young, too strong and too skilled for an aging Hopkins. As we all know now, Hopkins was dominant in the bout, stopping Trinidad convincingly. His victory over De La Hoya was equally devastating.

Just as fellow 20 title defense champion Larry Holmes proved a couple of decades ago, it ultimately paid to be better than everyone else; it paid to fight only to win, not look good; and it paid to have absolute faith in his own abilities.

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