Saturday, March 19, 2005

Bernard is tops

By JE Grant

Bernard Hopkins’ 20 title defenses, including crushing wins over Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad, allows the 40-year-old champion the rightful claim that he is the current pound-for-pound champion.Hopkins is a fighter that a promoter would not seek out as part of a marketing scheme.

Although he is clearly very smart, and possesses far more business acumen than anyone credits him with, he does not possess the commercial charm of 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 better than almost everyone, 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 (more than anyone in boxing), money (his account continues to grow), 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 considered by many 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. He followed his well-known and proven strategy of doing enough to win most of the rounds while defending cleverly. The left-hook to the body that took out De La Hoya was a shot by a skilled student of the game.

Bernard’s recent near-shutout of Howard Eastman, a worthy contender, proved that he knows how to win and take away his opponent’s strengths.

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.

Young stallions wait in the wings just as they always do. Jermain Taylor, who has been given a deadline that is likely passed by the time you read this column, may be the fighter of the future. He, like all the others, have high hopes that father time will finally take its toll on the body of Bernard.

Germany’s Felix Sturm has scored some recent wins and his loss to Oscar De La Hoya was instrumental in getting him notice --- many thought he won their bout. In truth, while it seems that any middleweight contender has a chance against an aging champion, I think Sturm does not have the power to dictate any part of the action against Hopkins. He has a good jab and a very useful dose of confidence. It won't be enough.

Super-middleweight champion Jeff Lacy, himself an exciting prospect for the pound-for-pound ranks, has issued a challenge and is to be commended for wanting to go to the mountain. He, unlike fellow super middleweight Joe Calzaghe, is not bogged down by promotion problems and the WBO.

Obviously the torch will be passed at some point. In any case, Bernard Hopkins has earned our admiration. Long may the king live.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hopkins can defeat any of the super-middleweight champions -- hopefully he can reap some more big paydays by taking down the likes of Joe Calzaghe and others.

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