On Friday night Bernard Hopkins told me of his plans to fight Felix Sturm in January, but Saturday we looked back on his career and life in Philadelphia and celebrated his large win over Oscar de la Hoya.
The parade kicked off at the Blue Horizon in North Philadelphia and traveled to the shadows of City Hall. Mayor John F. Street acknowledged the crowd by starting with “I appreciate every one who came today to honor our guy, Bernard Hopkins. We got a champ outside of the ring as well as inside the ring.” Street touched on the not so secret of Hopkins’ past, “He came up hard, made a couple of mistakes. But the difference is, some people develop a sense of character.” Crediting Bernard with beating his past Street continued, “he became a world champion inside of the ring and outside of the ring as well.” Mayor Street spoke of Bernard’s contributions to society since he’s become a champion then concluded his opening remarks by saying “We are having a great day because the undisputed champ is our guy. He’s the people’s champion.” Street would return to read a letter to Bernard from Presidential candidate, John Kerry and to present a bowl to Hopkins. “When you get a bowl you got to be special, I’ve been Mayor for 5 years and we’ve only given a handful of these.”
Boxing leaders such as the Pennsylvania boxing commissioner, Humberto Perez, joined politicians. Perez revealed “I am proud, on behalf of the Commonwealth, to say this is the best of the best and he’s home in Philadelphia. This is his day.”
Greg Sirb is the Executive Director of boxing in Pennsylvania and is the former president of the Association of Boxing Commissions. Mr. Sirb enthusiastically said, “there is good boxing in Vegas, there is good boxing in California. Philadelphia has great fights. This is a fighter” as he pointed to Bernard. Sirb then read proclamation from Pennsylvania Governor, Ed Rendel before presenting the document to Mr. Hopkins.
Referee Ron Aurit credited Hopkins with getting educated. Aurit, who runs a boxing scholarship program in Pennsylvania, reminded “we’ve got to educate our young. Bernard Hopkins got educated. If you know of any boxer who wants to go to college get in touch with the PA commission.”
Lindsay Tucker from the IBF recognized Bernard as a champ who is always in compliance and in attendance at their conventions. Larry Hazzard, the NJ State Athletic Control Board chief spoke of Philadelphia as “in my view, the greatest boxing town in the world. Bernard is a world champion, not just Philadelphia’s but he is a reflection of all the champions of this town.”
The Department of Human Services proudly presented the Advocate Excellence Award to Bernard.
Bouie Fisher called Bernard, “the greatest fighter since Ray Robinson” in his brief speech. Then it was time for the champ to fix his four title belts on the railing in front of the podium and address his fans. He began by thanking the mayor, police and all who attended.
“I got a responsibility bigger than boxing” Hopkins would say as he drew attention to the youth on stage with him along with his wife, Jeanette and his daughter Latrice. “It’s alright to have a vision, it might be slow, you’ll have trials and tribulations” then referred to dreaming of a day such as this when he was doing serving his time to society, time sentenced in the city hall tower just across the street from the podium. “You have to change negatives in life to positive” as he stood proudly as a poster man for that thought. “The people’s champ lives forever. I hope and pray that I will be remembered not only as a champion of Philadelphia, but all across the world.”
The champ knows his place as a role model, “I know I have to show examples to the young athletes. Let me tell you how important education is…people make money, some people hit the lottery and make money, but you got to be wise to keep it.” As he looked at the youngsters next to him he said “don’t concentrate on just the physical.” As for his career, “I’m going to my best to duck (the punches) for one more year. I started on the bottom, but I am leaving on top.” He gave us the ‘executioner’ sign with his arms as his posse grabbed the middleweight belts. Then he and his family exiting to “go home, I’m tired” he would say in conclusion.
It was a nice tribute to a man who deserves it for his out of the ring accomplishments as well as what he’s done inside the ropes.