Bernard Hopkins: There Is Only One

By Matthew Aguilar


Bernard Hopkins: There Is Only One

Thirteen years ago, a forty-something George Foreman was lauded for his unlikely knockout of Michael Moorer for the heavyweight championship. But what Bernard  Hopkins has done over the last year of an incredible, amazing career may trump Foreman’s notable accomplishments of the early 1990s. Hopkins , considered washed-up two years ago after losing twice to Jermain Taylor, has since gone 2-0 against a pair of the best fighters in boxing.
In June 2006, Hopkins dominated a much bigger Antonio Tarver for the recognized light heavyweight championship. And, Saturday in Las Vegas , the “Executioner” won a unanimous decision over Winky Wright to retain that recognized 175-pound championship.
Need we remind you that Hopkins is 42 years old?
It was another brilliantly tactical performance by the ageless wonder “B-Hop,” whose fights will never be confused with those of Arturo Gatti, but whose ring accomplishments rival those of any fighter of the past 25 years.
Consider, Hopkins was middleweight champion from 1995 to 2005 – when he lost the first of two controversial decisions to the much younger Taylor . Within that incredible reign, which included a record 20 defenses of the 160-pound title, were victories over Glen Johnson, Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya.
Hopkins was among the greatest middleweights of all time – his name resting comfortably alongside the game’s immortals: Sugar Ray Robinson, Carlos Monzon and Marvelous Marvin Hagler.
But, since then, his victories over Tarver and Wright have catapulted Hopkins to yet another stratosphere. Many now consider him the best fighter of his generation. And others think Hopkins is now among the 10 or 20 greatest boxers who ever stepped in the ring.
He’s done it with a style that isn’t always entertaining – but is always, always effective.
Take Saturday, for instance. Early in the fight, Philadelphian Hopkins, 48-4-1 (32 knockouts) made it a point to stay away from Floridian Wright’s bread-and-butter punch – his right jab. He moved left, he moved right – he did whatever it took to keep Wright from gaining any kind of momentum with his jab. Hopkins knew that fighters like Trinidad and Shane Mosley were mesmerized by that punch.
Then, a subtle head butt further hindered Winky – cutting him badly above the left eyelid. And, by the late rounds, Hopkins used his bigger frame to muscle Wright and clinch when necessary.
In the end, Hopkins looked fresh. Wright looked beaten up and exhausted. Not surprisingly, B-Hop got the decision unanimously.
The big question now is, what’s next?
The obvious answer is the winner of the Nov. 3 superfight between super middleweight champions Joe Calzaghe and Mikkel Kessler. Calzaghe is considered a pound-for-pound guy, and a showdown with Hopkins – perhaps in Yankee Stadium, as Bernard suggested Saturday night – would be huge.
There’s always the possibility of a rematch with Roy Jones Jr., who is in the midst of a comeback. Jones beat a young Hopkins in 1993. But that’s ancient history to most boxing experts, who think Jones is done and doesn’t deserve a Hopkins fight.
And don’t forget young hotshot Chad Dawson, who has a 175-pound belt and is 17 years younger.
Regardless, Bernard Hopkins has defied the experts, defied the naysayers, and defied Father Time.
Whatever happens next is frosting.
SATURDAY IN TACOMA: Former welterweight champions Carlos Baldomir and Vernon Forrest go at it in an intriguing junior middleweight contest Saturday from boxing outpost Tacoma, Washington         Officially, Baldomir-Forrest is for Floyd Mayweather’s vacant WBC 154-pound title. Really, though, it’s a tough-to-pick battle of comebacking contenders – an intriguing, classic tilt between a brawler (Baldomir) and a boxer (Forrest).
At one time, “Viper” Forrest, 38-2 (28 KOs ), was among the game’s elite.  His January 2002 upset over then-pound-for-pound king Mosley marked his arrival.
But things have gone downhill since then.
He was himself upset by Ricardo Mayorga in 2003, lost the rematch, then suffered a series of injuries that made him all but disappear from the boxing landscape. He was lucky to get the decision over Ike Quartey last summer, and experts remain skeptical about his physical form.
“Tata” Baldomir, 43-10-6 (13 KOs), shocked Zab Judah for the IBF welterweight title in early 2006, and proceeded to make the most of his upset win. He knocked out Gatti next, before cashing in and getting a fight with Mayweather – which he predictably lost late in the year.
Still, Baldomir is strong, he is close to his prime and, unlike Forrest, he is healthy.
Look for the Argentine to pound the American in a fight that would have been better two years ago.
Baldomir by unanimous decision.


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