“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.”
- Verbal Kint, The Usual Suspects
The most anticipated fight of the year came and went in the blink of an eye (or should I say, with one well-placed shot to the liver). If you’re as passionate about the sport as I am, you’ve probably spent the past couple of days perusing the internet for any and every article you can find on the subject. In the time that’s passed since Hopkins’ ninth round knockout victory over De La Hoya, I’ve read several opinions from my colleagues on what transpired. Now since I’ve never taken any type of formal journalism class and I don’t belong to the Boxing Writers Guild of America, I use the word “colleagues” loosely. Just had to clear that up before anyone out there started thinking that I was some type of “expert” on boxing. After all, you may find an occasional misspelling, punctuation, or grammar error in my writing so obviously I can’t know too much about boxing (as if you won’t find any mistakes in anyone else’s stories). However, I DO work in the industry, I DO posses the ability to read AND write, and most importantly, I DO have an opinion…just like everyone else. After all, once you’ve thrown out the verbose and ostentatious dribble surrounding the facts (if you can actually find any), an opinion is all you really end up with anyway.“It wouldn't shock me to see De La Hoya take a knee from a body shot, but his heart won't keep him down there for long. However, I think eventually, someone - whether it's his trainer, his dad, his wife, the ref, or Oscar himself - will end up calling a halt to this one. Hopkins TKO9!”
– The Hype, September 16, 2004
Prophetic words, if I do say so myself. Well…maybe not. I did say he would get up from that body shot. Okay, okay…I shouldn’t be so sarcastic and I certainly shouldn’t gloat (but I do have to gloat a little since I haven’t received any emails from those same individuals who said I was “swapping spit with Hopkins”). I’d be lying if I told you that it doesn’t feel good to be right…because quite honestly, IT DOES! But I’d also be lying if I told you I knew exactly what was going to happen. Obviously, when it comes to boxing, you can NEVER know exactly what’s going to happen. One shot to the chin (or the liver for that matter) can change everything. However, when it comes to making that crucial decision on who you think is going to win the fight, I think it’s important for everyone (including the “experts”) to consider the facts. Take into account all of the advantages and disadvantages before you go sticking your foot in your mouth. If we can just put our personal likes (and dislikes for that matter) aside, perhaps we can all open our eyes and start seeing things for what they are…instead of being told what they should be.
Since the final blow that ended the fight this past Saturday, I’ve heard and read several different spins on what happened…everything from “Oscar quit” to “Oscar deserves props”. Indeed, there are a lot of interesting stories floating around, but there’s only one story that needs to be told: Bernard Hopkins is a great fighter! But that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, should it? Well, if you’ve been listening to HBO’s commentating crew for the past couple of years, you were probably shocked to see Bernard stay on the outside and box…you were probably concerned to see Oscar eating those quick straight rights…you were probably stunned to see Oscar lying on the canvas in pain. But how could this be? You were told that Hopkins was a bully who liked to rough people up on the inside (just forget about that Trinidad fight). You were told that De La Hoya had the better hand speed (how exactly do they clock hand speed anyway). You were told that at age 39, Hopkins could turn old overnight (as if he’s Rip Van Winkle). You were told a lot of things, but does that necessarily mean they were true?
Well…I’m only thirty-something so fortunately, my memory serves me a little bit better than someone else who may be twice my age. I guess in this particular case, you could say I have the “age” advantage…hahaha. But seriously, let me tell you about some of the things that I remembered about Hopkins before I made the bold prediction.I remember watching Bernard dismantle opponents very early in his career…convincing several fighters - including Greg Paige, Keith Gray, Mike Sapp, Pedro Marquez, Roy Ritchie, and Joe Lipsey - to hang up the gloves, retire, and never return to the ring. If there’s anyone I missed who should be included in that list, I truly apologize…every man who steps into the squared circle deserves their props.
Speaking of props…props to Simon Brown (who started his career at 140) for “moving up” in weight to face the disputed (since he only had one belt) middleweight champion of the world, Bernard Hopkins (who was still a baby at 33 years old). In fact, props to Felix Trinidad (who also started his career at 140) for “moving up” in weight to face the still disputed (since he only had two belts) middleweight champion of the world, Bernard Hopkins (who was a wide-eyed teenager at 36 years old). And of course, mad props to Oscar De La Hoya (who started his career at 135*) for “moving up” in weight to face the undisputed (now that he finally has three belts) middleweight champion of the world, Bernard Hopkins (who is now an old man at the ripe age of 39).
Okay, obviously I’m being sarcastic again…sometimes I just can’t help it…but really, let’s try to be a little honest here. I mean, “Win, Lose or Robbery, Oscar Deserves Props”…huh? Props for what? For “moving up” in weight to face Hopkins? Please! He didn’t move anywhere in weight…he’s been the same weight for the past three years – 154 pounds. Well…he did put on that extra pound just for Hopkins. The point is, let’s not make something out of nothing here. Oscar didn’t “move” anywhere in weight. Unless my ears have deceived me (which they do from time to time), Oscar was in the “best shape” of his life for this fight. I don’t remember seeing too much body fat on him at the weigh-in. I mean, we’re not talking about a guy who decided to skip over a couple of divisions in hopes of immediately challenging a dangerous opponent (a la Shane Mosley). We’re talking about a guy who gained weight and size naturally, and then decided to ask a dangerous opponent to lose a couple of pounds to fight him at a lower weight. Does anyone really believe that he can still make 147 pounds? I’m sorry, but he doesn’t deserve any props for fighting Hopkins, at least no more props than anyone else who’s fought him. I don’t remember all of these props when Trinidad fought him 3 years ago…and I certainly don’t remember all of these props when Simon Brown fought him. If you’re going to give props, give props to Hopkins, the undisputed middleweight champion with three belts, for taking the short money to fight a guy that you all should have known he was already better than. Give props to Hopkins for finding just a little more weight to lose despite already being ripped at 160. Give props to Hopkins for fooling the “experts” into thinking he was going to chase after De La Hoya and try to muscle him around, when in actuality, he did just the opposite. But I digress…just had to get that off my chest.I remember watching Hopkins in a real chess match against Roy Jones Jr. That was a very difficult fight for Hopkins as he was facing one of the fastest fighters I had ever seen since “Sugar” Ray Leonard. However, despite the blinding speed and cat-like reflexes of Roy, Bernard was extremely competitive in that fight…a lot more competitive than De La Hoya was this past Saturday.
Don’t be fooled by the comments of Jim “Cruise” and Larry “Kidman”, whose eyes were obviously “wide shut” during the majority of that fight. Hopkins was in control of that fight from round one until the paralyzing shot to the liver that left Oscar rolling on the canvas in pain. Oh sure…you may have been fooled into believing it was a “competitive” chess match, but it wasn’t. I tip my hat to Bernard…he’s a great fighter and a fantastic speaker (you can’t buy better quotes). Heck, they may even make a movie about his life one day. One thing’s for sure though, he won’t be playing himself...I know bad acting when I see it. He carried Oscar through that fight. Yep…I said it…he carried him. Hopkins was never pressured in that fight…he was never in any danger. In fact, since we’re talking about Hopkins, I’ll go out on a limb myself and say that Hopkins probably could have turned up the heat and ended the fight a lot sooner than he did. Don’t believe me? That’s cool…like I said, I’m no “expert” (but I do point out some pretty good facts)...but if you haven’t already, go watch the fight again. Then when you’re done…go watch the Trinidad fight. See the difference? If you don’t, just look at the compubox numbers from both fights (if you actually believe those numbers have any meaning…after all, you should since you’ve been told they do). Hopkins fought Trinidad…he cruised with Oscar…plain and simple. If you still don’t understand where I’m coming from, feel free to shoot me an email about it and we can really break it down. For now, I must move on. I remember watching Bernard Hopkins dismantle Felix Trinidad, both mentally and physically. He put on a masterful display of boxing skills that most “experts” never even knew he had. Everyone assumed he would brawl on the inside (after all, he is a “Philly” fighter), but instead he stayed on the outside and threw crisp, accurate combinations that befuddled the Puerto Rican superstar.
It’s no secret that Hopkins can box…at least it shouldn’t be. Did anyone else bother to watch the Hopkins-Trinidad fight? Apparently not, as we were constantly told that De La Hoya was going to stay on the outside while Hopkins desperately tries to get on the inside to bang. Did anyone stop to think what would happen if Bernard stayed on the outside and boxed like he did with Trinidad? Was that not a feasible scenario of how the fight might develop? Of course not…because the “experts” told us how the fight would unfold…just like Hagler-Leonard. SUCKERS! Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me! And shame on all of you “experts”…and you know who you are…who picked De La Hoya to win or for even thinking this fight was (or would be) competitive. You should have known better! You’ve been in the game a lot longer than me…you’ve been around greatness, and yet, you couldn’t even see it (or just refused to admit it) even when it was right before your own eyes.
Now, I’m a realist…I know that no matter what I say, there will still be some of you who refuse to admit how good Bernard Hopkins really is. That’s cool…I’m already expecting to see the “you’re swingin’ from his jock” emails. It’s all good…that’s your opinion. But at the very least, I do hope you can take something meaningful away from this article. The “experts”, including myself, aren’t always right (but man, you gotta admit that TKO9 prediction was pretty darn good…I mean, I even called the body shot…hahaha), so don’t always listen to us. Keep an open mind and judge with your own eyes. Just because you don’t move up in weight, it doesn’t mean that you’re not a great boxer! And just because you don’t take the amount of money you’re being told you’re worth, it doesn’t mean that you’re not a great boxer! But most importantly, just because the “experts” say so, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily correct!
So while some “experts” spent their Sunday afternoon watching football, eating humble pie and preparing to write their rough drafts (see…I know a little bit about writing) on what went wrong, Hopkins’ legacy, De La Hoya’s courage, blah, blah, blah…this writer simply sat back as a fan and waited to read what their opinion was…because after all, it’s just their opinion. So before you run off and bet your life savings because of something the “experts” said, just make sure you’ve formed your own opinion based on the facts…just the facts!
(* No, “colleagues”, that’s not a mistake…I haven’t forgotten about those early fights – against the likes of Paris Alexander, Curtis Strong, and Jeff Mayweather – when he was still floating around 135 pounds before he decided to shed the extra pounds and move down in weight to face the rough and rugged Jimmy Bredahl and Giorgio Campanella)
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