No one knows what it feels like to compete at the top levels of the sport of boxing, except for those fighters themselves.
If Bernard Hopkins does indeed decide to retire, he can do it with no regret.
He achieved fame, broke records, amazed fans and himself, dedicated himself to excellence, put his money where his mouth was, and above all, he never put himself above the sport. He certainly never put winning at the bargaining table above winning in the ring.
All of those things make him better than Floyd Mayweather Jr. if Floyd retires after the Cotto fight.
Already, fans of Mayweather Jr. are screaming their heads off at the audacity of this statement.
But it’s true.
By Floyd’s definition, an undefeated fighter is the best of all time because numbers don’t lie.
Well, then how do we rank who is better between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and the late, great Rocky Marciano, who died undefeated and saw his name become legend?
The answer is simple: by the quality of their opposition and by the way the conducted themselves in service of the sport.
Make no mistake about it, Floyd Mayweather Jr. has played that trump card before, and now he should be called on it.
He said he came back out of retirement because the sport of boxing needed him.
Well, it did, but not like this. The sport needed him to be fighting three times a year, and it needed him to swallow his pride and work for a fair agreement that would see the mega-bout with Pacquiao made.
What the sport didn’t and doesn’t need is to play second fiddle to the Mayweather Family Circus act, with special guest stars Al Haymon and a cadre of yes-men. It doesn’t need him amusing himself at the sports expense.
Contrast that with the career of Bernard Hopkins.
Very soon, Mayweather Jr. will be going into jail for a short stint, and make no mistake about it, he will act as if he has seen the worst the penal system has to offer.
Bernard Hopkins emerged from prison, having actually done hard time, instead of a lengthy vacation at a country club with bars.
From there, he dedicated himself to become the best he could be, and from there elevated the sport with some incredible performances, stunning the world time and again.
When you look at both men, only Hopkins brought the fight. Mayweather Jr. has given us a lot of hard talk about how he was going to beat someone’s ass until they call him pretty, but what he gave us on fight night was a defensive genius who fought not to lose.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. hasn’t beaten anyone’s ass in a long time.
Hopkins has fought some of the very best, and shockingly enough he enjoyed an upset run in his later years, defeating younger fighters who were poised to be the successors of his generation.
And when it comes to defense-orientated fighters, Hopkins has defeated them as well.
Simply put, if both Hopkins and Mayweather Jr. fought in their primes, and weight was not a consideration, Hopkins would have taken Mayweather Jr. to school and then dismissed him early with the grade of “F.”
Both men were workhorses, and Mayweather Jr. would not enjoy any kind of advantage in the area of cardio. Hopkins would be keeping up with him all the way to the end.
Speed and defense goes to Mayweather Jr., but guile, ring generalship, power and fight savvy all go to Hopkins.
Hopkins would find many ways to make Mayweather Jr. uncomfortable all night long and that would pull “Money” out of his shell, which is something Hopkins was an expert at doing.
But even if you count out this piece of fiction, Hopkins will still be considered the better fighter in the minds and hearts of fight fans, as opposed to boxing fans, because he brought the fight.
If Hopkins had been in Floyd’s shoes, the Pacquiao fight would have already been concluded as a trilogy; that is the big difference between these two men.
Hopkins was a true student of the game who really taught while he fought, learning while he was earning.
Contrast that to Mayweather Jr., who thinks he knows it all and owns it all, and you can see the difference plain as day.
Mayweather Jr. is a man who fought great, where Hopkins is a great fighter.
And that is the difference between champions.