Hopkins Vs Jones: A Senior Moment at The Fights!

Harold BellContributor IIIApril 1, 2010

When I was a youngster growing up in Washington, DC there was an over the counter bottle of pick-me-up medicine called Geritol. It was designed for men and women in the twilight years of their lives. Geritol was thought by those who were 40 and over if they took a couple of spoons it would make them the Energizer Bunny in the bedroom. Geritol was the Viagra in the 60s and 70s.

The two new poster boys for Geritol are Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones.

I was at ringside when Bernard Hopkins faced off with Roy Jones Jr. at RFK Stadium on May 22, 1993 in Washington, DC. The two soon to be boxing legends fought for the vacant IBF Middleweight title. 

The stadium seated 49,000 and there were less than 5,000 fans on hand for a forgettable performance by both fighters. 

Roy was awarded a unanimous decision but from my seat at ringside the judges could have easily made the same decision and given it to Bernard. I would not have blinked. It was definitely not a fight to rival Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns. I had seen better fights at the Girls & Boys Clubs located in walking distant of RFK Stadium.

It is hard to believe that these two great fighters let their egos, politics; unscrupulous promoters and being “The Man” cheat fight fans out of a rivalry for the ages. Seventeen years later their entourage is now made up of paramedics from any nearby hospital in the city of the fight. Arthur aka arthritis is a constant companion that follows them from their bedroom to the ring. Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is lurking around for the next weight-in.

If Geritol was still on the market Roy and Bernard would be the idea spokespersons. Bernard is closer to 50 then to 40 and Roy is only a few years younger. 

I am really at a loss trying to figure out who would pay to see these two “Geritol Warriors” from back in the day. It is too bad old blue eyes Frank Sinatra is not here to sing the National Anthem; he would be 95 years old this year and he would feel right at home at the fight.

If the promoters find ticket sales a little slow they could lure boxing fans by offering the first 5,000 arriving in wheelchairs free admission. The fight game is in critical condition if this is its biggest 2010 attraction.

The fight in DC left Bernard with some bitter memories it was his first big payday. On paper his share of the purse was to be $700,000. The thieves in his entourage took theirs off the top and after taxes he received $50,000.  In 1993 Bernard, “Was not as smart as a fifth grader.”

This was one shortfall he could not blame on Don King. The truth would come out in Federal Court—it was there he learned that Don was not the only unscrupulous promoter lurking in the corners of boxing rings.

It rained all day on May 22, 1993 and the bad weather was partly responsible for the poor turnout and you can add the worst boxing Commissioner in DC boxing history, Cora Master Barry. She would later be convicted of stealing from the commission. Cora’s boxing hero—Don King.

I had the opportunity to watch Bernard up close and up personal since 1993 without the pom-poms. In 1995 he returned to Washington, DC to fight Segundo Mercado in a return match at the Capitol Centre in Landover, Maryland. The first fight was held in Mercado’s hometown of Quinto in Ecuador. Mercado knocked Bernard down twice in that fight but he picked himself up off the canvas to rally and held on for a draw. 

This fight marked the only time in Bernard’s career he had been knocked off of his feet. The IBF scheduled a rematch in Landover, Maryland at the Capitol Centre. Bernard would win his first world title with a seventh-round technical knockout over Mercado. In November 1997 he returned to the DC area to out box Andrew Council in 12 rounds to retain his IBF middleweight title in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

Bernard Hopkins has been a nightmare for homegrown DC boxers. His nickname “The Executioner” is a familiar name to several boxers from the area. He clearly executed their careers in the ring. They thought their do-do didn’t stink. The names include, Council, William Joppy, Simon Brown and Keith Holmes.

Bernard Hopkins has been a true ring warrior. He has defended his title 20 times in the past two decades. This makes him truly “The Iron Man” of boxing. I find it difficult to believe that Bernard would ever duck anyone who wanted to fight him (in or out of the ring). There are some brothers you can take out of the ghetto but you can’t take the ghetto out of them and Bernard is one of them.

In the meantime, Roy Jones has been called the best all-around pound for pound fighter ever. In my humble opinion Roy was nobody’s Sugar Ray Robinson, but his accomplishments are not to be overlooked.

In Roy’s first title defense he defeated Steve Frank, whom he stopped in 24 seconds of the first round. By the end of 2000, he had defended his IBF title 12 times without a loss.

He is one of the most unique champions of all time. Roy was a decent basketball player and played for pay while still boxing. When he fought Eric Lucas a future world champion, he became the first athlete to participate in a paid basketball game and a boxing event on the same day. In Jacksonville, Florida he played a game in the morning and defended his title that same evening.  

Roy the showman never missed a trick or opportunity to be different. He held a press conference in the ring just before he fought Bryant Brannon. He started the press conference by taking questions while sitting in his own chair in the middle of the ring. He then defeated Brannon in two rounds on a TKO.

He topped that by having a group of dancers the famous “New York City Rockettes” lead him into the ring before a championship fight. Roy is also a rap recording artist. In 2001, he released Round One: The Album on CD.

During this time in his career, Roy was considered one of boxing's top four "pound for pound" fighters. In November of 1994 he met IBF super middleweight champion, the undefeated James Toney the No. 1 ranked member of the "pound for pound" contenders. They met in Las Vegas— Roy was on the top of his game when he dropped Toney in round three. He secured an easy unanimous decision to win the IBF super middleweight title. He then moved to the top of the pound for pound ladder in boxing.

I think his most remarkable ring accomplishment was moving up the ranks from middleweight to the heavyweight division. 

On March 1, 2003, in Las Vegas, Roy defeated John Ruiz with a 12-round unanimous decision for the WBA heavyweight championship. Roy weighed in at 193 pounds and Ruiz at 226 pounds. Roy became the first former middleweight title holder to win a heavyweight title in 106 years. He also became the second man in history to advance from the Middleweight to the Heavyweight Championship. Roy is the first fighter to start his career as a junior middleweight and win a heavyweight title.  

He proved he “Was smarter then a 5th grader.” He knew going into the fight that Ruiz was a bum and had no chance of beating him. After the fight, Roy decided to keep campaigning as a light heavyweight. He eventually gave up the WBA heavyweight title without ever defending it. This move made Roy the first heavyweight champion since Rocky Marciano to retire undefeated.

The two legends have one thing in common they both march to their own drum beat and their careers have not been without controversy. 

Bernard is an ex-convict who went from the “Outhouse to the Penthouse” in the world of boxing. He owes much of his success to his loyal friend and boxing trainer Bowie Fisher. Bowie was looking out for Bernard when he could not lookout for himself. 

I was up close and personal when Sugar Ray Leonard kicked his long time trainer Dave Jacobs to curve over a money dispute, but I was in a position to convince Ray to re-hire him. Dave Jacobs could not carry Bowie’s jockey strap as a trainer and fight technician but Bowie didn’t have anyone to plea his dismissal.

Success and new money has it drawbacks in the black community. Loyalty is a word that is only whispered among former associates and friends in the inner-city. You would think that most successful black athletes had money before they ever met the goose who laid the Golden Egg (Boxing, NBA, NFL and MLB). Meet Bernard Hopkins.

When Bowie Fisher asked for his Fair share Bernard told him “Hit the road Jack and don’t look back.”

Bernard then turns around and makes a deal with the “Devil” to promote his fights, the notorious Don King.  He knew going in that Don had been accused by almost every fighter he has represented for theft. Don King Productions Inc. had become so familiar in Federal Courts of America he was allowed to enter the courthouses without going through the metal detectors. Bernard is more like Don King than he cares to think.

The relationship eventually soured as many thought it would. During that period I would see Bernard and I would ask him why Don King Productions, Inc? His response, “It is just a matter of time and I am out of here.”

During the promotion for the Trinidad fight there was more controversy when he threw the Puerto Rican flag on the floor in press conferences in New York and Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico he had to run for his life to avoid a good ass whipping from an angry mob. Bernard caused more controversy when he bet $1,000,000 on himself to win the bout. 

The New York City showdown would unify the middleweight division. The fight was a classic Bernard Hopkins Clinic. I didn’t have Trinidad winning a round when the fight was stopped in the 12th round.

It was now Don King time when the decision was announced in the ring Bernard said, “Goodbye Don King.”

The victory over Trinidad made Bernard the first undisputed world middleweight champion since Marvin Hagler in 1987. Controversy has been no stranger to Roy Jones; for example in 2004 after beating James Toney a man called the best pound for pound fighter in the world. He celebrated his win in Nassau, Bahamas by being arrested for being armed and dangerous at the airport. His three fights with Antonio Tarver left a lot of questions. Tarver took two out of three and Roy still declared he was the best in the world.

Roy returned to HBO to continue his role as an analyst for its World Championship Boxing series. He called the Floyd Mayweather Jr vs Shamba Mitchell mismatch and the Jermain Taylor vs Bernard Hopkins rematch on December 3, 2005. His return to the network was short lived, he was fired from his ringside analyst role in January 2006. HBO cited his reported lack of commitment to attending the network’s production meetings.  He probably forgot about the meetings.

Don’t be surprised if Bernard and Roy both are no-shows. It is possible they can have a senior moment and forget they are supposed to fight.