I guess we shouldn't bat our eyelashes at anything in boxing anymore, but I was appalled by Bernard Hopkins' decision to play the race card against Manny Pacquiao in a recent interview where he arbitrarily decided that Pacquiao would lose to an "inner city" black fighter.
Find me one inner city African-American fighter who can even beat one of Pacquiao's recent opponents, and we might begin to have an intelligent discussion, Bernard.
I think we all realize that Bernard Hopkins is desperately seeking to maintain his relevance among fight fans at the age of 45, and he is also trying to secure a fight for good friend Shane Mosley, but enough already!
When did it become acceptable for a black boxer to stereotype all black boxers, and then use this as bait to secure an unworthy opponent a match against a widely-respected champion who is also considered a minority in this country?
Because that's exactly what Hopkins is doing.
He then had the audacity to suggest (according to the ESPN article) that he was voicing what other black fighters and fight fans were thinking but reluctant to say. When someone mentioned that Pacquiao's second most recent fight was against Joshua Clottey - a black fighter who was born in Accra, Ghana, but now lives in Bronx, New York - Hopkins decided that "Clottey is 'black', but not a 'black boxer' from the states with a slick style."
Here's what I'm thinking and not reluctant to say: find me this mythical "black boxer" who is capable of giving Pacquiao problems. There is only one who is capable of beating Manny Pacquiao right now, and his name is Floyd Mayweather. By the way he's been ducking Pacquiao lately, it doesn't seem like Floyd feels quite as confident as Hopkins does about Mayweather's chances with Pacquiao.
Seriously: I'm sure most American fight fans would be chomping at the bit to see anyone who fits that description step into the ring with the Pac Man.
We've been clamoring for years about Floyd Mayweather, but nothing has come of it.
Timothy Bradley or Devon Alexander? I am a huge fan of Bradley, and I think January's fight against Devon Alexander could determine one of the better candidates to face Pacquiao down the line, but neither of them are in Pacquiao's league right now, and unlike most of Pacuqiao's recent opponents, they don't even have a size advantage. And who's to say that the winner of the Amir Khan vs. Marcos Maidana matchup wouldn't be just as qualified as the winner of Bradley-Alexander?
Paul Williams? Aside from Mayweather, he's maybe the best "black boxer" candidate, but he can't be described as having a particularly "slick style," (awkward and persistent, maybe). He wasn't even the slickest man in the ring in either of his fights with Argentina's Sergio Martinez, and his second round knockout loss to Martinez is hardly the resume-builder he needed to earn a match with the number one boxer in the world.
How about Shane Mosley?
So then we come to the person that this is really all about: "Sugar" Shane Mosley. I like Shane Mosley. I really do. I cheered for him against De La Hoya, I cheered for him against Mayweather, and I cheered for him against Margarito. Shane is a fellow Californian, a genuine good-guy in boxing, and one of the classiest people in the sport. Shane would make my short list of guys who deserve to fight anyone in the world, just based upon Shane's contributions to the sport, which may even outnumber Hopkins'.
Speaking of Hopkins, Shane Mosley also joins Bernard in a club far more exclusive than the arbitrary league of "black" boxers: he's one of the few boxers over the age of 38 who is still a remotely legitimate fighter on the world stage.
How exclusive is this club? Roy Jones, Jr. hasn't fooled any of us lately, so it's pretty much down to four guys: Vitali Klitschko, Evander Holyfield, Bernard Hopkins, and Shane Mosley. But Mosley has been showing his age lately too, and that's why I think a fight with Pacquiao wouldn't be a good option.
After he couldn't score a knockdown or a win over Sergio Mora, and barely even challenged Mayweather, I don't think he'd stand a chance against Pacquiao.
Sure, he pummeled Margarito, perhaps even better than Pacquiao did, but that was two years ago immediately after Margarito had just been caught with plaster handwraps, and the Mexican was probably fearing a suspension. Mosley hasn't gotten any younger since that fight. In fact, he hasn't won since then.
Who deserves to be Pacquiao's next opponent?
Mosley lost to Mayweather, and then he drew an underwhelming fight (that probably should have gone his way) against virtual nobody Sergio Mora. While it's true that Pacquiao is no stranger to facing guys Mayweather has beaten, both of those times were special circumstances that saw Pacquiao stepping into uncharted waters.
Pacquiao's wins over Hatton and De La Hoya were both fights where we saw Pacquiao stepping up into a new weight class against one of the top two fighters in that weight division. Mosley doesn't fit that description.
Why A Fight With Mosley Won't Put An End To Unnecessary Criticism of Pacquiao
After winning titles in 8 divisions, it's hard to believe that people can still criticize Pacquiao for much of anything. He has looked dominant in the past two plus years against anyone who has dared step into the ring with him. Yet there are still some criticisms, as far-fetched as they may be, that Pacquiao wouldn't be addressing with a fight against Mosley.
Criticism 1: Pacquiao's big wins are against guys Mayweather has already beaten. Shane fails this test.
Criticism 2: Pacquiao's opponents are usually just coming off of a debilitating loss. This is a surprisingly persistent and compelling one. Hatton was, De La Hoya arguably was, Cotto, Margarito, Clottey all were as well. Shane would be yet another recently-felled fighter that Pacquiao would be coming in to finish off.
Criticism 3: Pacquiao isn't fighting the top fighters in the sport. I think this one is very debatable. Pacquiao has taken on pretty much everyone, and looked good doing so. A lot of times, we decide these fighters are washed up after Pacquiao beats them, not beforehand. But Mosley would just continue this trend. He has now dropped out of Ring Magazine's Pound-for-Pound rankings, probably for good, and since March 2007, he has only beaten two guys - a beleaguered Margarito and a shot Ricardo Mayorga.
Even without Mayweather, there are several better options for Pacquiao than Shane Mosley
Until Mayweather decides to step up to the plate, Pacquiao and his promoters are in the unenviable position of having to pick crowd-pleasing fights out of a bunch of leftovers. Still, there are several options on the table that I think would be more compelling than a Mosley matchup.
Sergio Martinez or Paul Williams - These are some of the other top 10 fighters in the world, and they're both riding high after their high-profile series of fights. Both Martinez and Williams (especially Williams) are capable of coming down in weight, and would pose a more interesting challenge for Pacquiao, who is decidedly smaller than them. Despite his big loss, Williams would be a dangerous, but particularly interesting bout for Pacquiao.
Juan Manuel Marquez - Marquez is the sole remaining blight on Pacquiao's record, as both fights with the Mexican warrior have been difficult for Pacquiao. Marquez is also getting up in years, but has aged arguably better than Mosley, and if he beats Michael Katsidis, he will be coming off two consecutive wins. Nacho Beristain's fighters age better than most, and Marquez is perhaps the most shining example of this. It would also let Pacquiao move back down in weight, which he has seemed interested in doing.
Timothy Bradley, Devon Alexander, Amir Khan, Marcos Maidana or Andre Berto - I'm not saying all of these would be preferable to a bout with Mosley, but it might be nice to see Pacquiao step into the ring against a relatively-unproven fighter who is on the upswing of his career. It would certainly dispel the myth of him only beating guys who just suffered a big loss, and it would help some new young talent make their way into the mainstream.
Bradley or Alexander have a big bout in January, and depending on how they look, one of them could be the next "slick, black fighter" that American fight fans could rally behind.
Khan is a Freddie Roach-trained fighter who sparred well against Pacquiao in the lead-up to the Margarito fight, and he has tremendous speed and boxing talent.
Maidana, if he beat Khan in their upcoming bout, would be a very viable opponent with some interesting X-factors against Pacquiao.
Finally, there's Andre Berto, who has built a following beating quality guys, but will be facing off with a lackluster opponent in Freddy Hernandez this weekend. It pains me to think that Berto could deserve a fight with Pacquiao, but he is a welterweight, and at least there are things we don't yet know about him. That would at least add some interest to a Pacquiao fight. (Honestly, I think Mosley-Pacquiao would be better than Berto, but not by a huge margin).
So Why Would Hopkins Say Something So Stupid?
I think most of us have already found the answers.
1. Hopkins wants publicity for his fight with Jean Pascal.
2. Hopkins and Mosley are both partners in Golden Boy Entertainment, who would make millions from a Mosley-Pacquiao fight.
3. Hopkins wants to help the career of fellow aging legend "Sugar" Shane Mosley.
Hopkins, like many of us, doesn't legitimately believe that it really has anything to do with race. He may be old, but he's no Gil Scott-Heron, and he doesn't have a particular racial axe to grind. No, it has to do with two things: money and "Money." Hopkins stands to gain a lot from a Mosley matchup, and he stands to gain a lot by injecting himself in to the Pacquiao-Mayweather showdown.
So congratulations, Bernard, you got your publicity, but for the sake of boxing fans, hopefully you don't get your wish of a Pacquiao-Mosley showdown. I genuinely respect Shane Mosley, but I don't think Hopkins deserves to make a penny off of his classless, racially-tinged, unnecessary remarks.
We'll find out if he still deserves to make money as a boxer when he squares off against Jean Pascal in December, and hopefully we can put this tired race-baiting strategy to rest.