Bernard Hopkins just broke the record for oldest world champion in the sport of boxing at the age of 46 by defeating Jean Pascal by unanimous decision this Saturday night.
It seems many hardcore boxing fans, the boxing media and even athletes from other sports are all giving Hopkins praise for his record win, breaking the mark previously held by George Foreman.
Do not get me wrong—all props and recognition are due to Hopkins, who did indeed deserve the win and the notoriety for breaking such an impressive record.
However, if we were to take a closer look at Hopkins' career and accomplishments with a very honest, objective eye, we would have to acknowledge that it is more so because of the lack of decent champions and competition within Hopkins' weight classes, from middleweight to light heavyweight. Combined with his very safe, smart, economical fighting style, this has enabled Hopkins to be so successful and prevail well into his late 40s.
First off, if we should give Hopkins praise, it should be for taking such great care of his body and health. Eating only the healthiest diet and abstaining from drugs, alcohol, partying and even junk food and desserts for his entire professional career, Hopkins is always in top condition, even between fights.
This should be the most truly inspiring thing about Hopkins that a fan should look up to and be inspired by.
Now if we are to take a quick look at his time in the middleweight class, where he spent the vast majority of his long career, we see he has an impressive record there, as well as 20 defenses of his 160-lb. title. This is without a doubt impressive to see he defended his title an amazing 20 times.
Unfortunately, if you were to ask the casual fans that make up the masses to name three of the fighters he had his 20 middleweight title defenses against and offer a $100 prize, you would surely still have that $100 safe and secure in your wallet, because the truth is the average person could not name three, two or even one.
The reason is Hopkins ruled over the weakest middleweight division of no-named, poor to mediocre fighters of all time. Two names that a casual fan could possibly name would be former superstar welterweight champions Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya, but again, the key word here is "welterweight." For those of you who do not know, welterweight is a weight class of 147 lbs., while again middleweight is 160 lbs.
Then, as we know, Hopkins finally made the jump up to light heavyweight, which is 175 lbs. (a weight class that he is more naturally suited to be in) to take on the biggest name of that weight class, Antonio Tarver. Hopkins put on a surprisingly more action-packed performance, outclassing Tarver and easily winning a unanimous decision. Tarver was clearly not the same fighter, for he looked extremely sluggish and never seemed to even be in the fight, as if he was completely high on some extremely potent weed.
Tarver was in such horrible condition and put on the worst performance of his life that night probably because he was fresh off the set of starring in Rocky Balboa and did not properly train; he underestimated the 40-something Hopkins, who had just suffered back-to-back losses to Jermain Taylor.
Is it Hopkins' fault that Tarver was never in the fight that night? No, of course not. In fact, Hopkins for the first time in his career looked very fresh and energized, and I credit his new trainer Nazim Richardson for that performance.
Hopkins then went on to fight defensive wizard and former top pound-for-pound fighter Winky Wright at light heavyweight. Wright fought the majority of his career at 154 lbs., so to fight at 175 lbs. for the first time of his career against a much bigger and taller Hopkins does not even say much at all. Winky lost that fight in a very ugly, dirty, boring, close fight that many saw as a draw or even Winky winning by a few rounds.
Hopkins then went on to fight Joe Calzaghe, the former 168-lb. lineal champion at light heavyweight. Hopkins surprisingly held his own in the beginning of the fight, where he is notoriously known to give away the majority of the rounds. As the fight went on, Calzaghe's aggression, high pressure and volume style was too much for Hopkins, as he took many blatant breaks and faked fouls and injuries to buy himself time. Hopkins eventually lost a close split decision to Calzaghe, who pretty much won on having superior endurance and stamina.
Bernard then fought the undefeated middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik at 170 lbs. Hopkins thoroughly outclassed Pavlik by pretty much turning and not standing toe to toe with him. Along with the Tarver fight, these were probably the two most decent fights entertainment-wise, for he fought them both throwing a decent number of punches instead of his usual holding, hugging, head-butting, testicle-punching, running away and turning his back to his opponent style.
After his big win over an exposed Pavlik, Hopkins went back to his very boring and dirty ways fighting Enrique Ornealas, plus a long overdue rematch with Roy Jones that was so horrendously bad that it proved to be expired.
His fight with Jones was so bad for he was faking injuries and fouls, crying to the referee to buy time multiple times so that Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer even told him to retire that night.
Then, of course, most recently Hopkins fought light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal twice. Hopkins lost the majority of the first fight, getting knocked down twice, but took over the fight in the second half due to Pascal's extreme stamina problems, causing a highly controversial draw.
The second fight was pretty much a carbon copy of the first, with Hopkins giving away the early rounds but this time not getting knocked down and dominating the finished Pascal in the last five or six rounds.
So taking this quick look at Hopkins' career, it is of course impressive, especially the fact that he is now in his late 40s still winning against the champions and elite of his weight classes. But again, these champions and elite are not all that good; they are, in fact, quite pathetic.
Is this Hopkins' fault? No, it is not, but what is Hopkins' fault is the fact that he is boring. Again, he fights in a very safe, cautious uneventful manner that puts off many of the casual fans of the sport of boxing.
I will go as far as saying it is because of Bernard Hopkins that many boxing fans jumped ship to UFC and MMA. The casual fans see Hopkins keep winning at his age of 46, and it tells them that this is how sad the current champions and elite of the sport are that a 46-year-old is still beating them all.
When you compare Hopkins to Manny Pacquiao, of course, it is night and day, and it is not comparing apples to apples for so many reasons that I won't go into, but it is the way Pacquiao fights and beats his opponents that makes the difference.
Many criticize Pacquiao for many things, such as the contracted catch-weights, for example. But at the end of the day the fans just want to be entertained. They want excitement and action. Despite Pacquiao's criticisms, he always puts on an exciting fight as best as he can for the fans, and he either knocks out his opponents or beats them down so badly that it is without question who won his fights.
Hopkins, on the other hand, often finds himself in close decisions or even in close losses because he does barely enough to win, and that's not what the fans want to see. They want to see knockouts or a fighter beating the living crap out of his opponent so we do not have to do math at the end of 36 minutes.
This is why if you ask the average person at your local mall who Pacquiao is, they will most likely know who he is and say he is the man. If you ask the average person at your local mall who Bernard Hopkins is, they will ask, WHO?
The same goes with Floyd Mayweather. Even though many criticize him, deep down inside they know he is the man and the best at what he does. He, just like Hopkins, fights in a very defensive-minded technical manner, but the difference is he does it so much better, so much cleaner and so much more effective than Hopkins does.
Mayweather, just like Hopkins, takes about the first round or two to figure out his opponents, and once he does, it's curtains for them. Floyd either breaks them down to a late stoppage or just schools the hell out of them, winning every single round with ease without even getting hit.
Again, this differs from Hopkins because Mayweather is so effective and precise that even a casual fan knows he is clearly winning every single round, unlike Hopkins, who fights very dirty and sloppy to a decision that had many rounds that could have gone either way or been scored even.
Just like Pacquiao, if you were to ask your average person in your local mall, they will know who Mayweather is but will look at you funny if you ask them who Bernard Hopkins is.
What is the point I am trying to make? It is this: Several years ago, when I was a punk-ass kid growing up in Chicago, it was inevitable one would get into fights. The more fights you won would obviously enhance your reputation and even prevent you from further fights for people will learn not to mess with you.
But one of my mentors back then told me it's not if you beat your opponent, but how you beat them. He would tell me to win fights, but win with finesse.
Now a street fight is obviously much different from a sanctioned professional boxing match, but it basically comes down to the same thing. You can be pushing 50 like Hopkins and keep winning belts and accomplishing the star, sun and the moon, but if you are winning in a very boring, ugly, sloppy manner, then the people will not care or even take notice.
Do the masses care that Hopkins just became the oldest world title boxing champion ever? Do they even know who the hell Hopkins is? I bet you they do not. Outside of the hardcore boxing fans or boxing media, many do not.
So again, it's not if you win—it's how you win. That is why we still long for a Mike Tyson type of fighter to deliver us from this horrendous state of boxing.
Again, be inspired by Bernard Hopkins for taking such great care of himself by living such a clean, healthy lifestyle and still being able to win at the age of 46—just don't be inspired by how boring he fights.
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