ESPN Body Issue 2014: Final Reaction to Latest Magazine Spectacle

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJuly 12, 2014

In this April 10, 2014 photo, IBF light heavyweight boxing champion Bernard Hopkins works a speed bag during a media workout in Philadelphia. Hopkins will attempt to become the oldest fighter in boxing history to unify world titles when he opposes WBA champion Beibut Shumenov April 19th at the DC Armory. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Matt Rourke/Associated Press

With ESPN The Magazine's "The Body Issue" having officially hit shelves, sports fans and interested observers alike can now catch a glimpse of the world's greatest athletes in their natural state.

Every athlete in the magazine possesses tools that help them excel at their respective crafts. No two athletes look exactly the same, which underscores the fact that everyone reaches the top of their sporting profession in different ways.

"The Body Issue" celebrates that and also promotes being comfortable in your own skin. It might be easier for a well-toned athlete to bare it all than it would be for an average person, but the message conveyed is one of confidence and self-worth, which is largely positive.

With everything related to "The Body Issue" now released publicly across several different mediums, here is a look at some of the athletes who have managed to steal the show.

Bernard Hopkins

Superstar boxer Bernard Hopkins is a rare breed. Most 49-year-old boxers are beaten-down shells of their former selves. Most 49-year-old boxers are long retired, but Hopkins is still going strong and performing as effectively as ever.

He is currently a triple light heavyweight champion, which makes him the oldest boxer to ever win a world title. Hopkins hasn't shown any signs of slowing down as he approaches his 50th birthday, and it is clear why. As seen in this photo courtesy of ESPN The Magazine, "The Executioner" is still in elite physical condition:

Hopkins is a freak of nature, and it is tough to explain his continued run of success. It is almost as if Hopkins is from another planet, which is a notion that he personally embraces, according to Morty Ain of ESPN The Magazine.

I'm an alien. Being able to do what I do in the ring and out of the ring is evidence that I'm not from this world. I'm less than seven months away from being 50 years old and representing a sport that normally has 'young' written all over it. To be where I'm at now—competing against fighters who could be my kids and are half my age—any other reason would be suspect. But I'm not suspect. I am the alien.

Hopkins is a human in reality, but he is a special one at that. Most boxers who are half his age would do anything to be in his condition. There is no telling how much longer he can compete for if he maintains his body and attitude. That has to be a scary thought for up-and-comers in the light heavyweight division.

Venus Williams

With seven career Grand Slam titles to her credit, Venus Williams is unquestionably an all-time great in women's tennis. She is no longer among the top players at the age of 34, but she is still capable of competing with the very best on any given day. Unfortunately for her, medical issues have held her back in recent years.

Williams suffers from an autoimmune disease called Sjogren's syndrome, which can sap her energy and lead to fatigue. Even so, Venus has somehow managed to maintain an incredibly fit body, per this ESPN The Magazine photo:

Although Venus isn't able to push herself as much as she used to due to her condition, she has found a way to cope with it and remain in fantastic shape regardless, according to Ain.

In the past, I would train until I died. Now, because of Sjogren's syndrome, I have to be careful. If I train too hard, then I won't be able to do anything the next day. There would be times when I'd park my car at home and I fell asleep behind the wheel because I was so tired! It's a balance between pushing myself as much as I can and being reasonable about what I can achieve and what my body will tolerate.

Venus pushed Petra Kvitova to the limit at Wimbledon this year, which is notable since Kvitova went on to win the tournament. That could have been Williams' title to win if she had outlasted Kvitova, which bodes well for Venus moving forward.

She may never again be considered an elite player, but she still has more than enough talent to remain in the running even at 34 years of age.

Larry Fitzgerald

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has been one of the best in the business for the past decade. He is arguably the greatest player in the history of the franchise, and he has an opportunity to earn some Hall of Fame consideration when his career is said and done. Much of that is due to the fact that he is simply better than his opponents from a physical perspective on a regular basis.

As evidenced by this photo from ESPN The Magazine, Fitz has a body that NFL defensive backs have been unable to contain for many years:

Fitzgerald obviously puts in a lot of work and goes to great lengths to remain in elite shape. When he works out, though, his only focus is on bettering himself rather than sending a message to his rivals, per Ain.

"I never set out to intimidate the rest of the league with my (offseason) training," Fitzgerald said. "I just want to make sure that I'm getting myself in shape and making sure that I'm ready for the rigors of the year. The guys that are up there with me are doing the same."

Whatever Fitzgerald has been doing over the years certainly seems to be working. His Cards narrowly missed the playoffs last season after improving by leaps and bounds. The expectation in 2014 is to reach the postseason and potentially vie for a spot in the Super Bowl. If Arizona is going to do that, then Fitz will be a huge part of the equation.

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