Boxing

After Wright Who's Left?: Will This Be The 'Executioners' Last Meal?

bernard hopkins05.06.07 - By Vivek Wallace: At age 42, the phenomenon known to us as Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins will set out to climb yet another mountain in what could be the last time we see him enter the great 'blue abyss'. For Hopkins it's been a long journey getting to this point in a career that has seen many twist, and even more subplots. An enigma of sorts, there's many thoughts that come to mind about a man who to some is easy to read, yet to most very hard to understand. The chronicles of his life speak his spirit, and the words off of his tongue tell his tale.

If asked to describe him, we know there are many things he 'is', but particularly one thing we know he isn't, and perhaps never will be. That one thing we know he isn't is afraid.......Afraid to stare directly in the eyes of any obstacle and dare it withstand his wrath.

Obstacle is the operative word because from day one that's what Hopkins has had to encounter. Everything from suffering a collapsed lung at age 13 in a street stabbing, to spending time in the penitentiary, every step of the way Hopkins has had to elevate his game to rise to the top and the sport of Boxing as been no different.

On October 11, 1988 Bernard Hopkins stepped in the ring for the first time against Clinton Mitchell and tasted defeat in his first ever pro fight in Atlantic City, New Jersey. How did he respond to this adversity?, by ripping apart the next twenty-two opponents that stood across from him. Feeling good about himself and eager to gauge his skill level against the man viewed to be the most skilled fighter in the sport at the time, on May 22, 1993 Hopkins took on Roy Jones Jr.

After losing a hard fought 12 round unanimous decision, how did Hopkins respond to this adversity?, by tearing apart his next twenty-four opponents over an 11 year span which included the iconic Felix Trinidad and boxing's Goldenboy, Oscar Dela Hoya. Within those twenty-four fights, he recorded a record 20 straight title defenses.

After his 20th straight title defense against Howard Eastman he took on the young and restless Jermain Taylor who came into the match as the new Middleweight 'stallion'. Taylor would go on to defeat Hopkins in a somewhat questionable decision, then a bit more decisively in a rematch which appeared to signal the end of an era that displayed 'grit' to the fullest. Just when it appeared that all the chips were stacked up against Hopkins and there was nothing else he could do to step away from the shadow of 20 straight defenses, what did Hopkins do to elevate above this adversity? He took his act to a whole new level....literally by moving up in weight and challenging the self proclaimed 'Legend Killer' Antonio Tarver in the light heavyweight division. Moving up 15lbs in weight never seemed so easy as the "Executioner" thoroughly disengaged and dismantled the well outspoken Tarver, even making him kiss the canvas once in the 5th round.

On July 21 in Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay, Bernard Hopkins will set out to solidify his position in the sport of boxing by taking on one of, if not 'the' premiere defender of our times in the sport of boxing. In the eyes of many this could be a mountain with terrain simply too tough for the aged Hopkins but if the past is any indication, Winky may have appeared at precisely the 'Wright' time.

At this point there's no way to tell what the headlines will read on the morning of July 22, but if Hopkins does emerge as the victor, it will be after 'executing' what should be his final victim. In a sport that has seen few men walk away for good on the heels of a victory, if Hopkins can elevate above this obstacle like he has so many others - looking at what's on the horizon - there will be nothing left to conquer. Or will it?

A Roy Jones Jr rematch has lost it's luster among the fans around the globe. A Tarver rematch is not even worth discussing. Tarver recently attempted damage control as he went on record saying that he was poisoned before his fight with Hopkins which was enough in itself to leave us all with a belly ache of our own. (Guess he was too poisoned to remember to ask for a rematch). There are plenty other names to throw in the hat but at age 42, Hopkins shouldn't (and presumably won't) attempt to chase them all.

Based on this, win lose or draw, I say to fight fans domestic and abroad that this will be a very bitter-sweet night for the simple fact that it's always great to see such a great athlete perform, but when it's over, this is one we may never see lace them up again. His supremacy in the sport started at age 9 as the State of Pennsylvania's Junior Olympic Champion and could culminate at age 42 as one of the sports most acclaimed acts. Not bad for a guy who started from nothing. That's something!

Article posted on 05.06.2007



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