HOPKINS: “The Air Unapparent”

bernard hopkinsBy “Old Yank” Schneider: Imagine yourself in a locked vault with only a limited amount of oxygen to breathe. If you thought someone would open the window long before your air ran out, you would do little to conserve your limited supply. But when no one opens a window, your last full breath won’t end your life, it will only weaken you until your inevitable gasps slowly arrive.

You will not even be cognizant of the inevitable end; your lungs will simply fill with the false hope of nothing but un-breathable air. A career in boxing is too often exactly like that. And at 43 years-old, Bernard “The Oxygen Burner” Hopkins is about to find out that this is the inevitability of his career too. No one is going to open a magic window in the stale-air vault called the career of Bernard Hopkins.

Few use-up more oxygen in a room than Bernard Hopkins. His voice can even be heard over that of a keynote speaker at a convention. He can steal the microphone from anyone’s press conference more quickly then a rottweiler puppy can snatch an ice-cream cone from the fist of a three year-old. His sense of self-importance is so large that he even believes that his racial slurs should unapologetically go unnoticed. But just as quickly as he can consume all the oxygen in the room of a public forum, he has a breathing problem in the ring and he knows it.

Few conserve oxygen in a ring more than Bernard Hopkins. If a failure to react to stimuli is a sign that oxygen in a ring is being depleted, then the boring, slow-paced, low-output spectacles of the last several bouts involving Hopkins is all the proof anyone should need that the air is getting thin – real thin. Bernard’s breath is getting choked. He’s gasping for air and he knows it. If he tries to move in the ring like he does in the public forum, he will vent his last few breaths too quickly. If he tries to move like he once did in the ring, he will not last six rounds. He has to conserve his air and he has to sell us on a story that this is not the case.

So the answer has been packaged as a “style”. Smother, clinch, wrestle, dirty-it-up and hug, but don’t expend energy, it will burn too much oxygen; even head butt, hold and low-blow if you have to. He calls it “slick” and that’s what he’s sellin’; and that’s what you’re buyin’. And the slick public “oxygen-to-burn” Hopkins has got his fans and the press bamboozled into believing that this is a legit style; a style legitimate enough to carry the title of light heavyweight champion of the world. The title once held by the likes of Gene Tunney, Archie Moore, Billy Conn and Bob Foster. This is what a pound-for-pound champion is supposed to fight like?

Well I’m not buyin’ it!

This I can assure you. There is not enough oxygen in a ring for both Joe Calzaghe and Bernard Hopkins to breathe at the same time. And you better decide quickly; who is going to get the last lungful of air before the end comes?

If I were a betting man I’d want to place an oxygen meter in the vault that Hopkins is sitting in before I risked any of my green presidents wagering on a positive outcome for Hopkins. Here is a reasonable oxygen meter for you; Hopkins’ last several bouts. Well aren’t they a reasonable meter? If not, why not? How about that bore fest called Wright/Hopkins? Between the two of them did they throw any punches at all between the clinches? Compubox counted 132 clinches between the two of them; 74 of them initiated by Hopkins and 53 of them initiated by Wright. Can you say, “Pitiful”?

How about Hopkins/Tarver? Hopkins landed a whopping 11 punches per round and Tarver came in at single digits. Does it get any worse than this? Yes it does! In two bouts against Taylor, Hopkins averaged landing less than 10 punches per round. This is the very same Taylor who followed Cory Spinks around the ring as if Spinks was pulling a hotdog on a string for a hound to sniff out. This is the very same Taylor who could not put a hurting on the all-too-hittable Kassim Ouma (a junior middleweight at that). This is the very same Taylor who got knocked out by Kelly Pavlik.

Does this “oxygen meter” need to sniff out the air of the stinker called the over-the-hill Eastman against Hopkins or the to-small De La Hoya against Hopkins? Ladies and gents keep your green presidents away from wagering on Hopkins – you should have all the air quality readings you need to know better!

Joe Calzaghe has faced young men in their mid to late-twenties in his last four bouts; Mikkel Kessler, Peter Manfredo, Sakio Bika and Jeff Lacy. Is it fair to argue that at least two of these three were not stellar performers despite their youth? Of course it is! But then try to argue that Calzaghe did not average throwing 80 or more punches per round and landed 35% or more of them. Calzaghe has landed nearly three times as many punches per round against young men then Hopkins has landed against old men (save Taylor)! Do you need to be placed in a vault and starved of oxygen to get what’s going on here?

There is an HEIR apparent to the light heavyweight throne. His name is Joe Calzaghe. If you have difficulty trying to get your hands around this, then think about the hands that are around the throat of Bernard Hopkins. Hopefully you will be reminded of the “air unapparent” as you welcome the heir apparent.

Joe Calzaghe will beat Bernard Hopkins via a unanimous decision. If you bet the other way, don’t ever say you were not warned! The warning is as clear as the air you breathe!

Article posted on 10.02.2008

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