Hopkins/Calzaghe: Why Bernard Hopkins will slay the Italian Dragon

By Mike Cassell - PHILADELPHIA – We all know Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins 48 -4 -1 (32 KO’s) the fighter, but to know the man, you only need to take a stroll through any of the economically depressed sections of North Philadelphia. It is where he was born, where he learned to fight and where he was eventually arrested for strong arm robbery when he was in just 11th grade and sentenced for up to 18 years. At age 17, he was officially a statistic. While most athletes find out who they are in college or in amateur competition, Hopkins was discovering the colder, harder side of life. He was a kid in prison with killers, and he wasn’t fighting for a belt, he was fighting for his life..

Most people spend a lifetime trying to find out who they are. For Hopkins, it turned out to be 56 months. He was released in 1988. He was 23 years old. He had his degree, now he needed a job. For Joe “The Italian Dragon” Calzaghe 44 – 0 (32 KO’s), life was a bit more forgiving. Born in London, then growing up in Newbridge Wales, he began his boxing career at just 9 years old. He was somewhat of a golden boy, racking up 121 wins as an amateur, all the time having a loving father nearby to encourage, then eventually train him. He had all the gifts that most of us take for granite. Calzaghe won three ABA titles in a row from 1991 to 1993.

As he was walking the golden mile, Bernard Hopkins fought and lost his first professional fight in 1988 after leaving prison. Living below the poverty level, and working at a local Philadelphia hotel, he began to feel the desperation again, but he wasn’t going back to prison. In 1990 he went back into the ring and racked up over 20 wins by 1993. He refused to become the invisible statistic again. For both of these fighters, their lives contrast as much as their boxing styles. Hopkins went many years without the adulation that just seemed to fall into the lap of Joe Calzaghe. There is no doubt that Calzaghe deserved it, but it doesn’t mean that Hopkins can’t use it to fuel his inner fires. It is what makes him who he is. And even though he has achieved wealth and status, he can still become that kid that is lying awake in a cell, yearning for someone to see him for what he really is, a fighter who will never quit. On April 19th, Hopkins will have an opportunity to do something spectacular once again. He enjoys getting into the ring with fighters like Calzaghe. For Hopkins, it is nothing new to demolish the dreams of the prototypical hero. He has done it time and time again, to the biggest names in the game.

The only things these guys have in common are the amount of knockouts they have. For Hopkins, he has the upper hand in the competition he has faced. Calzaghe may have faced the best that Europe has to offer, but he has not fought anyone with any proven talent from the United States. It will be a Herculean task to come to Las Vegas and beat Bernard Hopkins. Even at 43 years old, Hopkins is a dangerous fighter. He will make it a back alley mugging, and it will absolutely be something Calzaghe has never experienced before.

If Calzaghe is going to the well with his experiences with Jeff Lacy and Peter Manfredo Jr., he is in for a very painful lesson, Philly style. The most important and probably most poignant reason Hopkins will win has nothing to do with his background or common opponents. Is quite simply has to do with their styles. Hopkins loves to batter southpaws. The busier the better. Whether it was Keith Holmes or Antonio Tarver, Hopkins completely destroys them. He is a classic counter punching stalker, waiting for the opportunity to finish you.

Calzaghe’s defense is his offense, which may work at super middleweight against lesser competition. But at Light heavyweight in Las Vegas against a living legend, it just isn’t going to cut it. Hopkins has proven to all the boxing fans of the Americas that he is one of the greatest to step in the ring. On the morning of April 20th 2008, the rest of the world will know it. This win will not define his Legacy. Choosing inspiration over desperation defined it long ago.

Article posted on 16.03.2008

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