'Call Em Out Fridays': Bernard Hopkins - Too Good, Too Long, Too Bad?

By Vivek Wallace: Roy Jones jr.....Felix Trinidad....Lennox Lewis.....Mike Tyson.....Fernando Vargas.....Oscar De La Hoya.....just a few names in a long list of champions who once shared the spotlight over the past two decades, yet have subsequently seen their dominant reign come to an end. Some by choice, some by force. All great champions, all great men, all no longer relevant, as it relates to today's vastly changing landscape in the sport of boxing. One name missing from those ranks is a man who never did fall in line with his contemporaries. A man who created his own music, and danced to his own beat. At age 45, when that same group of men previously named have all found other things to dedicate their interest and time to, Bernard Hopkins now finds himself on the brink of what could be another watershed moment in an already illustrious career, as he takes on Canada's Jean Pascal, tentatively set for December 18th.

Upon release of this news, media, fans, and all in-between shared contrasting views. Supporters elated, critics debate it, while somewhere in the middle lies the reality. A reality that tells us that with this great risk comes an insurmountable reward. 22 years in the 'hurt business' and a trail of pain prior to its point of inception, yet and still, the hunger for more remains. What can possibly fuel Bernard Hopkins at this stage? That's a question that many ask, yet few can answer. He still has his faculties and good health, a beautiful family, and enough wealth to feed the starving, so why? Truth is, although he isn't broke, there's a few things he'd still like to fix. That list probably contains a number of separate items, but the one most paramount is a legacy which still has no definitive ending to seal it's final chapter..

A look at the complete body of work composed by Bernard Hopkins tells a rather interesting story. Critics will claim that he's "X" amount of years beyond his prime, and that his talent has fallen off; but a closer glimpse of that story he composed shows only three losses in the past 17 years, each of which could be greatly contested. In an era where networks and promoters are literally compelled to play 'build-a-fighter', this is a rare case of a man who technically built himself. And right when it appeared the construction was over, along comes another sacrificial lamb who'll be forced to see the reality behind an age-old and appropriate adage which tells us "styles makes fights".

The critical perspective serves a bevy of talking points which all collectively say that he doesn't belong, yet time and time again, the outcome has shown us why in fact he does. Roy Jones jr. was arguably the most gifted fighter of this generation. Power in both hands, dazzling speed, flair, and all the other trinkets you could possibly hang on a talent. The very different state of their respective careers at this time prove an invaluable life lesson that an eroding body can still be effective when led by a true thinking mind. Throughout Hopkins' entire life, the mission has been mental. From the prison stint, to the road to recovery beyond it, it was his mind that made the difference, and continues to. Jean Pascal is far more athletic, and far stronger, but when the two square off just a week before Christmas, it'll be this same mental game that declares who ultimately walks away in ownership of the present.

With a victory over a long time nemesis now in his rear-view mirror, his orders for a last and defining mission have been officially served. That mission?.......Walk out of the same 'arena' he entered 22 years ago as a hoodlum......only this time as a champion. And how can he accomplish that? By employing the same mental game he always has. To some, the mental game is a lost art in a physical sport. That sentiment led many to feel he isn't too good, but strength of mind gave him the longevity to be relevant for what they would probably also consider too long, so for them, I say, too bad! He wasn't here to stay, but after two decades plus, it's safe to say that he apparently mastered how to stay here! Now, stay tuned.....

(Vivek Wallace can be reached at, 954-292-7346, Youtube (VIVEK1251), Twitter (VIVEK747), Facebook, and Myspace).

Article posted on 04.09.2010

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