Bernard Hopkins: Itís only a matter of time

16.02.05 - By Don Caputo: To say that Bernard Hopkins, at forty years old, is in tremendous condition is a huge understatement to say the least; the undisputed middleweight king is a physical freak in the mould of the great late Archie Moore, the original ageless wonder who dominated the light heavyweight division well into his forties and beyond.

Hopkins as yet has shown zero signs of slowing down, if anything he is still gathering speed as he continues to dominate opposition and rule his division with an iron fist. His September knockout of Oscar De La Hoya was not only one of his finest performances to date, but it also made the statement that his speed, reflexes and power were all still firmly intact, seemingly booked in for the foreseeable future. The man eats, sleeps and breathes boxing, itís as simple as that.

Hopkins' record breaking 19 title defenses is reflective of not only his extreme talent but also a remarkable dedication to the sport and an overall work ethic that has to be admired.

So how long can he realistically go on for? He is now officially an OAP in boxing years but in the wake of Roy Jonesís sudden and shocking demise he is currently regarded by most as the best fighter in the world pound for pound, the elite of the elite which in such a brutally demanding sport, physically and mentally, isnít too bad for an old man. Whatís obvious though is that Bernard Hopkins is no ordinary man; he is one of the greats and like Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Evander Holyfield and countless other ring legends before him he will be forever remembered and celebrated, but just like them though age will inevitably catch up to him, sooner or later. Obviously sooner wasnít the card Hopkins was dealt, but he really is at the point now where chinks in his armor are going to start appearing regardless of how well conditioned he is.

No one can stop the aging process, it is physiologically impossible, everybody gets old. At roughly the age of thirty our bodies begin to physically decline and it is a downward slope that cannot be reversed, at the end of the day all we can do is slow down the rate in which we age, something Hopkins has been able to achieve amazingly well. He is unquestionably past his physical prime though, which in a way has made every one of his fights over the past couple of years intriguing because of the possibility of him growing old over night, or at least showing some kind of vulnerability. It hasnít happened yet, but I guarantee you it will.

In his heyday Muhammad Ali was a defensive genius, his foot speed and razor sharp reflexes made him almost impossible to catch cleanly with any regularity. He famously did everything wrong in the ring, he was incredibly unorthodox but his extraordinary athleticism and natural ability allowed him to get away with the kind of fundamental mistakes that would certainly leave lesser fighters unconscious. When age and in his case inactivity began to dull these attributes he became a much easier target; his defense was totally dependant on the speed of his reflexes so when they left him he was a sitting duck and sadly ended up shipping far too much punishment. Because he was so gifted he never paid attention to the basics of boxing so he had nothing to fall back once his speed diminished.

Bernard Hopkins is a student of boxing and probably the most technically sound fighter in the world today, thatís one of the reasons I believe he is still going so strong. Unlike Ali, and more recently Roy Jones, his style is not totally reliant on those first things you lose i.e. reflex speed; he effectively works from a rock solid foundation that has kept him at the top for over a decade. But, and this is a big but, he is not a machine, he will slow down eventually, and unless he calls it quits in the not too distant future he will grind to an abrupt halt. It would be a shame to see him tarnish his legacy because didnít know when to walk away.

I want to see Bernard Hopkins retire from the ring before the ring retires him, that would be truly sad to see. I know he still looks fantastic but itís only a matter of time, age catches up to everyone in the end.

Article posted on 16.02.2005

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