Bernard Hopkins: Still Something Left To Prove

16.02.05 - By Darrell La Montre: First and foremost, I would like to preface by stating that I am of the belief that based on his boxing prowess, Bernard Hopkins (45-2-1 32 ko’s) is a great fighter. Not a good fighter, not a very good fighter, but a great fighter. He’s also a future legit Hall of Famer. I lost respect with the Hall of Fame when guys like Ken Norton (who never won a title in the ring), and Jerry Quarry (never won a title period) having been inducted simply for having fought during arguably the toughest era in Heavyweight history.. Because of this, I feel that we need to distinguish between Hall of Famers, and legit Hall of Famers. Hopkins, however, is a legit future Hall of Famer.

So why do I feel that a legit future Hall of Famer who has defended the Middleweight title a record 19 times still has something to prove? Because when you compare him to a legit Hall of Famer like Marvin Hagler (a fighter with whom he is often compared with), there’s one thing that Hagler did at the end of his career that Hopkins has yet to do: Beat a young, strong Middleweight in his athletic prime who is making serious noise. Hagler did this by beating a 26 year old knockout artist named John “The Beast Mugabi.

At the time, Mugabi who had campaigned at both Junior Middleweight and Middleweight, was 26-0 with all 26 wins by knockout. Hagler stopped him in the 11th round of a very exciting fight. At the time, Hagler was 34 years old (which is equivalent to around 42 considering today’s advancements in training, nutrition, etc.) One can argue that Hagler’s biggest victory was over a former Welterweight (Hearns), but Hearns was a huge welterweight, and Hagler at only 5’9 was a small Middleweight. Ironically, it was Hearns who had the height and reach advantage, even though Hagler was the natural Middleweight.

At any rate, Hagler destroyed Hearns in a classic donnybrook, and then went on to take out Mugabi. Mugabi, who like another current young Middleweight with much more skill by the name of Jermain “Bad Intentions” Taylor, was making some serious noise in the division at the time. Hagler turned that deafening noise into stony silence after 11 hard fought rounds. This was subsequent to having thoroughly cleaned out his division.

Which brings us to Jermain Taylor. Taylor recently fought and dominated former three time Middleweight Champion William Joppy. Joppy a year ago was dominated by Hopkins too, but in my opinion, Taylor’s domination was even more impressive for two reasons: Firstly, Taylor was much less experienced than Hopkins. Secondly, he was able to drop Joppy in the process. Taylor demoralized Joppy to the point that he went from an active, enthusiastic fighter in the first 5 rounds, to a thoroughly frustrated, humiliated fighter who even attempted to throw Taylor over the top rope ala the WWE Royal Rumble. For a young fighter to do that to an experienced veteran in only his 22nd fight as a pro speaks volumes of his talent. Taylor is the same height as Hopkins (6’1) and is a very intelligent fighter to boot, with arguably the best jab in boxing.

Hopkins has faced two great fighters: Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya. Trinidad was great, but one dimensional and smaller than Hopkins. He was a big Welterweight, but not nearly the freak that Hearns was. He also didn’t have the boxing skills that Hearns possessed. As for Oscar De La Hoya, he turned pro at 130 and had zero power at Middleweight. Still, Oscar was able to frustrate Hopkins for the first 6 rounds with his ring intellect, speed and quick combos before being stopped with an excellently placed body shot.

Exit De La Hoya and enter Jermain Taylor. Now we have a hungry, full- fledged Middleweight with a great jab, quick hands, good power, and very good footwork. I smell a potential upset. Hopkins must fight Taylor in my book before he can safely retire with his legacy secured and be mentioned as possibly the greatest Middleweight ever. He has faced some good fighters. Certainly, Echols was a good fighter with great power, and Glencoffe Johnson is now a world champ at Light heavyweight, but these fighters were either green and/or not elite when they fought Hopkins. At 40, beating Taylor (especially if Taylor is able to beat a guy like Trinidad and/or Sturm before facing Hopkins), would elevate Hopkins to a Middleweight God. Call me crazy, but Bernard Hopkins still has something to accomplish before he hangs them up for good: Beat Jermain Taylor.

Article posted on 16.02.2005

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