Scoop's Analysis: Bernard Hopkins vs. Howard Eastman

18.02.05 - By Scoop Malinowski / Howard Eastman is making a convincing argument that he can and will remove long-standing Middleweight king Bernard Hopkins from his throne. It is not just what he has said but how he is saying it that is so striking to your objectivity..

All the signs are there that Eastman will be an extremely resolute and formidable challenge for Hopkins on Saturday night in Los Angeles. He is saying he will stop Hopkins - among other respectful but bold comments - and he is saying it all with deep conviction in his eye and a calm certainty in his voice. It's as if the little-known Brit-based Guyanese veteran has already made up his mind, that he will finally summon and let out the greatness that he believes is inside him. Cus D'Amato once said, "Winning and losing is decided by the brain, not by strength, speed or physical power."

In some pre-fight buildups, we can see the clues and hints of the unexpected that's on the verge. Lightly-regarded, little-known recent challengers like Vitali Klitschko, Antonio Tarver, Ricardo Mayorga all caught our eyes and ears with their demeanors of supreme confidence in the days leading up to their respective fights with Lennox Lewis, Roy Jones and Vernon Forrest.

Now that Eastman has arrived on the scene and so far has EXuded the appearances of possibly being the victor, this is by no means an inference that Hopkins is doomed. This is Bernard Hopkins we are talking about. The EXecutioner...unbeaten and utterly dominant since 1993. 19 successful title defenses. One of the most fascinating characters in sports history. A man Hemingway might've wrote a novel about. A man Da Vinci would have painted. A man Rodin would have sculpted. A man Spike Lee or Ken Burns should make a major movie about. A man Frank Sinatra would surely come to watch from ringside, if he were still with us, Bless his soul.

This is Bernard Hopkins! The great Philadelphian who overcame anything and everything - from incarceration, media biases, Father Time, Tito Trinidad, promotional freezeouts, etc. etc. to be where he is today. And this is no EXaggeration, Hopkins has overcome more than most all-time great fighters on his fantastic journey from hopeless juvenile delinquent to all-time living legend.

The mystery about this fight is, we do not know if Hopkins still has enough left in his tank to repel a violent and vicious attack from a desperately hungry and determined contender such as a true middleweight like Howard Eastman. After finally reaching the utmost pinnacle at the advanced age of 39 against Oscar De La Hoya, might Hopkins be on the decline now, without even realizing it? There always was that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that motivated Hopkins to soldier on, and now that he's found it and seized it (the big payday vs. Oscar), could he be ever-so-slightly a tiny little bit less motivated? As we know, these world class competitions are often only decided by the narrowest of margins and edges.

Will Hopkins be able to endure the clean head shots from the very powerful Eastman as he was able to against the decent punch strength of Robert Allen? Does having this plan of two more pay-per-view matches later on in 2005 adversely affect his focus on this present fight? (Remember how Lewis was planning on at least two more fights after Vitali Klitschko and how those ideas became moot?) Is Howard Eastman one of those enigmatic athletes who - for whatever reason - has saved his career best performance(s) for the home stretch of his career, like Andrew Golota, Antonio Tarver, Goran Ivanisevic, Corrie Sanders and Glen Johnson?

Can this be another example of a great fighter suddenly and unexpectedly finding himself at the very end of his remarkable career - like Roy Jones and Mike Tyson? Is Hopkins destined to leave the sport like most other great fighters, in a sad and shocking defeat?

This fight is almost impossible to predict. No strong inklings have struck yet. I like both of their chances at victory. Either way, the winner is very likely going to have to survive a most difficult EXamination. It may be a very close fight. It may be an unforgettable fight. We'll just have to sit back and watch how this drama unfolds.

"I have to convince him that he can't win," said Hopkins. "As long as the fight goes on, I have to convince him of that."

Scoop Malinowski is a contributor.

Article posted on 18.02.2005

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