Bernard Hopkins: Still Underrated

15.07.05 - By John Way: As the show gets underway on Saturday night, I will be rooting for Jermain Taylor to thrash Bernard Hopkins. Taylor is one of my favorite young fighters in the world, and I believe that he has the potential to make a name for himself in Canastota someday. That being said, "Bad Intentions" will be squaring off against undisputedly the greatest middleweight since Marvin Hagler reigned in the 1980ís. And that may be selling him short. Thatís right, this author is implying that the current 160 pound champ may be greater than "Marvelous" Marvin Hagler.

Before every reader of Eastside Boxing tries to break down my door, allow me to say that whether Hopkins is better than Hagler was, is a big maybe, and while itís impossible to tell, evidence certainly seems to suggest that such a conclusion isnít completely irrational. Hopkins is the most underrated fighter active in boxing, and there canít be much doubt about that, when one takes a measured look at his career.

Hopkins has faced very, very good competition, only to hear the common rhetoric of the day: That heís only faced blown up welterweights. Uh, wrong! The only welterweights I see on his record are Oscar DeLaHoya, Felix Trinidad, and Simon Brown. While De La Hoya was the significantly smaller man versus Hopkins, in previous matches he had been very effective at a size disadvantage, beating men like Yori Boy Campas and Fernando Vargas. As for Trinidad, he was a very big welterweight, and a large junior middleweight, so size wasnít much of an issue here, considering Titoís one punch power. The same goes for Brown, who didn't seem overwhelmed by any significant size disparity.

Aside from those three names, all facts seem to indicate that Hopkins was the smaller man in many of his fights. Antwun Echols, Glen Johnson, Howard Eastman, Willaim Joppy, Roy Jones, and Segundo Mercado could have past for super middleweights or light heavyweights. Echols, Johnson, and Jones all moved up one, two, and four divisions respectively with great degrees of success.

Another neglected detail is the fact that Hopkins himself is a very trim fighter, rarely gaining more than three or four pounds between the weight-in, and the fight. Can any serious boxing fan honestly believe that former 154 pound men like John David Jackson, Andrew Council, and Carl Daniels were at some huge disadvantage. The only insurmountable disadvantage was in skill. On subject of skill, with the exception of Floyd Mayweather, no one can match Hopkins. He is virtually unbeatable on the inside, and is only slightly less menacing on the outside. He is the middleweight equivalent of Marco Antonio Barerra on the subject of versatility. He can wade in throwing bombs (see Joe Lipsy fight), get on his toes and outslick the slickster (see John David Jackson fight), or stand still and wear a man down without getting hit in return (see Joppy fight).

It was this ultimate professionalism that allowed him to make an unprecedented 20 title defenses, beating 8 former or future title-holders. He has faced every style, and coped accordingly to come out on top. Another erroneous argument against "The Executioner" is the fact that he never faced off against world beaters like James Toney, Julian Jackson, Gerald McClellan, Terry Norris, or even Steve Collins. So What! Did Hagler manage to fight a prime Leonard? Of course not, Ray was coming of a long layout, and was dropped hard by a journeyman in his last fight. Did anyone think Roberto Duran was the vintage "Mano De Piedra" that he could have been after beating Carlos Palomino when he faced Marvin?

Also, Hagler missed out on fighting good middleweights like Hugo Corro, Rodrigo Valdes, and Carlos Monzon. I think that itís safe to say Hagler and Hopkins both missed out on a fair number of superfights. Finally, the last piece of twisted information that many fans feel give Hagler an edge in greatness over Hopkins.

The debunkers argue that Hopkins has faced many non-entities, adding up to a series inconsiquential victories that mean nothing. Granted Hagler did face many great fighters like Bennie Briscoe, Hearns, Duran, and Leonard. However, were non-entities like Fulgencio Obelmejias, Mustafa Hamsho, William "Cave Man" Lee, and Juan Roldan really superior to Robert Allen, Steve Frank, and Morrade Hakkar? I donít think so. While we can only debate who was the better of the two, my vote certainly goes to Hopkins. Regardless of how he performs against Jermain Taylor, Bernard Hopkins can rest assured that he is one of the greatest
middleweights ever. Comments or questions are welcome below.

Article posted on 15.07.2005

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