Will "Losing" Actually Benefit Hopkins?

14.12.05 - By Scoop Malinowski / I remember how Lennox Lewis said getting robbed of the undisputed world heavyweight championship in the first Holyfield fight actually was a blessing in disguise. Lewis said boxing fans showed him appreciation, admiration and respect much more than they ever had before..

Finally, after all the years of being misportrayed and misunderstood, Lewis showed his greatness and champion's dignity in the face of the grotesque injustice of that horrible decision by Eugenia Williams and Larry O'Connell. And the boxing fans of the world finally came to accept and support Lennox Lewis.

Now Bernard Hopkins may be in a similar situation. Those judges say he lost to Jermain Taylor. Even the rematch was controversial. After three rounds all three judges had Taylor up three rounds to zero. But in the corner after round three, Taylor's own corner was heard telling Jermain, You're losing the fight. So, you know, maybe, well, you know, the less said the better.

I was having a conversation with another boxer who is more than familiar with curious and mysterious decisions during his career. Renaldo Snipes told me, "Hell, all my fights were like that. It is what kept my career alive. Controversy is more popular than a win. Every last one of my losses has controversy written all over it."

Snipes continued on this intriguing subject. "Hopkins will be a larger than life figure. You cannot underestimate controversy, it is very powerful in the sports world."

Thinking about how Lewis seemed to win from "losing" to Holyfield in March of 1999, I asked Snipes how "losing" benefitted him in the long run.

"They kept taking my fights that I won so it made me more popular with the people of the world, around the world," answered Snipes. "To this day that's why I have so much respect. Like a champ. Controversy is a subject you should do an article on, it is very powerful. And you would be the only one to write on it because people have forgotten how powerful the word is in sports."

Hence, the inspiration for this article.

Intrigued, I had to probe more on the topic. The pain of the loss must've stung. In retrospect, you're saying it actually turned out positive. How so? Were people's supportive words that touching?

"Always," answered the former heavyweight title challenger. "When you give your heart into something and give your all, people feel for you. Think about it."

Yes. Bernard Hopkins gave us his all. For 18 years he stayed in top shape. For 18 years he sacrificed and dedicated himself to the sport. For 18 years he poured his heart and soul into the sport of boxing. He lasted longer than any man in history, maybe excluding Archie Moore. For this last fight he trained and busted his ass off for two months. He woke up early to run, he chopped tons of wood. He left his wife and daughter to train hard to beat Taylor. And after three rounds, Taylor's own corner told Taylor he was losing but the three judges all had Taylor winning three rounds to zero. Now that's funny. Go figure. Ah, no reason to. Even the dumbest dolt in the world knows the longstanding champion is supposed to get the benefit of the doubt in close rounds. By the way, Hopkins landed more punches in the rematch. I wonder if those judges were watching closely enough to notice that fact?

But, hey, it's water under the bridge. Bernard Hopkins, if Renaldo Snipes is correct, may become a more revered and respected figure when all is said and done.

And, if so, probably ain't nothing gonna be able to change that.

There is another example of a great, great boxing champion losing in the ring, but how losing actually turned out to be a wonderful positive in the long run. It's the example of Jack Dempsey. At the end of his career, Jack Dempsey was not cheered, but actually "hooted" as he entered the ring for his final fight as champion - against Gene Tunney, in front of over 120,000 spectators in Philadelphia in 1927. Father time caught up to Dempsey that evening as Jack lost a decision. But Jack Dempsey accepted the defeat at the end of his glorious championship reign with remarkable grace and dignity. I share this excerpt from Roger Kahn's masterpiece "A Flame of Pure Fire: Jack Dempsey and The Roaring 20's."

" the final bell, Dempsey fought back pain and threw an arm around Gene Tunney. 'Great fight Gene,' said Dempsey. 'You won.' He walked back to his corner. The judges gave Tunney all ten rounds. In the corner, Dempsey heard cheering. People stood in the downpour and called his name. At last, people were beginning to realize what they'd had. 'YOU'LL ALWAYS BE OUR CHAMPION!,' a man shouted. He had never heard words like that in the ring before. Rugged Jack Dempsey blinked away tears.

'I want you to get to the people', Jack Dempsey told me 45 years later, 'That losing was the making of me.'

Article posted on 15.12.2005

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