Hopkins Personifies Greatness

12.06.06 - By Geoffrey Ciani: Saturday night, Bernard Hopkins added another chapter to his illustrious storybook career when he defeated Antonio Tarver in a lopsided mismatch. Who could have imagined that Hopkins would dismantle Tarver with such ease? After all, isn’t it ill-advised for a 41 year old fighter to jump two weight classes to face the division’s top dog? Indeed, under ordinary circumstances such a move would seem destined for failure. However, there’s nothing ‘ordinary’ about Bernard Hopkins and ‘failure’ is not a part of his vocabulary..

Throughout the fight, Tarver feebly pawed with his jab as he hopelessly followed Hopkins around, only to be caught by lunging right hands that never seemed to miss the mark. It was a marvel to watch, as time and time again, Hopkins repeatedly lulled Tarver into a false sense of security. Tarver simply had no answers for the brilliant tactical display put forth by The Executioner.

He was essentially reduced to fighting a one-dimensional fight, looking to land a big left in hopes of ending it. However, Tarver’s left hand rarely found its target, as the elusive Hopkins saw them coming a mile away. Hopkins’s versatility as a prize-fighter proved to be way more than Tarver could handle.

Versatility has always been Hopkins’s strongest attribute. He’s one of the few boxers out there capable of fighting however the situation demands. He can box or brawl, he can fight from the outside or on the inside, his offense and defense are equally impeccable, and he has an uncanny ability at making the proper adjustments during the course of a fight. Additionally, Hopkins has incredible footwork that’s grossly underrated; he always seems to know where he has to be and he almost always manages to be there. And to top it all off, he has absolutely amazing stamina. It often seems as if Hopkins gets stronger as the fight progresses. Indeed, had he fought in an earlier era, he’d have been extremely well-suited for fifteen round fights.

Hopkins has an amazing work ethic that enables him to be successful, even at the advanced age of 41. He’s one of the few professional athletes who trains 365 days a year. By his own admission, he treats his body “like a temple”. Clearly, this not only affords him to be in top physical condition but it also helps strengthen his mental fortitude, because as awesome as Hopkins is physically, it’s his mental strength that has enabled him to become one of the greatest boxers who ever laced up the gloves.

Hopkins imposed his will on Tarver early and often. This was something Roy Jones was never able to accomplish in his three fights with Tarver. That Hopkins was able to thoroughly dominate Jones’s conqueror speaks volumes in an historical context. On one hand, you have Jones – a fighter who never dared to be great; on the other, you have Hopkins – a fighter who always strived for greatness. Jones might well have more ‘accolades’ than Hopkins, but the truth of the matter is, Jones is no Hopkins.

Jones' ‘greatness’ was largely predicated on media hype. Indeed, Jones always seemed to choose the path of least resistance. Mere coincidence cannot explain the fact that Jones always somehow managed to avoid the biggest challenge in each division he entered. Yet, under the protective umbrella of the US media, Jones was rarely scrutinized for this. It seemed as if people were more interested in watching his flashy style than they were at seeing him fight the best available challenges. Greatness is not founded on flashy skills that make one appear better than he is when he’s fighting inferior opposition. In contrast, Hopkins always sought out the toughest challenges he could find. In this light, it makes perfect sense that Jones always managed to weasel his way out of the long awaited rematch with Hopkins, but in the end, Hopkins got the last laugh – for he is undoubtedly the best fighter of his generation.

So what does this win do for Hopkins? Well, in terms of legacy, I suppose it just amplifies something that was already well-established. Hopkins is clearly an all-time great, as evidenced by his record number of title defenses in the middleweight division. Now, Hopkins has accomplished something that even Sugar Ray Robinson was never able to do, by beating “the man” in the light-heavyweight division. That he did this at such an advanced age after spending almost his entire career in the middleweight division only further amplifies this.

The only question now is, will this be the last chapter of this illustrious storybook career? Well, in a way, this victory was the perfect way for The Executioner to end his career. He helped erase the extremely controversial loss he suffered at the hands of Jermain Taylor in their rematch last December and this gives him the opportunity to cap his career on a high note. Regardless, it’s got to be tough to walk away after such a dominating performance. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Hopkins continued fighting at an elite level for several more years if he chose to do so. After all, Hopkins personifies greatness.

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Article posted on 13.06.2006

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