Bernard Hopkins: The Living Legend

Bernard Hopkins

By Anthony Coleman - What more can be said about the man? Every time you want to count him out, every time we say he is too old, every time we say that his best days were done or can’t beat this young stallion; Bernard Hopkins pulls something like this off. He did it seven years ago when he was the heavy underdog going into his unification fight with Felix Trinidad. He was supposed to get blown out because he wasn’t that good to stop a hurricane like Tito. Yet B-Hop turned in one of the greatest Boxing performances of all time when he dismantled Tito in 11 1/3 lopsided rounds.

On Saturday night, everybody knew that Hopkins was once a boxing GOD, but we thought those days were in the rearview and he was a huge underdog going into his showdown with Kelly Pavlik. Some of us thought that he was actually going to be knocked out. Yet on October 18th 2008, for one night Bernard Hopkins reclaimed his body from September 29th, 2001 to recreate another masterpiece and proved once again to all of the naysayers that he is a legend.

Quite simply his performance was near flawless. Gliding around the ring at will, using feints, shoulder rolls, counters, lead right hands, body work and his greatest sustained bursts of offense since that aforementioned miraculous night in Madison Square Garden. At 43 years of age he made the much younger Kelly Pavlik look downright amateurish. Repeatedly he would lure Pavlik in, made him believe that he had an open shot at him, skate out of the way and made him eat a hard counter shot. So dominant and onesided was his performance, nearly all who watched the fight wondered if Hopkins would actually score a knockout out. It was once again Hopkins at his very best, and as he has shown time and time again, when he is at his very best he is so dominant on both offense and defense that it is nearly impossible for him to be defeated. Yet what was most astonishing and awe inspiring wasn’t just the performance in the ring, but his immediate action after the bell was rung.

Even before the official scorecards were announced, HBO cameras zoomed in at Bernard Hopkins as he stared menacingly at press row and everybody who was inside Ceasar’s and watching at home knew exactly what was happening. That was to show all of his detractors in the media, all of those who said that he was too old to still be great; it was him telling them that he is still that damn good. Shit, with the camera looking straight at his face and into his eyes he might as well been looking at all of the boxing fans who doubted him. Yet at the moment I was shocked knowing that despite being recognized as for his accomplishments and now a millionaire the main factors that drove him on his annihilation of Trinidad was still there as he left Pavlik defeated: it was that resentment he had towards those who said that he wasn’t good enough and the people he thought was holding him back.

Those who remember the now legendary build up to the unification match with Trinidad will remember Hopkins downright distasteful antics. In the press conference in Puerto Rico, Hopkins literally stood around surrounded by thousands of Tito’s biggest supporters and stomped on the Puerto Rican flag. He royally pissed off Trinidad and nearly incited a riot in the building. He followed that up by telling every Puerto Rican who confidently boasted that Tito would whoop his ass to “bet your green card.” There was a big stink about his offensive comments he made about Joe Calzaghe before their fight (“he’ll never lose to a white boy”), but his very xenophobic and jingoistic response to a group of Spanish speaking people who are in fact US citizens were every bit as disgusting. Yet it was done for two reasons: promotion for the fight, and because he was honestly bitter about the fact that he was not getting the credit he deserved (still inexcusable if you ask me).

Most of the sports media focused on Felix Trinidad, who was considered by many to be the best fighter in the world pound for pound before their fight. The narrative was how the win would be his third unification title victory in as many years and another head on his mantle as he continued his march to all-time greatness. Meanwhile the narrative to Hopkins’ story was a complete afterthought.

Very little of the pre-fight attention was focused on the fact that Hopkins had gone undefeated for a decade. There was very little talk about how had already unified two thirds of the division with his victory over Keith Holmes (though that maybe due to the fact that their fight was a horrible foul-filled wrestling match). Most frustrating for Hopkins was the fact that nobody seemed to care or realize that if he won the fight not only would he be the first undisputed Middleweight champion, but he would also break his tie with Carlos Monzon and become the sole record holder for Middleweight title defenses. But instead of having equal billing with Tito, he was not only looked upon as the B-side but the vast majority of observers picked the Puerto Rican legend to stop him. Of course the opposite took place and Hopkins felt that this win should have been sweet vindication. But he still felt that he was being slighted and denied his fair financial wages. For a while it seemed as if he was sabotaging his own career with his erratic business decisions. Truth be told, no other fighter has been so motivated by his rage and resentment towards Boxing’s hierarchy that Hopkins. The last person you would have to reference to match that kind of venom is the Executioner’s idol: Marvin Hagler.

Like Hagler, his career was hampered by politics and his unwillingness to play by the establishment’s rules. Even more depressing was the fact that even after they became champions they still found paydays and respect to elude them. Yet just like Hagler, they both found their pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and were able to become millionaires. But the main difference between the two men was Hopkins’ resiliency.

Hagler left the sport after his razor close loss to Ray Leonard and his inability to gain a rematch. Meanwhile Hopkins was able to bounce back from his close losses to Jermain Taylor and add more big wins over Tarver, Wright and now Pavlik. Those wins are now a big part of his legacy and when he retires they will be mentioned in reference to his everlasting greatness.

But now hopefully after this victory and all of his previous accomplishments he finally realizes that he is recognized as a true living legend. Not just one of the best fighters of this generation, but one of the best fighters who have ever lived. Mark my words if you would have put “The Executioner” back at any point in the history of the sport he could have been a champion and probably defeated many of the all time greats at Middleweight. There have been very few fighters who have combined his boxing IQ with complete mastery of offense and defense. What he has done at this late in his career (and I include the Trinidad fight as late in his career), is truly awe-inspiring and though he may rub people the wrong way (and that includes me), we all know that it will be a long time when we see other fighters on the same plane of excellence that he has achieved over the last fifteen years.

Kelly Pavlik's Father Wanted The Hopkins Fight Stopped After The 7th-Round

Kelly Pavlik- by James Slater - It has been revealed in The Vindicator paper that Mike Pavlik, father of middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik, wanted his son's recent bout with Bernard Hopkins stopped after the 7th round. Before losing for the first time in his career, in a shock points upset to the amazing 43-year-old, Pavlik felt extremely sluggish in the dressing room, the paper also revealed.

Kelly admits he took antibiotics after being diagnosed with bronchitis on October 14th - a mere four days before the Hopkins fight, and he was also given a shot of penicillin three days before the fight. Also, as was well documented, Pavlik injured his elbow in sparring and this too was far worse than Team Pavlik let on. Apparently, Kelly suffered an inflamed bursa sac in his left elbow. And while this injury has not been used as an excuse by Kelly or his team for the loss, they do feel the 26-year-old would have done far better than he did had he not had his training compromised by these factors.

Perhaps, in hindsight, Kelly should have been pulled out of the fight? His handlers, according to the Vindicator article, considered doing just that.

"We all learned a good lesson," said Mike Pavlik. "We know now that if he's not completely healthy, we shouldn't go ahead with the fight. He's a tough kid and I think he'll come back with a vengeance. If not, then it's time for him to retire."

Any talk of even possible retirement is likely to come as a big shock to fight fans. It certainly comes as a big shock to this writer. But then it does seem as though Pavlik was in far worse shape on October 18th than anyone was led to believe.

"My arms felt like they were 100-pounds each," Kelly said. "I've never felt like that in the ring. I'd go back to my corner and Jack [Loew] would say, 'You've got to do this,' and I couldn't do it. Even when I was throwing punches and hitting him, there was nothing on it."

During the sparring mishap everyone read about, Pavlik's elbow filled with fluid and continued to bother him for a full five weeks, compromising his training to the extent that discussions took place about whether or not to postpone the fight.

And after seeing how poor his son was performing in the actual fight, Mike Pavlik was hoping, he has said, that the fight would get stopped after the 7th round.

"The Ghost" explained how avoided being KO'd.

"I don't like losing and I definitely didn't want to get stopped," Kelly explained. "You just suck it up and get through it. There were only two times in that fight when I was legitimately hurt and felt off-balance."

As for trainer Jack Loew, he says he will never again allow any of his fighters to enter the ring unless they are tip-top shape.

"If they wanted to postpone the fight they should have," the trainer said. "As a team we made the decision and we have to live with it. It's our stupid [selves] who put him in the ring and we learned a valuable lesson. I don't care if it's a four-round preliminary fight or a world championship fight, if my fighter's not 100-percent healthy, we're not going to go."

Loew also said there will be no more fights for Kelly above 160-pounds.

"He's a middleweight," Loew stated. "We're sick and tired of moving up in weight to fight someone. If someone wants to fight us, he's going to have to come down to 160."

Hopkins delivers harsh lesson to Pavlik, Silences Critics

Bernard HopkinsBy Evan Young - Bernard “the executioner” Hopkins delivered a painful, brutal and comprehensive lesson to Ohioan Kelly “the ghost” Pavlik at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey on Saturday night. Hopkins opened up the first round and was in a fighting mood and immediately took control of the fight with a slashing, two fisted combinations that landed with startling accuracy. And BHOP never relinquished said control, doling out liberal amounts of punishment for the remainder of the fight. Hopkins was amazing, able to amp up his punch output while at same time diffusing Pavlik’s best weapons – his jab and punch volume.

Gone was the old economical Hopkins looking for right hand counter punches that we had grown used to seeing and replaced with a laser sharp Executioner that ripped Pavlik with a blazing 2 handed attack. Hopkins landed sizzling left hooks, thudding right hands and punishing body punches – every single round. Pavlik, who has always been able to impose his will on everyone he had fought up to this point, never came close to finding an answer on what to do. And as Hopkins began to win round after round, Pavlik, and everyone else witnessing this amazing event was now realizing that we were all conned, but not in the way we thought we would be.

You see, Pavlik, myself and well over 90% of all the pundits were absolutely blindsided by what was taking place. As soon as the 2nd round was over, I knew it was over for Pavlik and he was in for a one sided whipping by the slyest of the sly. But I was resigned to see it through and ultimately eat a heaping serving of crow. Hopkins was able to dictate every aspect of this fight. He staggered and hurt Pavlik several times in the fight but Pavlik showed his own grit by hanging in there and taking the heavy dose of medicine Hopkins was serving him. Pavlik tried but that only made things worse as he soaked up numerous clean shots that made everyone wince. Hopkins never let his foot off the gas nor did he seem like the listless, tired fighter that he appeared to be in his bout with Calzaghe.

Hopkins closed the show with gusto, lacing Pavlik with a punishing array of leather that would have turned many man back well before the end. Just as the fight was ending, Hopkins was feeling it and having so much fun that he threw a few more shots for good measure at the fights close and feigned like he was going to continue to attack Pavlik after the fight ended, as the ref had Hopkins in a bear hug keeping him from continuing to abuse the bewildered Pavlik. Pavlik’s corner got pissed off but Hopkins’s message was delivered load and clear – ‘I just beat the crap out of the middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik and shocked the world.’

Once satisfied, Hopkins slid to another part of the ring and simply stared out at press row with a motionless ‘I told you so’ look that everyone seemed to get. Then the enormity of what and how Hopkins won this fight seemed to suddenly hit Bernard himself as his lips and jaw quivered with emotion in a display rarely seen by the Executioner. Now with Hopkins’ superiority proved and in check, he walked over to Pavlik to be a good sport, which is easy after such a dominating victory. And he began a lecture that almost looked like a father asserting authority over a son and the son getting that message loud and clear. Pavlik vigorously nodded to every word Hopkins said with an ‘I am humbled by what you just did to me look and I promise I will never cross you again.’ It was like a fight in the schoolyard where the guys involved in the fight make up but true dominance has been firmly established and will never questioned again. Game, set, match and Hopkins once again he proves everyone wrong.


Hopkins certainly bamboozled me with this effort. How did he do it when no one thought he could? He wasn’t that sharp against Winky Wright. He beat a weight drained and half dead Antonio Tarver, he dropped two decisions to Jermain Taylor – a guy Pavlik handled twice and KO’d once. And Hopkins, seemed to show his age against Joe Calzaghe in his last fight where he looked tired, slow and sluggish late in the fight.

But Calzaghe has proved to be an all time great and simply had too much speed and conditioning for Hopkins. Still, Hopkins only lost by a split decision and his defense was still intact late in the fight. Taylor has quick hands, why couldn’t he have handled Pavlik like Hopkins did? Because while Taylor has a million dollar body, he has a 5 cent head. Hopkins’ greatest asset is his brain. He knows what he can and cannot do and doesn’t deviate from that. Ever. He holds true to the old axiom made famous by Clint Eastwood – “man has got to know his limitations.”

Well, Hopkins knows his limitations, strengths and knows the same about his opponents, too. But I just couldn’t get the image of Hopkins standing in the ring, waiting to throw a counter right hand while not throwing any body shots or hooks. He looked that way against Calzaghe, Wright, Taylor and even Tarver to an extent. But it could be argued he won the Taylor fights, and only Calzaghe legitimately beat him and that was close. And I think the 170 pound weight limit may have helped Hopkins to be the stronger man as BHOP walks around at over 190 these days while Pavlik usually fights at 160 and doesn’t walk around much over 170.

Hopkins seemed to understand if he could smack Pavlik in the mouth early and often, he could dictate the terms of the fight. Hopkins used his hand speed perfectly by landing first, and once Pavlik tasted some nasty leather he became like an obedient dog, dropping his punch output by roughly 200%. Once Pavlik was defused and not punching, the table was set and dinner was served. In my mind, I looked at Hopkins as 25 punch a round guy against a 100 punch a round guy with great power and conditioning. But that was all thrown out the window by the amazing Hopkins and I got this one terribly wrong.


In my pick, I picked a Pavlik decision win, of this fight I gave Hopkins respect as a formerly great fighter but made it clear that I thought his time had passed and that he was merely a con man lining his pockets on his way to retirement. I talked of his repeated rhetoric about his coming of age at the Greaterford penitentiary that he reminds us all of and how it has grown tiresome. Well, some of this needs to be revisited. I still think Hopkins is the best manger, his own, in boxing.

Here is taste of what Hopkins alone accomplished: In the late 1990’s Hopkins was the middleweight champ but was a guy everyone hated, he wasn’t exciting and couldn’t draw flies to dump. Everyone just seemed to be waiting for him to go away but he kept winning against whoever was available and simply wouldn’t shut up about the lack of respect and money he had been receiving. His perseverance and intelligence began to pay off in 2001 when he was entered in a 4 man middleweight tournament that was established to coronate Felix Trinidad as the top dog in the division.

Don King was tickled with the tournament because it would kill two birds with one stone – it would get rid of Hopkins once and for all and make the lovable Tito Trinidad a crossover star that would greatly enhance the King family coffers. But wily old Hopkins threw a wrench into the event by winning it, and knocking out Trinidad in a performance that was like slowly ripping the wings off a fly for 11 and half rounds, until he crushes him at the end. So after the great win over Trinidad, Hopkins returned against the middleweight bum the month club against the likes of Carl Daniels and Morrade Hakkar, William Joppy and Robert Allen. Hopkins was winning again but no one cared. Enter Oscar de la Hoya, who was looking for a challenge against an aging middleweight champ that he felt he could beat. But De la Hoya is a true Golden Boy and everything that Oscar touches gets some gold dripped on them. This is what Hopkins was waiting for. De la hoya took purse parity with 75/25 split but that was still worth a cool $10Million for Hopkins.

In a dreary fight Hopkins won by a 9th round KO with a left hook to the liver. Then, soon after that fight Hopkins partners up with de la Hoya in his Golden Boy Promotions Company. Talk about smart. And that alignment has set up big fights that have made de la Hoya richer and Hopkins wealthier than he ever dreamed of. In light of the circumstances Hopkins is the smartest fighter/manager in history.


But while Hopkins is getting himself paid quite well, he has to be given great credit for preparing for every fight as if he is still a starving contender. He’s nearly 44 years old but he gets himself in the best possible shape he can and, win or lose, has a strong game plan for every opponent. And further credit must be given for fighting the best guys. He took on the very difficult and quick Calzaghe, a loss, and then the hard punching work horse Pavlik in his next fight. And he grabbed wins over light heavyweight champ Antonio Tarver and the highly avoided Winky Wright.

And, while I was critical of his jail house rhetoric; hey we even get sick of good songs, he backed that up in this match and brought the Ghetto out for this fight. He beat, demoralized, pounded and hammered the young buck Pavlik like he was handing out brutal street justice. And he was. That’s what he told Pavlik during that little lecture after the fight. Hopkins said, you are dealing with “a real dude from street.” As if to say ‘this is what was supposed to happen to your cornbread ass and you shouldn’t be surprised.’

I tip my cap to Hopkins; he is a real dude from the streets. If I didn’t give that enough respect in my pick, I was wrong. He orchestrates everything in his life with careful calculation and recognizes what the consequences will be for everything he does. He knows just what to tweak and when to do it. Considering his lack of formal education the man is a master of the psychology of people. He can read them and play his hands accordingly. And he has learned that from the streets of hard knocks.

Now I know he wants to fight the winner of Roy Jones vs. Joe Calzaghe but if he still has it in him, that he believes he is the baddest man on the cell block, he will take on either light heavyweight champ Chad Dawson or former light heavyweight champ Glen Johnson. Dawson is a young buck, but with blazing speed, superb skills and great talent and Johnson is somewhat like Hopkins was (but more gracious); improved late in his career, is tough as nails, is very dangerous and often avoided.

If Hopkins takes on and defeats BOTH of these men in 2009, I’ll be the first to say that Hopkins should have a separate wing in the boxing hall of Fame in Canastota, New York. But will we see the conman/boxing manager Hopkins next versus Jones or Calzaghe or the true baddest guy in the hood against Dawson or Johnson. What do you think? I say the former. But Hopkins may prove me and everyone wrong again by taking the tougher road. Hey, two years ago I never thought I’d see Hopkins fight Calzaghe or Pavlik and he did. Come on Executioner, do the right thing and bring back that “real dude from the streets” for an encore or two.

Kelly Pavlik, It's Far From Over For Him Yet

Kelly Pavlikby James Slater - First, let's get the bad news out of the way. Kelly Pavlik now has a defeat on his record, he was beaten in very convincing fashion by an "old" man and in losing to Bernard Hopkins the way he did, "The Ghost" gave the critics who call him a one-dimensional, straight ahead puncher a whole load of ammunition they can use to back up their claims.

But now to the good news. Pavlik is still the middleweight champion of the world, is only 26-years-old and therefore easily young enough to bounce back from his loss and, perhaps most importantly, he is unlikely to ever have to face a fighter anywhere near as cunning, clever and, well - as great as Hopkins for as long as he continues boxing.

Already having shocked no-one with his stated intention of dropping back down to 160-pounds, Pavlik even has a probable next opponent lined up, in Marco Antonio Rubio. Rubio, who won a WBC final eliminator with a points win over Enrique Ornelas on the under-card of Hopkins Vs. Pavlik, is reportedly the next challenger for the Youngstown man. Rest assured, Rubio, though a tough and gritty customer, will give Pavlik nowhere near the trouble the masterful B-Hop did.

No doubt some will moan and groan when they hear that the 28-year-old Mexican is the favourite for Pavlik's next bout, but the fight, tentatively scheduled for next February or March, is just the type of comeback fight the middleweight boss needs. Pavlik won't have to go looking for Rubio, and should get himself a nice, confidence boosting KO victory. Pretty soon, after getting a couple more such wins, Pavlik will slowly but surely be able to put the Hopkins nightmare behind him.

As much as the loss to the 43-year-old hurt Pavlik, he still has many things to be happy about. Yes, he was embarrassed and upset by a man many thought had seen better days, but the catch-weight points loss does nothing to affect Pavlik's standing as a middleweight. Even the great Sugar Ray Robinson (and I'm not for one minute saying Pavlik is on the same page as Walker Smith Junior) failed in his attempt to fight as a 175-pounder, which is in the same ball park as the weight today's middleweight champion tried his hand at. But Robinson did what Pavlik will do; he came back at his then natural poundage of 160.

Pavlik still has what it takes to be able to beat most middleweights out there. And there are some potentially thrilling match-ups for him also. Who knows, if he's able to get a couple of defences under his belt, and then win a really big fight against the likes of an Arthur Abraham, maybe Pavlik will get himself back to where he was pre-Hopkins?

Now 34-1(30), the Middleweight champ can take solace in the fact that he lost to nothing less than a boxing genius. Many fighters have come back from their maiden loss and worked their way back to a world title. At least Kelly Pavlik still has his hands on his.


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