By Timothy Hall: As a spectator of many sports, for many years, I’ve always wondered what separated the good from the great. Why was Jordan able to edge Miller and Malone so many times, why did Sampras more often than not find a way to get it done against Agasi? The difference between good and great, let us not forget, also caused Tonya Harding to turn from darling to conspirator. But why?
Bernard Hopkins is a clue when considering the complex question of astounding achievement, the question that ponders those athletes who rise above their competitive peers. In his fight against Jean Pascal he added one more chapter to the book sports psychologist, and neuroscientist have been laboring away on for decades: the book that explains greatness.. Against Pascal, Hopkins expounded on the most important chapter of that book, and the most integral part of any master athletes repertoire. That characteristic would be an amalgam of intellect and skill. Athleticism, speed, and youth are precious gifts that pave a way for all athletes, but intellect and skill (effortless skill to be precise) are the qualities that insure that path leads to
In A fight that saw a 45 year old Hopkins struggle through, and rising from the canvas against a fast, athletic 28 year old well-oiled machine, one could not help but notice the cognitive forces at play in the unraveling of the fight. Hopkins was less of a match for Pascal physically than he was in the department of experience and knowledge-surely Hopkins had seen Pascal’s type in the hundreds of rounds he’s clocked in as professional, and surely he developed strategies to thwart these speedy and powerful fighters who rely on their physical gifts. As pascals speed tapered off and the men had no choice but to
match wit and skill, the young Canadian was no match for Hopkins.
The executioner starkly reminded us of the dimensions it takes to do well in any athletic competition. But more importantly he reminded us which of these set of skills take precedent more often than not. Speed, athleticism, and youth will take you a long way, but win the going gets tough, intellect and skill win out.