By Rudy Mondragon
On Saturday November 8th, 2014, Bernard Hopkins stepped into the ring for the 64th time. Another historic night for Bernard for at the age of 49, two months shy from turning a half century young, Hopkins fought for not one but three championship belts. Already the oldest man to capture and defend championships belts, Bernard once again attempted to look logic and common sense in the face and resist it.
He came up short last night versus Sergey Kovalev, a worthy opponent with massive power and respect for Bernard outside the ring. Last night, that respect was slightly visible at the end of the first round after he was able to floor Bernard. A gesture to shake hands, not reciprocated by Bernard, Kovalev’s respect for Hopkins in the ring went out the window and to serious work Kovalev went. It was a one sided bout as Kovalev used distance, power, faints, and his reach to keep Bernard from having any success last night. The last round had the most action as it appeared Hopkins had hurt Kovalev. Closer look at the replay and it was a simple tangling of the feet. Hopkins pressed him after that and the two exchanged heavy punches, Kovalev getting the better of his elder.
The winner on paper and for the record was Kovalev. As a boxing community, we should give Kovalev all the credit for fighting his fight and executing a successful game plan to a t. However, on a monumental and historic level, Bernard Hopkins was the winner last night.
To explain why I argue that Hopkins was last nights winner, I will borrow from the 1976 fictional boxing classic, “Rocky.” The idea of winning for Rocky was to go the distance against Apollo Creed, something no one had ever done against the champion. Rocky was not supposed to be in the ring against Apollo, he had not gone through the process of becoming a number one contender to challenge the champion, but he was there nonetheless. Rocky won on the night he lost because his idea of being victorious was going the full 15 rounds against Apollo.
Now, I’m not saying Bernard and Rocky are one and the same. Bernard is way more accomplished and already hall of fame bound where as Rocky was simply starting to make a name for himself. These two however have this in common: Both were not supposed to be in the ring against their opponents. As Bernard shared with HBO, “I’m an alien. I come from an era that’s not the era of today, I just happen to be here.”
Bernard, was victorious last night because he went the distance against a man who was knocking all his opponents out. Everyone kept saying that Kovalev would not go beyond 8 rounds, he would either knock Hopkins out or Hopkins would win a 12 round decision. For a 49 year old man who defied the odds and did not accept the after life that most experience post-prison sentence and was able to stay in the ring for 12 rounds and not get taken out by a younger opponent, his performance last night was simply historic. Credit in that regard is due to this man who has given so much to boxing.
At this point, it would be wise for Hopkins to walk away from the sport. There is nothing more to prove as a fighter. There is a great deal for Hopkins to prove as a leading voice in boxing. I hope he makes good on his claim to want to clean up boxing and have the best fighters fight the best. A vision like this is important but means nothing unless it is put to practice. Is Bernard the man to make this vision a reality? Well, he comes from an era when this was actually done. His task is to push this agenda and be a part of match making this era is yet to see.
Beautiful words, insightful commentary. I felt the same Saturday night, and it was the first time I wanted to hear the “loser’s” words after the fight, because I knew what Bernard was going to say was going to be gold. I thought he definitely hinted at now being a leader in the sport. Like he said, there are a multitude of trainers, but not many teachers, so someone like him being a shareholder at Golden Boy Boxing, and poised to be one of the most powerful figures in the sport could really have the right kind of leverage to “clean up the sport”. I feel he’s still better than 95% of the fighters in his division though. I wish there was some slow mo’s of the dodge-counter-trades he did with Kovalev, it was beautiful to watch. I suspect or hope that Kovalev greatly expanded his knowledge and intuition of boxing in those 12 rounds with Bhop, because if any of Bhop rubbed off, Kovalev would be a scary beast. It’s like giving a charging rhinoceros a laser-targeted homing system, he’ll be scary good.
Great piece brother.