19 Oct 2017

Former world champion and boxing master Bernard Hopkins at the WBC conventon in Baku

The boxing record of Bernard Hopkins stands as 55 wins, 32 KO?s, 8 loses and two draws. At 48 years-of-age he held the world record as the oldest world champion at any weight division - a remarkable feat that beats both George Foreman and Archie Moore.
Hopkins extraordinary boxing record is likely to remain unchallenged for the foreseeable future.
As an unpredictable ?orthodox? boxer Hopkins his victories included impressive wins over Oscar De La Hoya (2204), Roy Jones Junior (2010) and Chad Dawson (2011).

It was at the Forum in Inglewood, California, during the eighth round of his 65th and last fight - just one month short of his 52nd birthday ? that Hopkins concluded his illustrious career after getting knocked out of the ring by a 24 years old young gun Joe Smith. It wasn?t the finale that the boxing world expected, but this inglorious last fight anomaly takes none of the shine away from Hopkins enduring career that spanned three decades.

Hopkins was a shrewdly intelligent fighter.

Known as The Executioner and The Alien he was a boxing sniper and tough survivor who orchestrated a master plan ? a quintessence winning formula ? for the sweet science.

Hopkins adopted a philosophical approach to boxing in which he was the Ring General in weight divisions that boasted the likes of Sugar Ray Robinson, Marvin Hagler and Jake La Motta.
Hopkins was constantly in the firing line for world championships and had over 20 title defences.
In the 90s Hopkins beat John David Jackson, Glen Johnson, Simon Brown and Antwun Echols but lost to Roy Jones Jr. and, in the 2000?s he beat Keith Holmes, an unbeaten Felix Trinidad, out boxed the great warrior Oscar De La Hoya, and was too good for the precision puncher Winky Wright.
How Hopkins lasted for so long at boxing?s coal face furnace is no more amazing than his remarkable life that included a term in the school of hard knocks that turned his early adversity into a lifetime triumph.
Hopkins was one of the boxing legends that attended the WBC convention held in Baku, Azerbaijan where he openly ? and proudly - told his life story that began with being born into a poor family in a tough USA neighborhood.
?I had to learn that being tough is just a small part of survival. There are other factors that unfold in life other than just survival, and I had to learn to use my name not as the boxing man but as the Principal so I would be the winner inside and outside the boxing ring.
?I learnt how to protect myself (because) if my Principal is diminished and I don?t maintain the Principal then I am diminishing myself as a boxer and a human being.?
Hopkins retains a vivid recollection of his teenage years when his boxing skills first came under the notice of the neighborhood street gang.
?The gang leader said to me: Do I want to be a wolf or a lamb? What was a young man who could box supposed to say to that? Of course I told him: ?I want to be a wolf.?
?I soon learnt the hard way what?s it like to be wolf on the streets, and I ended up having to pay for my misdeeds with a prison sentence.?
Locked up Hopkins had time to reflect on his life?s future and what he could do to get out of the mess he was stuck in. Confined to his cell he studied The Art of War written by Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu.
?This book taught how to know myself and my immediate opponent. It showed me how be a boxing magician (so that) when I was near my opponent he thinks I?m far away and when I?m out of range I made him believe he was near to me.?
?Once out prison I developed an authentic life and I was then able to focus on maintaining the Principal, my essential value, and accumulate some decent interest. I realized that I had two primary assets? that I was born a gifted fighter and that that I had the intelligence to become a long term world boxing champion.?
In order to protect his value as an elite boxer Hopkins made an early decision to quit alcohol and drugs from his life.
?I didn?t want to wake up and have any regrets about who I was with or what I might have done the night before. Once I made the decision to protect myself as the Principal I just knew what I had do to become a successful boxer.?
Hopkins had watched many boxers suffer long-term damage in the ring and he didn?t want to become the train wreck of a permanently damaged boxer.
?I decide I would make my own decisions about how I would fight and how my boxing career would evolve. It would be my decision alone to define my strategy.
I focused on a repetitive training regime and fine tuned a master plan for knowing intuitively when to punch, when to counter and, most importantly, how to protect myself.?
This ?self-made? strategy that Hopkins adopted - and implemented - delivered immediate success.
?The fans didn?t always like my defensive strategy. I had to educate (the fans) that protection was an important priority for maintaining myself as the ringmaster so that I could continue my career longer in the ring.
?It?s not for no reason that athletes play football, play baseball, play basketball, and that no one plays boxing. You do boxing?and you?re gonna get dangerously hurt if you don?t have the right strategy, if you don?t know how to protect yourself.?
Hopkins recalls the noise of the raucous fans especially when the heat was on during the crucial rounds of a world championship fight.
?You have to listen to yourself when the crowd starts roaring. You have to keep protecting yourself despite the noise, always anticipating and knowing exactly when to strike and when to stay back.
?Boxing really is the sweet science. It?s the art of knowing what to do when two people put the gloves on and face each other.?
Hopkins most controversial fight was the WBC World Light Heavyweight Championship in 2011 against Chad Dawson at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The fight ended sensationally in the second round when Dawson employed an MMA-style technique that lifted up Hopkins who fell to the ring floor, and injured his shoulder. The referee awarded Dawson a technical knockout. Hopkins challenged the decision and, after holding a review of the fight, the WBC declared the contest a technical draw and restored Hopkins as the world champion. Later the California State Athletic Commission also declared the fight a no contest and Hopkins the official champion.
By Patrick Cusick

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