The Contrariness of Bernard Hopkins

Brace yourself people because I am going to drop some mad knowledge on your head.  Bernard Hopkins is a complicated man.  Groundbreaking revelation isn’t it? All lame attempts to be humorous aside, former middleweight (160 lbs.) champion and current light heavyweight (175 lbs.) champion Bernard Hopkins is your classic riddle wrapped inside of an enigma.  Better yet, Hopkins is a walking contradiction, albeit a contradiction that could whoop yo ass.  Contradictory Item #1 – Hopkins’ Perception of the Media’s Respect or Lack Thereof Hopkins seems to relish in disparaging the media, often criticizing then for their lack of belief in his abilities and sluggish response in acknowledging his many accomplishments.  Sure there is a hint of truth there as early on most media were hesitant to award Hopkins his just due.  Whether this response was due to his oft abrasive personality (see Barry Bonds) of his less than appealing fighting style it is hard to say.  However the fact remains that most pundits and fans alike have openly lauded Hopkins’ numerous accomplishments: 20 title defenses of his middleweight crown, capturing the light heavyweight title in impressive fashion, etc.   Hopkins is almost universally recognized as an all-time great and sure fire first ballot Hall of Fame inductee.  So when Hopkins goes on about proving the great contingency of “nay sayers” wrong who is he referring to? Contradictory Item #2 – Hopkins 43-Year Old Body A large part of Hopkins success and longevity in this brutal sport can be directly attributed to his freakishly youthful body.  In recent times Hopkins has solicited the aid of training guru Mackie Shilstone to sculpt his aging body into the likeness of a 175 pound Adonis which has rejuvenated Hopkins and his career to a certain degree.  It’s a feat of pure astonishment given Hopkins profession and age.  Case in point, I’m a relatively young 28 years-old and I could not get that body with the help of all the plastic surgeons in LA.  Furthermore I’ll be luck to see 43 with the wear and tear I put on my body during the youthful transgressions of my late teens and early twenty’s but I digress.  The fact is that Hopkins has always led a Spartan lifestyle, boasting the fact that he does not smoke, drink, or indulge in unhealthy food.  Obviously that has played a big role in his longevity and the fact that he stayed at one weight class for so long probably resulted in less wear and tear on his musculature then say a fighter who constantly fluctuates between weight classes.  Never the less the human body can only take so much and Hopkins seems to be aware that his days fighting may be numbered as he has hinted that this fight with Calzaghe may be his last.  Contradictory Item # 3 – Once a Maverick Now the “Man” For the record I don’t mean the “man” like in how I f**king kick ass in Uno but “man” like in the invisible owner of the hand that continues to oppress me.  Remember when Hopkins was Mr. Anti-Establishment?  He stood in complete defiance to any and all power brokers within the foul-smelling bowels of boxing.  Hopkins twice sued two former promoters in Butch Lewis and Dan Goossen after feeling that he was not getting his just desserts as a fighter.  Of course that was nothing compared to the drama that Hopkins found himself submerged in when Lou DiBella sued Hopkins for libel and slander.  The lawsuit was brought on by comments Hopkins made during his less then amicable split with Lou DBella’s fledgling promotional company in 2001.  While once the closest of individuals, the relationship rapidly soured after Hopkins told reporters that DiBella had not resigned from his post as the boxing czar over at HBO and that $50,000 had been extorted from him in exchange for a coveted spot on an HBO telecast.  Hopkins lost and DiBella was awarded $610,000 in damages and yet Hopkins still had the “I don’t give a f**k” mentality that spurned him from favor with boxing’s movers and shakers but endeared him to many for his convictions.  But all that was in the past.  Since knocking out Oscar De La Hoya in 2004 and then inexplicably was offered partnership in De La Hoya’s own fledgling promotional outfit Golden Boy Promotions.  Since then Hopkins has become the very subject of his once deep rooted hatred.  While it goes without saying that few fighters can promote themselves quite like ole Hopkins it still seems quite odd that he would now be head of a promotional outfit.  Not to say that he is not capable of flourishing in his role as head of Golden Boy East it is just an odd fit for a man with the patience of a two year-old.  Some Other Thoughts…. Perhaps because I am not fully Caucasian I was not that offended about Hopkins “white boy” comment to Calzaghe.  Was it uncalled for and tasteless?  You bet your sweet bippy but truth be told, if you spend any amount of time in a boxing gym or locker room for that matter you will hear professional athletes say 10x worse comments.  Does it make it excusable?  No, in a perfect world such unpleasantness would never be uttered but by making such a fuss we empower the separation such a ugly comment creates.  Would the backlash have been 100 times worse had Calzaghe said that he would never let a “black boy beat me”.  Yes it would and that in itself is not fair.  For the record I felt that Don Imus was crucified for his comments on the Rutgers women’s basketball team, sure it was uncalled for but he did apologize.  And there in lies the difference, Imus apologized while Hopkins got defensive thus compounding the problem. But such tactics are not even needed to sell a fight of this magnitude.  Israel Vasquez and Rafael Marquez never once uttered a disparaging remark and that fight drew a huge turnout.  Fighters should be able to sell a fight based on their merits and not resort to such juvenile behavior.  With all that being said I know exactly why Hopkins said it.  It was not a mere slip of the tongue it was his subtle way of probing for a weakness.  Hopkins was looking for that flash of anger to enter Calzaghe’s eyes.  Anger that would cause Calzaghe to abandon a well thought out plan of attack for something more personal.  It was the same tactic that Hopkins used on Winky Wright when he shoved Wright at the weigh-in.  From that moment on Wright had lost the fight.  He had allowed Hopkins to dictate the terms of engagement as well as giving Hopkins that slight psychological edge that served him well in their gawd awful fight last year.  Some Quick Links As If This Post Isn’t Long Enough… Check out my personal favorite boxing scribe Thomas Hauser’s excellent piece on Hopkins here. In case you missed it, you must check out Tim’s Hopkins-Calzaghe fight preview post here. In  shameless move of self promotion check out my story hereon regarding Johnny Deas and go hereto read my piece on FightHype about welterweight prospect Danny Garcia who is supposed to fight on the Hopkins-Calzaghe undercard.  I know, I know I’m a whore for attention.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.