When you start to open a door, the pressure has to be greatest in the beginning, yet the door moves the least.Norman Mailer, Author, 1923-2007, The Executioner’s Song (1979)
Boxing needs personalities. And never more so than in the beleaguered heavyweight division. Yesterday’s announcement, and the worst kept secret in boxing, that former middleweight great and presently consensus Light-Heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins plans to return in the blue ribbon weight class didn’t cause the gasps of disbelief the ‘Executioner’ appears to crave.
Approaching 42, and with a plethora or statements that he wouldn’t fight beyond his 40th birthday all uncomfortable reference points, the veteran’s zest for combat, attention and challenge has dragged him back from his embryonic partnership with Golden Boy Promotions and toward competitive action.
His quest, to restore pride and American ownership to the heavyweight division, is already a tired sound byte. Hasim Rahman, John Ruiz and Shannon Briggs all claimed to be fighting for their country rather than personal gain. As ludicrous a plot as the Rocky IV script from which much of the bluster and machismo appears to be stolen.
However, with the WBC champion Oleg Maskaev being the possessor of both a destructive right hand and a vulnerable chin the potentiality of Hopkins achieving the seemingly unthinkable and annexing an aspect of the championship isn’t beyond the bounds of reason.
His contingency should the WBC fail to sanction the fight, Maskaev has obligations to mandatories, will be to prevent Joe Calzaghe, the previously jilted Super-Middleweight champion, surpassing his record 20 defences. Spurious reasoning given Calzaghe only held the WBO belt until the victory over Lacy.
Quite how Bernard keeps both options open given his need to bulk up to heavyweight from his present weight of 180lbs is difficult to fathom. But then Hopkins has rarely played by the rules.
The news he may fight for another “three or four years” an equal cause for concern as the sport battles to uncover the young diamonds to belatedly replace this ever-ageing chorus line.