It was sad to see Bernard Hopkins, a fighter who has battled the boxing establishment, its promotional cartels and the received wisdom of how to manage a career for 20 years, finished by one of the sports unshakeable truths; nobody leaves the sport on their own terms. Bernard has spent the past decade, and intensely for the last 5 years, selling his resistance to the ageing process, declaring himself an alien or somehow immune to the ravages of time.
Alas, a cruel injury may snatch the crescendo he still pursued from his grasp.
Quite how the fight with Chad Dawson may have unfolded, and I’ve long suggested Dawson had the talent, style and youth to unseat Hopkins, is hard to gauge on two rounds of essentially posing and posturing. It was clear Dawson had the presence of mind not to be bullied, nor suckered in by Hopkins trademark traps as many predecessors have. The HBO team commented how, despite the lack of action, it was Hopkins’ feints and ring-smarts that enabled him to dictate the pace of the fight.
Naturally, it will be sad if the last image of Hopkins the fighter is of him laid flat out, his head out of sight, as though only partially pulled from the chiller. Or worst still protesting an injury. It isn’t befitting of the size of the man’s achievements but I’m sure those who witnessed the pathos he tried to apply to an adopted role of tragic victim in the Calzaghe fight will remind us not to extend too much sympathy to the Philadelphian warrior. This isn’t to deny his injury or the foul inflicted by Dawson from which it was accrued. To claim, as the referee has, it wasn’t a foul is ludicrous. Any view of the multi-angle replays not conducted by Ray Charles could see the move was illegal and deliberate; regardless of the provocation it was inexcusable.
But for different reasons to contemporaries like Roy Jones and Evander Holyfield, who continue to fight in the absence of form or the ability to compete at their once impervious best, or Mike Tyson who continued to try and satisfy financial commitments way beyond his physical or emotional interest in the sport, Hopkins may well leave the sport not at a time of his choosing. Rather like George Clooney’s girlfriends, boxing always finishes with you, rather than you finishing with boxing.
Gloaters should be careful however, this is Bernard Hopkins we’re talking about.