Change is perhaps one of the greatest constants that we encounter in our lives. From the evolution of language and the addition and omission of words, to the evolution and development of consumer electronics, we are able to conceive and notice this aspect of change. The sport of Boxing is no different; since its inception, the sport has adapted and changed. From the evolution of boxing gloves, reduction of rounds in a boxing match (15 rounds to 12 rounds) and the exponential increase in purses for fighter, the phenomenon of change has taken place in the sport. Undoubtedly, we are able to ascertain that many aspects of the sport which have changed or been modified can be considered to have either a positive or negative influence for the sport, its fighters and its fans. Changes which have improved the health, safety and well-being of a fighter, such as extended breaks between rounds or ensuring that referees correctly stop a fight before a fighter has taken unnecessary punishment are, undoubtedly, appreciated and beneficial for the sport. However, there is have been many changes and aspects of the game in the modern era which are to the detriment of the sport. On many occasions, fans are regularly seeing the best fighters not fighting the toughest opposition. The list is sadly a growing one : Adonis Stevenson’s reticence to fight Sergey Kovalev, the reluctance of fighters to fight world-class opposition such as Gennady Golovkin and Guillermo Rigondeaux, and the most infamous, the inability of the two most known fighters today in the sport of Boxing to fight each other, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. In addition to other factors such as boxing politics with sanctioning bodies, television networks and boxing promoters, many fans have become disillusioned with many of the changes which have taking place in the sport, harking back to a time when the best fought the best and fought regularly. There is one current fighter, however, whose career has defied many of the negative changes in the sport : whose willingness to fight the best fighters in multiple weight classes and to fight across the world has undoubtedly led him to be considered an all-time great and a legitimate throwback and old-school fighter – Philadelphia’s Bernard Hopkins.
When looking at the storied career of Hopkins, the opponents he has faced and the accomplishments achieved are truly outstanding; twenty consecutive defenses as Middleweight World Champion, including unifying all four titles and RING magazine belt to be the undisputed champion, a rare feat. During this impressive reign, Hopkins defeated world-class fighters such as Felix Trinidad, Oscar de la Hoya and Glen Johnson. After two controversial close losses to Jermain Taylor, Hopkins challenged Antonio Tarver for the linear Light-Heavyweight championship; despite many picking against Hopkins due to his move up from a lighter weight, Hopkins dominated Tarver, knocking the Orlando, Florida native down and winning a wide unanimous decision. Despite this outstanding achievement at the age of 40 years old, an age where few fighters are able to fight at an elite level, Hopkins continued to fight the most significant, dangerous and important fighters of this era, including Winky Wright, Joe Calzaghe, Kelly Pavlik, Chad Dawson, Tavoris Cloud, and most recently, agreeing to fight Sergey Kovalev, one of the most feared boxers in the world today and was openly ducked by Adonis Stevenson. During the past 5 years of Hopkins fighting the most dangerous and significant fighters in his fourties, Hopkins accomplished more records, including the oldest fighter ever to win a divisional belt, first against his victory in the re-match against Jean Pascal, then his vicoty over Tavoris Cloud to beat his own record.
In addition to Hopkin’s achievements and his victories against the best, something else will be attributed to Hopkins, something that differentiates and elevates him from other great fighters of his era, including Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao et al; his willingness and desire to fight the best, regardless of boxing politics or danger. He has not hidden behind a boxing promoter or adviser to duck a fight; he has not turned down a fight due to the location of the fight, often fighting in his opponent’s home city, such as against Jean Pascal or Sergundo Mercado. He did not argue that his opponent was too big or too small, thus fighting the best of fighters, regardless of weight. Many of the fans of boxing were not shocked to hear that Bernard Hopkins wanted to challenge himself against the dangerous and powerful Kovalev, not only breaking the Cold War between Golden Boy Promotions and HBO, or Main Event’s lawsuit against Golden Boy, boxing advisor Al Haymon, but proving, once again, that the old man is a unique fighter in today’s fighter, truly fighting the best for his legacy and earns his place in boxing history. Regardless of the result against Kovalev, the Russian fighter is one of a long line of list of dangerous opponents Hopkins has agreed to fight; in addition to his encyclopedic knowledge of the sport and application of his terrific application of the sport, Hopkins truly espouses the mantle as a legitimate old-school fighter, and this scribe for one is grateful to see this living-day legend.