Bernard Hopkins - The Broad Street Wizard
By Luis A. Cortes III, MaxBoxing (May 19, 2011) Doghouse Boxing
Bernard Hopkins with Face Mask
He may be known as “The Executioner” but at the age of 46 and being just a few nights away from competing to become the oldest man in the history of the sport to win a world championship, a change in Bernard Hopkins’ moniker seems to be dignified. And it’s not only that Hopkins is planning to make history at such an advanced age in a sport that, like professional football, is viewed to be only for the young of age, it is the way that Hopkins has stayed a dominant force in the sport over the last decade that also warrants him being known as the “Wizard of Broad Street.”

  If you have ever had the pleasure of taking a stroll down the street that is the heart of the city where Hopkins learned the survival instincts he has translated into being not just a dominate force but also a marquee name (which has helped him to position title shots against lesser-known champions), it would be clear from your first taste of the environment, that any man considered as that realm’s wizard from has to be a man that is not only brave but crazy like a fox. 

Several factors are the causes for this Saturday’s rematch between Jean Pascal and Bernard Hopkins.  One is the fact that they fought to a controversial majority draw, a decision that most people, including one of the official judges, felt that Hopkins had won. A second is that Hopkins, despite claiming to be in top physical condition (which is most likely true), Hopkins is 46 years old. I don’t care who you are; eventually, that will be a factor. Hopkins is banking that it won’t be a factor till after this Saturday night.  So for a man obsessed with making history and making sure that he will live in the annals of time when it comes to the “Sweet Science,” he had no time to waste in securing the rematch.  

This brings me to why, at this advanced age and with a bank account full of enough money to live off of for the rest of his remaining days, Hopkins would continue to fight and push both his mental and physical states to their highest levels. 

Simply put, in the current landscape that is boxing, Hopkins, like most experienced fighters, doesn’t see any reason to stop fighting due to the relative competition from his younger counterparts. I mean, honestly ask yourself this question if you have reached this point of the article: Do you really believe that a younger Hopkins would have had any difficulty with the type of fighter Pascal is the way he did early in the first fight? No, this is not an article to disrespect the champion and his skills but instead, look at it more as praise for the skill set that the “Wizard of Broad Street” possesses.   

It’s old-school boxing. It is a skill set that (since his domination over the great Felix Trinidad) even at an advanced age has allowed Hopkins to not only survive but thrive. Just look at what a guy close to ten years his junior has not been able to do over the past year in two high profile fights. Granted, to Shane Mosley’s credit, the competition level was much higher in his case; fighting the two best fighters in the world is no easy task at any age. However, it is the focused and constant approach that Hopkins strictly sticks to that allows him to flourish. If you really sit and watch Hopkins and what he does to succeed, you will be taking a peek at some of the beautiful things that are done inside of the ugly gritty gyms of Philadelphia.  

Feints, shoulder rolls to avoid his opponents’ punches, taking his opponent for a walk (more on this in a little bit) and his ability to swim without getting wet (more on this one too) are all part of the magic done by Hopkins that has held the sport under his spell.   

All of these tricks that Hopkins has mastered over his career, in turn making his craft of survival (like knocking out the first dude that looked at him sideways on Broad Street and Germantown Ave in his past life), are the reasons why he will be missed when he finally calls it a day.   

It’s a shame because it’s not like we are seeing younger fighters utilizing these skills in any shape or form. This is honestly the reason why a guy like Hopkins still believes that his swag and skill set will put him over the youth and exuberance that anyone of his younger foes brings to the table, champion or not.  To add to that argument that Hopkins presents, it’s not as if anyone from the outside of the ring or inside for that matter can truly debate this fact with him.     

In their first engagement, Hopkins showed his legendary status by understanding that, while he was clearly the older of the two in the ring, he needed to do something to stem the tide of the younger Pascal. As a result, Hopkins did something that we rarely see younger fighters do nowadays and actually listened to his corner. He established his underrated body attack on Pascal and made small invested deposits of body shots that he knew would accumulate in the long run. By the end of the night, he knew his savings account of body work would be bumping high with interest and Pascal would be a few steps slower.      

While Hopkins stayed calm and continued to work the body, he avoided the younger man’s attacks by keeping his chin cemented to his lead (left) shoulder. In other words, it was nice and tucked, never allowing for Pascal to see a prime target. Hopkins also stayed on the edge of range with Pascal, which allowed him to have several angles of escape, should he need them behind a jab that kept Pascal honest, along with the thudding body attack.  

Add to the fact that Hopkins was able to take Pascal for a walk and create the proper angles for attack, by the late/championship rounds, Pascal was ready for the full-fledged assault of magic from the “Wizard.”   

When a fighter takes his opponent for a walk, it means that he is able to keep his foe at a distance, yet in range by using an established jab. In this instance, it is the fighter that is moving around the perimeter of the ring that is control of the ring generalship. While the opponent, in this case, Pascal, looks to be the aggressor of the two fighters, it is the fighter moving (Hopkins) that controls the flow of actual action.  

By using his skilled footwork, Hopkins can control the angles, establishing his defense and opportunities for the charging Pascal to get hit with clear counterpunches. If you’re a fighter that has been in full attack mode while getting peppered by jabs and hard body shots, it doesn’t matter how young you are. Your stamina and exuberance flies right out the window.  

Once the “Wizard” notices that his foe is slowing down and his investments are beginning to pay off, he is able to use the angles from his jab and feints to swim without getting wet. This means no longer just moving at the edge of range behind his jab but Hopkins (in this case) stopping his opponent’s movement at the right moment, planting his feet, and unloading serious power punches on a foe that has slipped into just following him without effective aggression (my biggest pet peeve in the sport: people who think just by being the aggressor, you should win the round).  

It’s this potion that the “Wizard of Broad Street” has used to continuously stay a history maker in the sport, while taking on and, for the most part, defeating his younger foes. Until the day he runs into another wizard or a fighter he could at least view as an apprentice, Hopkins will continue to believe that- and justly so- he is the best and can beat any man on the planet.   

Will that happen this weekend? Will Father Time run out of water in his seemingly endless supply from the Fountain of Youth or will his endless potion continue to empower his younger competition? In this scribe’s point of view, it doesn’t seem like there are many younger fighters in boxing today this side of Andre Ward with enough focus to dedicate themselves to those little nuances of the sport that lead to longevity. So I’ll take the potion one more time this Saturday night. Enjoy it folks. At this point, it could be a long time before we get the chance to drink it again.  

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