The Best of Times, the Worst of Times
By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (May 23, 2011) Doghouse Boxing (Photo ©
Bernard Hopkins

Way back on May 22nd, 1993, Roy Jones and Bernard Hopkins got into a boxing ring at the old home of the Washington Redskins, RFK Stadium, for the vacant IBF middleweight crown. Back then, Jones was the gifted, young, uber-talent who was destined for greatness. A sublime blend of speed, quickness and power with an Olympic pedigree, he came straight out of central casting as it related to U.S. boxing stardom. Hopkins, on the other hand, was this unknown guy out of Philly, a hardnosed, yet raw, slugger who just happened to be in line to face Jones for this title. This wasn't supposed to be so much a prizefight but really a coronation of a new king. Jones was the marquee name; this other guy, just a bit player, someone who would be just a footnote in Jones' history.  

Hopkins fought respectably that night in D.C. in losing by the tallies of 116-112 on all three scorecards. But the story of the night was Jones, who five years after being horrifically robbed of his much-deserved gold medal in Seoul, South Korea, was able to gain a measure of redemption by picking up the first of many world titles.  

As expected, Jones did go on to fulfill the prophecy of fistic greatness. On his way to collecting belts at middleweight, super middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight, he was the clear consensus choice as the game’s best fighter for a full decade. However, a funny thing happened to “The Executioner”; instead of fading away in obscurity, he diligently crafted his own storied career. Nearly two years after his defeat at the hands of Jones, Hopkins eventually captured the same IBF title (then vacated by Jones) by stopping Segundo Mercado in their second go-round. From there, he would embark on an often anonymous and workmanlike journey through the division that was more a testament to his professionalism and consistency than his ability to inspire awe from the masses.  

While Jones was HBO's poster boy, Hopkins still had to make title defenses on Fox Sports Net and the USA Network. When he was on HBO, Roy was part of the ringside announcing crew. It was as if Jones was the teacher, Hopkins the pugilistic pupil whose every error would be dissected for the country to hear by the professor from Pensacola.

It seemed destined that Hopkins would always be in Jones’ shadow.

As you fast-forward to May 21st, 2011, it was Jones who was playing out the string as the B-side in Moscow, Russia against Denis Lebedev. The man that we all thought would never be the sad story of the boxer who simply won’t call it a day has become “that guy.” Like Sugar Ray Robinson playing out the string of his illustrious career in locales like Tijuana and Honolulu, Jones is now just another version of Evander Holyfield, deluded in his own mindset and undaunted by a certain reality that he simply no longer has it. Graceless exits have been around since the inception of this sport but it makes it no easier to witness. Unlike other sports, where elder statesmen sit at the end of the bench with foreign uniforms on (think Shaq O'Neal in a Celtics jersey, for the most recent example) and make their infrequent appearances that harken back to their more youthful and vibrant days, boxing, unfortunately, has none of that sentimentality attached to it. These guys do it because they simply have no other options and while other sports celebrate their former greats playing out the string, this sport uses them as cannon fodder, a notch on the belt or another big name on a growing résumé.  

Jones is now just a shell of the shell of himself that he was after his back-to-back knockout losses to Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson (which forever took away his supposed cloak of invincibility) and he's not even that guy that can stick around against the likes of Joe Calzaghe. The stark reality is that he is a guy that has lost his last three contests in lopsided fashion, one of them an unnecessary rematch against Hopkins last year, which is sandwiched around two knockouts. The scene of Jones lying prone on the canvas for a minute or two after getting brutally stopped by Lebedev is shocking and scary. What's even scarier is that there is no guarantee this will be his last outing in the ring.  

All Jones has now are his distant memories of his sublime talent, where he redefined boxing. He had a style all his own and he could break all the rules because of his extraordinary God-given skill set. He did everything wrong and yet, it turned out right because he was “RJ.” Now he's “The Artist Formerly Known as Roy Jones,” whose gifts have left him for good, his greatness in the rearview mirror.  

Now we get to Hopkins, who on the same night in Montreal, became the oldest ever fighter (at age 46) to capture a major world title by defeating the athletic, yet flawed, Jean Pascal for the WBC light heavyweight title. You can say it now; while Father Time has trampled Jones, Hopkins has been able to feint and parry his way from being overtaken. No, he's not the same guy who he was a decade ago (then again, who is?) but where Jones never really had a need to rely on a certain fundamental grounding, Hopkins was forced to hone all the small, subtle skills that allow him to still box effectively while still losing a few inches off his fastball.  

No, Hopkins isn't particularly exciting, especially to the casual fan of the sport, but as it relates to all the small, scientific things that are to be appreciated: tucking your chin in tightly, having an angled stance, rolling with punches and picking your spots, he is a boxer that is to be admired and even emulated in an era when so many fighters are incomplete and one-dimensional. Hopkins is boxing's version of the wool blanket. If you have a fire that needs to be quelled, he'll find a way to smother it. Once again, versus Pascal, he fought a more athletic individual who was stronger, faster, quicker and younger. Once again, none of that mattered, as it was Bernard's guile, grit, mental toughness and technical superiority that ruled the day. In many respects, it was like the tortoise and the hare.  

While Jones' flaws have been fatal as he reached the twilight of his career, Hopkins' overall game and craftsmanship have allowed him to compete with the very best the game has to offer well past his 40th birthday. You can even make an argument that he has not clearly and definitively lost a prizefight since facing Jones back in 1993. You don't have to like him personally. Yeah, his inner-city, penitentiary shtick got old a few years ago and he is no longer this renegade he portrayed himself to be, given his partnership with Golden Boy Promotions- now every bit the establishment he once railed against- but it's almost impossible to not marvel at his accomplishments.  

Jones is now a has-been. Hopkins is a still-is.   

As one guy keeps looking back to recapture the ‘90s, the other guy keeps moving ahead into the 21st century.  


You could just hear the frustration in the voice of noted trainer Emanuel Steward during the middle rounds of the bout between his newest client “Casual” Chad Dawson and Adrian Diaconu. While he was doing enough to win, it wasn't enough for Steward, who like many others, wants more out of Dawson (who over-promises on potential and under-delivers on actual performance). It did seem, at times, that Dawson did try and punch with more authority and fight with a bit more assertiveness but again, while you can teach and change technique, it's not really clear you can change a boxer's temperament. What did Cus D'Amato once say about square pegs not dying round?  

It'll be interesting to see where this Steward-Dawson union goes. I think it was too much to ask for Dawson to suddenly become Matthew Saad Muhammad after one training camp. This could be a reclamation job like the one Steward oversaw with Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko or a failure in the mold of Jermain Taylor. Either way, I think a true evaluation of this duo can't be made for another couple of fights.  

I've always wondered though about Dawson; was he “Rosario'd”? Like Hector Camacho Sr. before him, we have a talented fighter who gets cracked really hard on the whiskers for the first time, survives the ordeal but is never quite the same again. The “Macho Man” wasn't so, after getting drilled by Edwin Rosario in 1986 at Madison Square Garden. Well, Dawson, in my view, has never been quite the same after getting dented by Glen Johnson in their first hook-up in April of 2008.   


I know there is some debate as to who will be regarded higher in the history books as it relates to Hopkins and Jones (if you care about that kind of stuff) but here's the thing; while you can certainly make an argument for Hopkins based on his late career run, I'm not so sure it's fair to penalize Jones for his recent fade. After all, he's at the “Johnny Unitas in a San Diego Charger uniform” stage of his career. Most athletes are defined by what they did in their prime years, not as they were badly faded. I mean, does 1965 count against the greatness of Ray Robinson (he lost five times that year)?  

I've never really bought into this whole opinion of Jones being the G.O.A.T. To me, he was not the greatest fighter ever but really, with the way he could handpick his foes and play HBO like a fiddle, I always thought he was the greatest manager/matchmaker ever. Regardless, I do recognize that at his best, he was a special talent and when you ask me to define Roy Jones, it won’t be off him getting stopped by Danny Green or Lebedev but his mastery against the likes of James Toney and his dominance of the light heavyweight division in the ‘90s.  

What makes Hopkins special is when he was no longer at his physical prime, he found other ways to be consistently successful against world-class opposition. So the question is, do you rate Jones above Hopkins for what they were at their respective apexes or do you flip them for the overall scope of their careers?  


Speaking of tucking in their chins, Sadam Ali has some tools but he could learn from Hopkins on the art of keeping his chin hidden and safely protected...Speaking of the great Ray Robinson, in his last year of boxing in 1965, he had 14- yes- 14 fights. That's amazing...I thought Charles Huerta did enough to get the decision over Christopher Martin but good fight either way...Ronny Rios got some good work in against Georgi Kevlishvili on that same card at the OC Hangar...Deandre Latimore and his camp want to make it clear that they are willing to take on all comers at 154 pounds after Erislandy Lara left them hanging to fight Paul Williams on July 9th...I thought Alfonso Gomez looked really good in blowing out Calvin Green in two frames on “Top Rank Live”...As long as you pair up Jean Pascal with someone local, you can do a Hopkins-Dawson fight in Montreal, as far as I'm concerned. That just might be the best boxing market in the world...Speaking of which, how ‘bout a bout between Pascal and Tavoris Cloud down the line? I'd love to see it...My prayers to Gary Carter. “The Kid” was the best catcher of his era, in my opinion...And also to Oscar De La Hoya who entered rehab on Saturday. Whatever he has to work on, I hope he's successful at it...

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