|Is Hopkins A Philly Favorite and All-time Best Middle? Answer Might Surprise You!
By Ken Hissner, Doghouse Boxing (March 8, 2013) Doghouse Boxing
About 7 years ago this writer started writing and do believe I have written more about Philly fighters than anyone in that time. Everyone has a favorite and everyone has an opinion. I once did a story on Philly’s best middleweight and had to talk the 3 other judges to include Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins, 56-6-2 (32). Being still active they had their reservations. They were Hall of Fame promoter J Russell Peltz, John DiSanto, editor of Phillyboxinghistory and his assistant Chuck Hasson who as a Historian is being inducted into the PA HOF in May.
The first place voting went to world champion Joey Giardello with 39 points. He was followed by Georgie Benton 36, “Bad” Bennie Briscoe, 31, Hopkins, 27, Stanley “Kitten” Hayward, 21, Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts, 18, Willie “The Worm” Monroe, 14, Eugene “Cyclone” Hart and Gil Turner, 9, James “Black Gold” Shuler, with 7 points rounding out the top 10.
I just finished the book “Joey” by Scott Russell and it was terrific with pictures and very well written. His wife Rosalie played a major part in Joey’s life. I was called by one of their son’s Steve about the book. I purchased it at a book signing at the VBA meeting in Philly. It can be ordered through DiSanto’s website and I highly recommend it.
On Saturday Hopkins once again goes for a world title challenging Tavoris Cloud for his IBF light heavyweight title in Brooklyn, NY, at the new Barclay Center. Hopkins has 19 title defenses not including a NC that could give him 20. He held the IBF middleweight title before winning the WBA Super, WBC and finally the WBO. After winning the WBO he only successfully defended all four titles once. He would go onto winning the WBC and IBO titles as a light heavyweight. At age 48 he is like a modern day Archie “Old Mongoose” Moore who finished up at age 47 with a 185-23-10 (131) record from 1935 to 1963 and was the light heavyweight champion.
At Briscoe’s induction to the PA HOF Peltz introduced him and stated “he would have beaten Hopkins”! Does longevity have a lot to do with the praise Hopkins gets “outside of Philly?” You have to go far and wide to find someone to say something positive about Hopkins in my travels. A former opponent, sparring partner and one time trainer John David Jackson in an interview said “he would rather give up his right nut than part with a dime though he treated me fine”.
Hopkins lives in Hockessin, DE, and rumored he has an apartment in Philly. His marital status was rumored shaky. I wouldn’t want to be the person who walks away with half of his money. You’d be looking over your shoulder the rest of your life.
One of the myths from Hopkins is he spent all 5 years in Graterford Prison, west of Philly. Having visited there more than once it was stated “I was here when he came and here when he moved onto Camp Hill”. That is a prison outside of Harrisburg, PA. Hopkins and his uncle Art “Moose” McCloud were both Camp Hill champions. He claimed to win 4 titles while in there and doubt you win that Camp Hill title being in Graterford. Other information from the same inmate is “Nazim Richardson led him to Islam at Graterford”. Richardson is his current trainer. The inmate wants to remain anonymous.
In doing a story on former IBF light middleweight champion Rob “Bam Bam” Hines he informed me he was the next door neighbor of Hopkins growing up. Four years older he said “I beat him in the amateurs and kicked his ass in the gym.” Hopkins gives both Hines and Jackson credit for being “the two best southpaws I ever fought”. That was before he made a racial statement. “You’re not even in my league. I would never let a white boy beat me. I could never lose to a white boy. I could never go back to the projects if I let a white boy beat me”. He got beat by southpaw Joe “Italian Dragon/Prince of Wales” Calzaghe who ended his career at 46-0 (32) who defended his WBO Super middleweight titles 21 times while adding the Super WBA, WBC and IBF along the way. He is second only to Rocky Marciano, 49-0 (43) to retire unbeaten with that many wins. Hopkins as usual shut down an opponents power but Calzaghe’s hand speed scored more points than Hopkins and thrilled a lot of fans, both white and black!
Hopkins promised the widow of former IBF Super middleweight champion Steve Little 100k and I understand fulfilled the promise. Someone said it was his trainer Bouie Fisher’s money. Twice Fisher sued Hopkins for unpaid fees for training him causing several break-ups.
I know of a Philly boxer who sparred for 2 days with Hopkins and couldn’t make the third day when threatened to lose his job. Hopkins wrote him off by not paying him his $100/day sparring money. What goes round comes around in life and Hopkins has not won many friends in Philly. Whether black or white they are all negative when his name comes up.
Saturday night Hopkins takes on Cloud who hasn’t fought for a year and won a controversial split decision over Gabriel Campillo of Spain who in his only fight since was stopped in January. Cloud is supposed to be a big puncher. He stopped Philly’s Yusaf Mack in June of 2011 which is his only stoppage in his last 5 fights. Hopkins has only won 1 of his last 4 fights including a draw and NC.
Hopkins questioned then Philadelphia Eagle quarterback Donavan McNabbs’s toughness. It was reported McNabb claimed he was ignoring the “ignorant”. It’s not unusual to see Hopkins go from gym to gym in Philly. One wonders if that’s a way to “not pay gym dues” which are paid on a monthly basis. He has pulled out fights like his win over Felix Trinidad, Antonio Tarver, Kelly Pavlik and Jean Pascal when people gave him little chance to win. His NC had a lot of Philly people in the gyms claiming he took “the easy way out”. The rematch went to Dawson by majority decision and was the last time Hopkins fought in April of 2012.
Hopkins hasn’t fought in Philly since 2009 and before that 2003 when he made his only title defense. Then back to 1993 at the legendary Blue Horizon in a USBA title defense. He has only fought in his then hometown 11 times out of 62 fights. He is 11-0 (9) with 2 decisions, one coming in his second fight gaining his first win and in 2009. It has to tell you something about his Philly drawing power.
Hopkins has never been stopped. In 1994 he was down twice against Segundo Mercado in their first fight which ended in a draw in Ecuador where Mercado was from. He was stripped of his IBO title in the Pascal rematch for not paying the sanctioning fee. Like “Old Man River” he keeps on rolling along. Having broken his promise to his mother, unlike George Foreman, on their mother’s death bed may be a “black cloud” over Hopkins. One “cloud” he doesn’t want standing “over” him is Tavoris Cloud on Saturday night!
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