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The Executioner’s Farewell: What Will B-Hop Will Be

BY Phil Woolever ON June 11, 2006
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As his surprisingly simple victory over Antonio Tarver sunk in, Bernard Hopkins was unusually subdued.

It took quite an achievement to render Hopkins at a relative loss for words, but perhaps understanding that he’d capped what was now a career of even rarer achievement allowed Hopkins to reflect with far less immediate commentary than before.

Hopkins will have plenty to say soon enough, in fact it may be hard to get him to shut up once the accolades and offers start to arrive.

There’s a pretty good chance Hopkins will be interviewed live somewhere in next week’s HBO replay of the light heavyweight landmark, prior to Jermain Taylor-Winky Wright. A lot of people will tune in mainly to see Hopkins.

As long as he’s not talking about another end of the line pit stop, that’s fine. On a conversational front, Hopkins’s prefight banter and previously proven narrative skills qualify him as a possible fill-in for the HBO vacancy left when George Foreman departed for greener grass and grills.

It would be another long shot coming in if Hopkins isn’t heard from frequently during upcoming weeks, in widespread media outlets.

As performer or promoter, Hopkins understands dollars and demographics.

The Tarver-Hopkins bout got little, if any, mainstream coverage going in. After the enduring Hopkins pulled an ultimate performance, regular CNN and Fox outlets ran the upset as a sports lead, right up there with the NBA Finals and Michelle Wie.

Tarver may get a burst of Tommy Morrison type cinematic recognition through his role in Rocky Balboa. Hopkins has worked his way into the household name realm of major sports personality through years of the technical expertise and determination demonstrated against Tarver.

If ever there was one of those obvious hints of pissing off the sports gods, it occurred during countdown footage where Tarver’s digital dukes colleague Sylvester Stallone offered analysis on how showbiz shaping made Tarver quicker and stronger than ever.

From the HBO broadcast, it seemed like 99% of the boardwalk crowd backed Hopkins, who has not always been a surefire attraction. Fifty-five miles or so of turnpike should be close enough to the big Philly finale Hopkins has spoken of.

Beyond the box-office, Hopkins’s big win not only erased the prelims in the public consciousness, he stole headline thunder from the Miguel Cotto-Paulie Malignaggi tilt at Madison Square Garden.

There was plenty of promotional squawking about the dueling pay-per-view date, but the situation was no disaster for the sport. What’s wrong with having two premier events at two premier venues? Once again, public demand proved the market is there.

When subscription numbers become available, the split will probably be fairly even, similar to the amount of fans that showed up at each promotion. Whether or not the star power of Hopkins-Tarver was worth the $50 charge became a moot point after Hopkins’s unexpected performance.

It wasn’t near the most dramatic fight in recent months, but it was enjoyable to watch. Not many who purchased the three-hour show are likely to be disappointed.

The overshadowed undercard was still passable, topped by Andrey Tsurkan’s rousing win over Hector Camacho Jr. Camacho, 152½, 41-2-1 (23), made up a fair share of past amends with a hard-fought effort, and a questionable stoppage may add sympathy to his latest incarnation. Camacho trailed the busy but limited Tsurksan, 151½, 24-2 (15), but still showed he has some “Macho” skills left.

The semi-main event featured a solid matchup, with WBC 122-pound titlist Israel Vasquez, 40-3 (29), against Ivan Hernandez, 23-2-1. “El Magnifico” Vasquez is one of the sport’s rising young studs and didn’t do anything to sway that perception. The contest was halted after Hernandez’s busted nose meant a 4th round TKO victory for Vasquez, content to wait for bigger game.

Jorge Paez Jr, 9-0 (7), is still a work in progress, but showed he could progress a long way. Paez, 140, took a tutorial 4-rounder against worthwhile opponent Travis Hartman, 140, 7-4-1 (5).

If anyone captured the night besides Hopkins, it was his primary trainer Naseem Richardson, who uttered the kind of gems between rounds that made Teddy Atlas a star. Kudos also went to new trainer John David Jackson, and Mackie Shilistone, who added to his resume of strength and conditioning excellence.

It was a fine way to close the show, if Hopkins proves true to his already modified retirement plans.

Half the resulting commentary following Hopkins’s triumph pertained to further potential fisticuffs. The offered rewards may be huge, but on the other side of the decision is a belated promise to a dying mother Hopkins himself referred to many times.

In our copy of conking Karma, the only thing that would justify fighting again would be a farewell fight in Philly, for charity in his mother’s name, to sponsor a Golden Gloves or PAL type tournament annually.

Other than that, what’s the point? You milk the cow too much, it don’t matter what’s over the moon.

Hopefully, Hopkins will retire and become one of the rare few, like Marvin Hagler or Michael Spinks, to get away without looking back. Those two gents seem pretty content with the results of their decisions. It would be nice to see Hopkins gain such status.

There are very few Foreman type sagas. Sugar Ray Leonard s another such rare cat. Put Bernard in with that group, in one of those iconic late night, diner scene homages and you’ve got a pretty fair punching Rushmore.

Hopkinshas carved his image into boxing immortality. He may well be satisfied enough to walk away into other options for good. His legacy is peaking, and a high point in public recognition has always seemed a primary motivation.

Saturday night in Atlantic City, Bernard had them B-Hopping joyously in the isles.

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