Saturday night in Philadelphia, the fight game took another sucker punch from one of its own, a cheap shot thrown by the WBC that landed in the City of Brotherly Love.
Bernard Hopkins’ goal of 20 title defenses as a middleweight is not only possible, it’s pretty much a promise. At least as long as he keeps fighting the Carl Daniels and the Morrade Hakkars of the world.
You knew this fight was doomed shortly after you heard the name Hakkar. You had to look him up, double check the spelling of his name, see where he was from, who he might have fought.
And that’s a bad omen for a championship fight.
Hopkins’ defense for beating up Hakkar is that the Frenchman was the WBC’s mandatory challenger, and Hopkins was just doing what he had to do to hold onto his beloved belt.
That’s the easy way out, but that‘s become Hopkins‘ habit the last 18 months, or since he beat Felix Trinidad in what seems like a lifetime ago.
If you missed seeing Saturday’s beating, congratulations. It wasn’t pretty. It was like watching Rocky Balboa chase down one of those chickens. Hakkar didn’t have a prayer, and no one knew it better than Hakkar. He wasn’t so much a deer in the headlights as a frog in the path of a steamroller.
So how does a guy like that end up fighting for the undisputed middleweight championship of the world? Maybe we should ask the WBC rankings committee. I can almost hear the committee discussing who should be their No. 1 contender against Hopkins.
“Hey Larry. How about this guy Mortimer, er Mora….ah, Marauder? This Hakker fella?”
“I don’t know, Moe. Who has he fought? Anybody we know? And has he won some fights. I think the guy we make the mandatory challenger to Hopkins has to have a winning record. And why don’t we find a French guy? Oh, Hakkar is French? Great. Let‘s go with Mortimer. What do you think, Curly?”
“Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk. Coiiintly.”
A top contender was born.
Who did Hakkar beat to become the WBC’s No. 1 mandatory challenger? In his last five fights before the Hopkins’ fiasco, he beat a guy named Alban Girouard who was 11-8; Ricardo Simarra who was 13-7-1; and Eliseo Nogueira who was 9-18-2.
Not recognizable names, even in their hometowns.
In his last two fights, Hakkar split with Cristian Sanavia. Apparently, that was good enough to be the No. 1 challenger against Hopkins.
Hakkar got off easy when the fight was stopped after eight rounds. He had a good payday and he didn’t get hurt and now he can go back and pay for more dance lessons, because he sure showed some slick footwork against Hopkins.
Which brings us back to The Executioner, who looked almost foolish trying to chase down the dancing Frenchman.
What Hopkins has done is taken up where Roy Jones Jr. left off, fighting guys who deliver the mail, teach school or build houses in their day jobs. And he expects the fight world to take notice and crown him as the greatest middleweight of all time.
But the only thing Hopkins is doing is robbing himself of his own legacy.
Great fighters are remembered for their great fights, not the number of stiffs they knocked out once they reached the top.