Hogwash, Lou DiBella told me, complete and utter hogwash.
The reason Bernard Hopkins the athlete doesn’t get more love and attention from the mainstream sports press has nothing to do with the color of his skin, and just about everything to do with the sad state of the sport, the New York based promoter told me.
Combustible Lou was in fine form on Monday evening, after seeing that I Tweeted a query:
Michael Woods ?@Woodsy1069
So, is Hopkins right? Do you not think if he were a 49 yr old Caucasian his efforts wouldn't be more widely appreciated in mainstream media?
This Tweet riffed off of Hopkins’ rant to Brian Campbell of ESPN.com, who asked him, during a media workout, why he though his record hasn’t gained more love and attention in the mainstream press.
“[It's] because I'm black,” Hopkins said to Campbell before the start of the media workout at the Joe Hand Boxing Gym in Philly. “What do you think if my name was Augustine, Herzenstein, Stern? Cappello? Marciano? Don't you understand the conflict of interest? If I was any of those names of any other background, I'd be on every billboard and every milk carton and every place to be. If we're talking 'American Dream,' here's a guy who almost threw his life away and he took this great country's great attributes and used it — do for self, work hard and be a law-abiding citizen. I've done that for 26 years.”
Suffice to say Dibella doesn’t agree, not one stitch. I do happen to agree with Hopkins, if not quite in so cut and dry a fashion.
Here’s my follow-up Tweet to the question I posited:
Yes. I do think if ?@THEREALBHOP were white, MAYBE he'd be on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
“Listen, Bernard Hopkins is not Santa Claus, he’s not George Foreman,” the promoter DiBella continued, referencing the lovable cheeseburger-chomping persona put forth by Foreman in bis potent second act, which saw him beating Michael Moorer and winning the heavyweight title at age 45 plus, in 1994. “He's almost a generation removed since Foreman did that,” DiBella said. “Now, the mainstream sports media ignores our sport. We don’t have our own listing on the sports sites, on the websites. We’re in with “Other.” It has nothing to do with race, it has to do with the marginalization. And this fight (Nov. 8 in Atlantic City, and on HBO, pitting Hopkins, who turns 50 in February, against Russian neuron shifter Sergey Kovalev) is against Kovalev, who really doesn’t speak English, and the mainstream sports fans don’t know who he is.”
Dibella and Hopkins have a rich history, to be sure, but the promoter is far enough beyond the most contentious of their interactions that he is able to acknowledge that the 55-6-2 ex middleweight champion par excellence and current light heavy titlist is supremely talented.
“Bernard is a remarkable talent, the way he stays in shape, his conditioning, all that, I take nothing away from him. And I’m the first one to say that racism exists in America, racism exists in America, in sports, but it’s not a factor here. This is about the marginalization of the sport.”
I told Lou, hey, you don’t think MAYBE if Hopkins were white, he’d get a longer look from all the assignment editors who are, news flash, mostly old white dudes? Negative, he replied. “George Foreman was bigger than life, he was on the nightly news, people didn’t give a crap if he was white or black. I mean, LeBron James, is he white? Maybe, if Bernard was more a George type, that would maybe make a bit of a difference. But I’m sick of people pretending we are comparable as a sport to football, basketball. It’s now a different sports world, and it’s such an easy cop-out to say Hopkins’ (lack of mainstream attention) is because of race. The world has changed in respect to the sport. Bernard’s achievements are extraordinary, and the attention he’s not receiving but maybe deserves has nothing to do with race.”
I reached out to George Foreman for his take, and he's with Dibella. “This reminds me of a great movie director pulled over in Hollywood and blaming others for his state of mind,” Foreman told me. “All I ever expected from boxing was my purse and a title belt, and I'm thankful for the above. Rocky Marciano received little acclaim until after he died. Jack Dempsey hosted a restaurant, and Joe Louis had the most endorsements!”
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