INGLEWOOD, CALIF. – When it was announced Bernard Hopkins was going to engage in his final fight, that was reason enough for me to drive the 70 miles one way to the Inglewood Forum.
A couple of years ago when more than half of the Golden Boy Promotions stable deserted the Los Angeles-based company in favor of an upstart company, many predicted doom for Oscar De La Hoya. Many employees of the company left including the CEO and stars like Danny “Swift” Garcia, Keith Thurman and others.
One star stayed and his name is Hopkins.
The Philadelphia middleweight whose eye-catching moment was a knockout of his current business partner De La Hoya in September 2004, was the only man standing with the East L.A. icon while dozens departed for greener pastures.
Those that left called Hopkins to join in the fun and money but despite the promise of riches and better days, the former middleweight and light heavyweight world champion shook his head and told them “no thank you.”
It was a gesture that boxing fans appreciated, especially those that like the underdog and De La Hoya was definitely the underdog. Hopkins stood his ground and the millions of Latino fans who appreciate loyalty suddenly saw the Philly fighter in a completely different light. He was no longer just the fighter with incredible boxing skills; he was a man of his word and loads of character. While many bolted for the money, Hopkins told the world he was staying with De La Hoya all the way.
Hopkins showed more honor and integrity than 98 percent of the fighters I had ever come across.
Now, 51, Hopkins has not fought since 2014 when the Golden Boy Promotions company split apart. That fight was against current light heavyweight world champion Sergey Kovalev and ended with a loss. Age of course led to the loss. No longer does he possess the lightning reflexes of his middleweight days. But the boxing skills have never decreased. If not, Hopkins would have become a knockout statistic for Kovalev.
Golden Boy Promotions announced that Hopkins (55-7-2, 32 Kos) will be fighting Joe Smith Jr. (22-1, 18 Kos) who was born after Hopkins pro debut. They meet on Dec. 17, at the Inglewood Forum in the main event. HBO will televise.
Hopkins told the media that he began during President Ronald Reagan’s administration and has seen two George Bushs and two Clintons lead the nation. But despite the many decades spent in the prize ring he prefers to make his finale a fight fan spectacle.
“History was made by me multiple times,” said Hopkins. “This is definitely the final one.”
Smith is a New York light heavyweight who blew out Andrzej Fonfara in one round in Chicago. Fonfara is the same fighter who easily defeated Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at the nearby StubHub Center two years ago. That should awaken the eyes of some fans.
De La Hoya knows all about bucking the odds and knows Hopkins wants no easy busters.
“It’s going to be a very tough fight,” said De La Hoya. “It will be talked about for many decades to come.”
HBO’s Tony Walker said that Hopkins joins an elite group who has had their fights telecast by his network. According to Walker, the Philly fighter has been televised 23 times and joins De La Hoya, Roy Jones Jr., Lennox Lewis, Manny Pacquiao and a few others who cracked the 20-plus list.
“These are all fighters who you know on a first name basis like Oscar, Roy, Shane and Lennox,” said Walker.
Fans who appreciate the loyalty that Hopkins showed will be dropping by to pay their respect. Champions come and go but loyalty like that shown by the great Philly fighter does not come very often.
Tickets are on sale today for “The Finale One.”
For Ticketmaster call (800) 745-3000. To call the Forum directly (310) 330-7300.