A lot of 46-year-olds couldn’t drop and bang out five pushups under any circumstances. Bernard Hopkins does it for fun in the middle of going 12 hard rounds of combat against an opponent 18 years his junior. Unless you’re Jack Palance, who was presumably looking down from above and wondering why Hopkins was wussing out and using both arms, you had to be impressed.
And I’m not just talking about the pushups, of course. Almost everyone in the boxing world was blown away by what Hopkins did to Jean Pascal on Saturday night. Their first fight was close enough, at least with two knockdown calls going against Hopkins, to make a case for a draw. This time, even without the benefit of two knockdown calls he arguably should have gotten, Hopkins won convincingly. Most of the feedback via email and Twitter was overwhelmingly reverential. But I got one email that played a little bit of devil’s advocate, so let’s take a look:
With all due respect to what B-Hop just did at the crazy age of 46, doesn’t it seem the praise of this performance is going a little overboard? I mean, Pascal just isn’t that good. He tries hard and is pretty athletic, but his punches are just so sloppy and he’s totally unimaginative. And Hopkins fought great for 46, or even for 40, but if you don’t adjust for age, I think he had a ton of performances better than this one. Am I crazy to say this shouldn’t go down as one of Hopkins’ top five time capsule performances?
Loving your stuff on The Sweet Science and Twitter,
Thanks for the kind words, but yes, you’re crazy not to put this in Hopkins’ top five. In my view, there should be some adjusting for age when assessing the quality of a performance. I’ll agree with you to a point; some are calling this Hopkins’ greatest night, and I’m sorry, but he could win a world championship at age 86 and it wouldn’t top what he did against Felix Trinidad—still the greatest boxing performance I’ve ever witnessed in person. And aesthetically, it’s hard to rate Hopkins-Pascal II over Hopkins-Kelly Pavlik. But you have to factor in that Pascal, regardless of his limitations, was the legitimate light heavyweight champion of the world and Hopkins beat him clearly on his own turf, even convincing the Canadian crowd to briefly chant “B-Hop! B-Hop!” I half-expected Bernard to answer Max Kellerman’s first question by launching into the “If you can change” speech.
This wasn’t Hopkins’ all-time greatest performance, but when we factor in age and historical importance (as we should, to a point), it’s in the discussion for number two. I see no reasonable excuse not to rank it in his top five.
And with that, it’s time for the Rants, starting with a few more thoughts on Hopkins’ history-making night:
• I would definitely download “My Way” with the alternate B-Hop lyrics on iTunes before I would download any of the seven versions of Manny Pacquiao and Dan Hill performing “Sometimes When We Touch.”
• Several rounds before HBO posted its postfight graphic on great older-age championship performances in various sports, I noted how Hopkins was putting Jack Nicklaus’ Masters win at 46 to shame since, you know, one happened in boxing and the other happened in golf. Then HBO put that graphic up and included more than just one “sport” about which you can have an intelligent debate over whether it’s a sport or not. I don’t mean to denigrate the skill involved in golf, auto racing, or any other activity where you can get a sweat going if it’s hot enough out, but there’s really no comparison between what Hopkins did and what most of the other standouts listed in the graphic did.
• The HBO broadcasters were on point throughout the Hopkins-Pascal fight, expertly putting the developing result into perspective at all times. Jim Lampley was in the zone during both his monologue during the first minute of the 12th round and before signing off at the end of the telecast. And Kellerman had one of his best ever lines with “If you live long enough, you see Shane Mosley stink it out and Bernard Hopkins light it on fire.”
• On the opposite side of the battle against Father Time, we have Roy Jones. The “Roy needs to retire” observation became trite a long time ago, so I’ll stay away from that. Instead I’ll make this observation: Steve Smoger is one of the best refs in the business but is the wrong choice for a Jones fight.
• By the way, lost in our obsession with telling fighters when to retire is the reality of how challenging day-to-day life is for many of them without boxing. I’m not saying we shouldn’t want them to hang up the gloves before they get hurt. But in the last two years alone, Joe Calzaghe, Ricky Hatton, and now Oscar De La Hoya have all served as reminders that walking away from boxing at the right time has its perils as well.
• Following up on last week’s column on Face Off With Max Kellerman, a reader named Guy Oshky passed along this link to the airing schedule for the Wladimir Klitschko-David Haye episode, and now I pass it along to you (even though, in the DVR age, such information is generally unnecessary): http://www.hbo.com/#/schedule/detail/Max+Kellerman+Face+Off%3A+Klitschko+vs.+Haye/571777
• Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I would rather have seen Paul Williams vs. Nobuhiro Ishida than Williams-Erislandy Lara. Ishida has a better storyline and a more fan-friendly style, even if perhaps Lara stands a slightly better chance of pulling the upset.
• Exhibit A in why people who don’t know anything about boxing shouldn’t be allowed to talk about boxing: http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=6562677
• There’s plenty of reason to think James DeGale still has a bright future after suffering a close defeat to George Groves on Saturday—especially if the Olympic gold medalist dedicates himself to learning the art of infighting. He has long arms and abjectly fails to shorten up his punches on the inside, instead throwing wide shots that have almost no hope of landing before his opponent’s do. Either he needs to work on that, or he needs to request that Luis Pabon referee all of his fights.
• I’m not a boxer, just a guy acting like a know-it-all from the privacy of my ringside or couchside seat, but the next time John Revish hurts an opponent during the final round of a fight in which he’s hopelessly behind on points, he might want to think about following up with additional offense. Meanwhile, Sadam Ali is a decent enough prospect, but it’s hard to overlook his average-at-best hand speed and non-existent head movement.
• Sweet Jesus, Mauro Lucero is still fighting? (Not judging. Not calling for a retirement. Just expressing disbelief.)
• It’s not too late to check out last week’s episode of Ring Theory (http://ringtheory.podbean.com), with special guest Tim Starks, founder of the Queensberry-Rules.com blog. You can listen to a free preview clip (http://tinyurl.com/43ds83r) and then, when you have several days with absolutely nothing to do, enjoy an episode so long and chock full o’ goodness that it makes every subscriber feel guilty about underpaying for the privilege of listening.
Eric Raskin can be contacted at RaskinBoxing@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter @EricRaskin and listen to new episodes of his podcast, Ring Theory, at http://ringtheory.podbean.com.