Friday, October 7, 2011

Nothing New From Hopkins with Expectation To Continue Legacy Against Dawson

By Rich Mancuso

You come to expect the same thing from Bernard Hopkins. There is never a lack of confidence coming from the future Hall of Fame light heavyweight champion who defends his WBC title against Chad Dawson on HBO Pay-Per-View at the Staples Center in Los Angeles a week from Saturday. He says the same thing and does not present the image of a fighter that wants to hang up the gloves anytime soon.

“I want my gray to be in the ring,” said the 46-year old champion who achieved boxing history back in May when he defeated Jean Pascal. And you get the feeling that Hopkins is enjoying the fame in what may not be the end of a legacy, unless the underdog and younger Dawson pulls the upset. “I want Chad Dawson to see I have gray here,” he said the other day before the media at the Joe Hand Boxing Gym, a ritual he conducts prior to championship fights in his hometown of Philadelphia Pennsylvania.

There is really nothing more for Hopkins to accomplish. A win over Dawson, and maybe we are talking about a third bout with Pascal. That is a fight that generates interest and has some value. Pascal wants another fight and surely HBO would buy it and it could be a pay-per-view attraction. Or Antonio Tarver, the Showtime commentator may want to try and spoil the legacy. The heavyweight division could be another route for Hopkins, though that discussion always seems to be avoided when he is asked.

For now the emphasis is on Dawson, younger and deserving of getting a shot at the Hopkins legacy. “That age difference is appropriate for me to look like I’m gray and I have gray because realistically, if you do the math he could be my son,” says Hopkins about the 29-year old Dawson.

He says, “When you look at my resume compared with his resume, you must say or must agree that my resume is a Ferrari and his is a Mercedes.” Before the fight with Pascal in May, Hopkins was the preacher. He said Pascal was the student and he was the professor. So Hopkins has a way with words, though there is never a doubt backing up what he says. He does not back away from competition in a division that is known for mediocrity, though Hopkins continues to give the light heavyweight picture some sense of exposure and Pascal has done his part. Pascal adds to the interest and Dawson can make it more interesting if he backs up his words and gives Hopkins an interesting fight.

Hopkins came into the Pascal fight with a mission and teach, the then champion a lesson. He played mind games with the title belts. There were the Pascal accusations of Hopkins using body enhancement drugs. Hopkins handled that the way a veteran does by outtalking his opponent. The discussion continued afterwards as Pascal, quietly, in social media circuits has tried to renew the topic and discussion. And Hopkins quietly stays away from the controversy and continues to defend his historic championship win as the oldest fighter to hold a major title.

“The bottom line is they are going to see a better, a more aggressive smart fighter in me when I defeat Chad Dawson,” he says. “I’m coming in there with an aggressive game but a smart game. If people think that the last two fights of my career were the old Bernard Hopkins from the Blue Horizon to Atlantic City days in the early 90’s then I’m saying they should watch this fight.”

And they will watch, pay-per-view or on their HBO televised cable package. Because Hopkins is a draw and has always been one. The disappointment was seeing the venue for this fight shifted from to the west coast because of a territorial dispute with Main Events, the New Jersey based promotional company that holds rights and fees of promoting fights at the Newark based Prudential Center. That took away a local fan base for Hopkins of nearby Philadelphia, and for Dawson up the road in New Haven Connecticut.

That was not an issue for Hopkins. His fan base will be there and they will watch. Because he continues to make boxing history with every fight, and another win just adds to a legacy that may never be matched, with the exception of the undefeated heavyweight streak of the late Rocky Marciano.

“I chose to continue to fight,” he says, “and defend what I worked so hard to get. So why not, get all the benefits of what I’ve been doing for 30 something years and then walk away when it’s time.” The question is when will Hopkins walk away? He does not know, and gets around the question when asked. Hopkins does not need the money, has the body of a 20-year old, and unless Dawson gets the win, the answer will never come.

It becomes a routine and just a different lecture when he meets the media. “In today’s world, where unfortunately most athletes either don’t stay as focused long enough after they get a taste of what we call success in life, or just run into the wrong match, the wrong person. So I’m going to have fun in the second half of my life.”

Now the question is, with Dawson on an agenda, will Hopkins have more fun next Saturday night?

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