|The Cyber Boxing Zone Newswire -- JULY 27:2001|
A Message for Max Kellerman - Bernard Hopkins # 1? You're Wrong|
By JD Vena
Like you, Max, I can sympathize with a boxer's plight, especially when a good fighter is not appreciated for his talents. That's why, like yourself, I was touched by Hopkins' one-sided drubbing over the previously undefeated Felix Trinidad. After dominating the middleweight division for years, yet lurking in the shadows of boxing's bigger names, Bernard Hopkins has opened the eyes that refused to see him as one of the finest middleweights of our time. He is a symbol of what a true champion is and a feel-good story of what we wish all prizefighters to be. That being said, it was very kind of what you and others have said about him since his career defining fight on September 29th. But your utterances, which were heard by millions on Friday Night Fights of Hopkins being the best fighter in the world pound for pound, were simply too excessive. For all those times we've heard your colleague Teddy Atlas half-joking shout, "Calm down, Max, calm down," we were certainly reiterating his words.
I've always believed that you have been a great addition to the sport and I still hold that belief, but your claim of Bernard Hopkins being the best fighter in the world pound for pound has little credibility, even for an opinion. Your criteria for ranking him this high is wrong. True, he has more than likely been the best 160-pounder in the division since Roy Jones, Jr. left the weight class 7 years ago and he defeated a man that was considered by many to be one of the three best pound for pound fighters in boxing. On paper, those accomplishments look stellar, but the reason why you and others shouldn't rate Hopkins as high is because you were dead wrong with your assessment of him and Trinidad in the first place, especially Trinidad, who was vastly overrated, plain and simple.
In the interview I conducted with you two years ago in Wail, you made an interesting comparison between two great fighters. Back in the early 90s, there was a debate as to which the better fighter was between Julio Cesar Chavez and Pernell Whitaker. There were the people like you and I who said that Whitaker was the best pound for pound, just as there were people who believed that Chavez was. After Whitaker proved to be the far superior boxer, it confirmed that all of those or most of those years during that speculation period that Chavez was NOT the phenomenal fighter that most perceived him to be. Whitaker, on the other hand, was. More importantly, it proved that the Whitaker backers were right and the Chavez supporters were dead wrong.
With Bernard and Tito, it was a case of a guy who had cracked or hovered in the top 10 defeating a guy who most (and I stress most) perceived to be the best, if not one of the best fighters pound for pound. I happened to be one of the guys, (19 of the 55 who I polled a couple of weeks before the fight) who had foreseen an easy one-sided win for Bernard Hopkins. I called it exactly the way it happened, except that I had anticipated an earlier stoppage. Why? Not because Sweet V is an utter genius and not because Hopkins is one of the best fighters on the planet. Sure, Hopkins has an abundance of skills that many had snubbed because of his age and the fact that he is a Philadelphian, a suggestion that he is only capable of brawling or fighting dirty. Many also didn't realize that he's never been caught breathing out of his mouth, which is another reason why I wondered why pundits thought he would fade down the stretch. Bernard won for a few simple reasons; the most important being that Felix Trinidad is an overrated fighter and has been for years.
Now let me make myself clear here: I do believe that Trinidad is a great fighter. However, he can be an easy opponent for a capable boxer who doesn't stand in front of him or wait for his painful receipts. I remember watching Tito's fight with de la Hoya and saying, "Oh, that's how you beat Trinidad." Trinidad is a good or even great fighter, but for a good fighter, he has perhaps the worst balance I've ever seen. Trinidad, like Tyson, is most successful when his opponents allow him t plant his feet and get set before he unleashes his wicked punches. If you've ever watched his stance, most of his weight is shifted on his left foot even when he's not punching. His back foot is always up on its toes, which may be the reason why he prefers to lead with a right cross and follow up with the hook. When he gets tagged and falls or stumbles back it's because there is no weight on his back foot. That is why he's been dropped so frequently, not because he has a bad chin.
What you had with Trinidad vs. Hopkins was a clash of styles; one that could suit a boxer's approach of knowing not to stand in front of a fearsome opponent when he was set to throw his power shots. It wasn't much of a case of man meets boy or one guy got under the other's skin. Both fighters are consummate professionals and have tremendous confidence in themselves.
There are too many people who keep mentioning how shocking it was to see Hopkins expose Trinidad for being such a one-dimensional fighter and not making the fight more competitive. Well to the 19 journalists that I polled, like Ted Bodenrader, Frank Lotierzo and many others, it wasn't very shocking to see. The only shock to us was what we read and heard before the fight how more and more people weren't giving a middleweight champion of over 6 years much of a chance of beating a fighter we viewed as one-dimensional. How was Hopkins a decided underdog when he was a champ for over 6 years? How was he expected to be a knockout victim when he's never been close to being stopped? Why was he expected to stand in front of Trinidad and trade with him? Who knows? Maybe Hopkins could have stood in front of Trinidad and ended matters much earlier. Any way you look at it, Hopkins knew Tito's obvious flaws and exploited his frailties, as a seasoned professional should have been capable of doing. This is why the people who backed Hopkins sometimes sold Tito short and anticipated seeing someone fight him the way Oscar did two years ago. Tito's loss also dispels the notion to a high degree that Tito's problems with Oscar were with making the weight limit. This is why Roy Jones, Jr., who is probably hurting more than anyone urged Don King to not make a fight between Hopkins and Trinidad.
Besides Hopkins' :24 destruction of Steve Frank, he has never had such an easy fight and it's not because the men he defeated previously were great boxers, it's the fact that they weren't nearly as one-dimensional as Trinidad. And if you're a one-dimensional fighter, then by definition, you should not be hailed as the best fighter pound for pound, even if you are a driven competitor with a massive punch. That does not mean that a one-dimensional fighter like Tyson of Stanley Ketchell cannot attain greatness. They like Trinidad are both accomplished all-time greats, but they were never or should never have been considered pound for pound greats during their heydays. Hopkins for example has certainly cracked the top 10 greatest middleweights of all time with his longevity and consistency of winning, but that doesn't mean he's the best all around boxer.
It is no secret that Hopkins has used dirty tactics to take some of his opponents out of fights rather than beat them with the skill he displayed against Trinidad. Hopkins has been caught using the old left hook to the nuts to set up a combination to the head. That doesn't suggest that he is not a great fighter or not an accomplished one (which he most certainly is), but it's an indication that he is not nearly as skilled as the likes of Roy Jones, Jr., Shane Mosley or Floyd Mayweather. He can't be as skilled if he needs those tactics to defeat the likes of Echols, Allen and Vanderpool. His one-sided victory over Trinidad adds to his greatness just as Holyfield's win over Tyson (although it can be argued that Tyson was past his prime) had. Could Hopkins at 165 (a catchweight) defeat Roy Jones Jr.? If you're Emanuel Steward or a lunatic then that's possible. Other than that, no freakin way! And I'll bet my life on that. I doubt that a rematch would between Jones and Hopkins would be any different, if not even more one sided than their last encounter. And if you can't beat a guy who might be five or even 10 natural pounds heavier than you, you're not the best fighter pound for pound. Pound for pound guys are the fighters who dominate every fight, not guys like Hopkins and Trinidad who have won in nail biting encounters or used dirty tactics to get there.
Winning is everything in boxing but not when it comes to the pound for pound debate. So far, of the current crop that most refer to, Jones, Mayweather and Mosley are guys who dominate every opponent with boxing skills, not Bernard Hopkins.
In your show, you challenged viewers to go through history and find a fight where you had a dominant prime-time-Felix-Trinidad caliber of opponent get whipped the way Hopkins beat him. Well I went back...eight months and found one - Floyd Mayweather knocking out Diego Corrales. If anything, that fight was more one-sided than Hopkins - Trinidad. And before you say that Trinidad was on a higher level than Corrales, you should consider that there were a lot of people that had Corrales rated higher than Mayweather pound for pound (Ring Magazine had Corrales at #5 with Floyd at #7) and that Corrales would be too much for Floyd when they fought. As was the case, the Corrales people were dead wrong and Mayweather won easily. If I'm not mistaken, you also had picked Corrales to beat Mayweather and your praise of Mayweather after winning was probably as high as it was when Hopkins defeated Trinidad. Overlooking Mayweather's win is like a kid who praises his new Sony Play Station Game as his favorite, then a week later changes his mind when his parents buy him a new game.
Other performances that certainly compare with Hopkins' win over Trinidad was Jones' shutout over Toney and Whitaker's cake-walk over Chavez. And no matter how you slice it, you cannot deny that the boxing public did not consider Toney and Chavez to be number 1 or 2 at the time of their humbling defeats. Please don't tell us that Jones' win over Toney had to do with Toney's weight problems. That fight was the biggest fight of Toney's career and he showed up in the same shape he had in his previous fights. The fight was also what drove you to believe that Jones was or is the most talented boxer you have ever seen. That's what the fight did for me anyway.
Okay, so Hopkins wins your acclaim because he was champion for 6 years and that beating an all-time great like Trinidad puts him on top. What if Ricardo Lopez, one of the longest reigning champions in history defeated such a fighter? You have stated many times that if you could fight like any active boxer today it would be like Lopez. Then why is he, not Hopkins not your number one pound for pound? He's obviously been the most consistent boxer of our era. Lopez has been a world champion since October 25, 1990! Imagine how great Evander Holyfield, who won the heavyweight title from Buster Douglas that same night would be considered had he went 24-0-1 (as did Lopez) in championship fights since then? Had Holyfield done that, he more than likely would have surpassed Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali in terms of greatness, but because Lopez is not competing in any of boxing's top glamour divisions he is not a better fighter pound for pound than Hopkins. That doesn't make much sense.
So, after months of expecting the obvious outcome to Hopkins-Trinidad, your words on Friday Night Fights last week began to echo through my head just as soon as you delivered them to the national audience: "We were ALL wrong." In the interview I conducted with you two years ago, you said that, "Over time, I'll be proven wrong over on some things because I make many comments. However, the percentage of wrong statements will be very small. If you really pay attention to what I'm saying, you'll find that what I'm saying is accurate." Max, you know your stuff, but your assessment of Hopkins will go down as one of the things that you were wrong about.
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