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John Lumpkin


Bernard Hopkins:
Bernard Hopkins:

By John Lumpkin: Most of today’s fans bristle at the comparisons people make about their boxing heroes chances against the fighter’s of yesteryear. In most other sports, there has been definitive upward progress of the athletes capabilities often backed by firm statistical data. Boxing, however, seems to have gone in another direction as many of today’s fighter’s lack the skills of their predecessors. Those that have them are often amongst the pound for pound list or worse, completely unknown to us because they fight in places unseen or in divisions the networks tell us do not interest us.

Bernard Hopkins is one of today’s fighters that possess the skills of yesteryear. It is likely that he would have been competitive in any era and probably could have held a title for a sustained period of time. It is hard to say where exactly he would have stood because there are so many variables to consider, but we do know that people do not achieve what Hopkins has achieved without having an edge…a hard earned edge.

Kelly Pavlik is a modern fighter and until this past Saturday, he had one of those gaudy modern undefeated records with lots of knockouts on his resume. He is still one of the best and the world champion at 160 lbs. He just simply learned that he is not in the same league as the master boxer Bernard Hopkins. It was a stunning reminder to the rest of us just what it meant to compete in the good old days of boxing and how far boxing has slid since that time.

Some might question as to whether or not we overestimated Pavlik and there might be a touch of it. However, relative to his contemporaries, the praise he received was justified. He had decisively beaten a collection of some of the toughest opponents in his division and most would favor him against any other potential 160 pound opponent. We did not think twice when he opted to rise in weight to challenge bigger men because of the way he won his fights. He should drop down to 160, but let’s be clear; Hopkins still would have beaten him at 160.

What Pavlik does from here on out is up to him. He can go back to being that same exciting fighter that simply moves straight ahead with the thudding shots, and we will happily applaud him as his fights are entertaining. Or, he can decide to learn from this thrashing and become a better fighter. He can vow to himself to never again be defeated for lack of skill. He can go back to the gym and rededicate his career to that long, even harder road to becoming a complete fighter. And if he succeeds in developing these skills, he too might someday be lauded as an all timer.

Think 26 is too old to start learning new tricks? Hopkins was nearly the same age as Pavlik is now when he got his first professional victory and was nearly 30 by the time he won his first world title. No one then thought that Hopkins was anywhere close to a great. All we knew then was that he had a good work ethic and some decent skills. He had yet to display the capabilities that would lead to the success he now has. It would be years of work in relative obscurity that would elevate his career to this plateau.

Pavlik enjoys far more fame and far more respect today than Hopkins did at the same point in his career. He will not have to go through a long series of tough unknown fighters to earn his reputation, but it would be wise for him to remember that is was Hopkin’s willingness to take on all comers that helped him develop the skills he has today. Pavlik will have the benefit of being well paid while he recreates his career and seeks his legacy in the sport. Pavlik also does not have to be concerned that his style might bore people. He has the great equalizer that people pay to see. The mere threat of his power punch landing is often enough for people to watch. It is up to him which road to choose, but at least now, he knows where he stands. It is up to him to determine how far he will go.

October 20, 2008

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