Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bernard Hopkins: Eight is Enough (Part 3 of 3)

By Jeff Pryor

As noted in part two of this look at Bernard Hopkins' opposition possibilities, there are yet a few challenges available. Aside from those names, to be sure there are others calling out Bernard Hopkins; Mikkel Kessler and Sakio Bika come to mind. They, like a few others on the preceding list (Glen Johnson in particular, and Roy Jones Jr. too) have little, perhaps no, chance at landing a shot at Hopkins now.

One could argue a third go around with Jermain Taylor might be viable, should "Bad Intentions" quickly find a belt at Super Middleweight, but the fans wouldn't want it, and I would think that Hopkins has found a measure of redemption in so comprehensively dismantling Kelly Pavlik, who beat Taylor twice. (just as I believe Hopkins may have found some solace in having dominated the Antonio Tarver who felled Roy Jones Jr. and so gained a measure of atonement for his early loss to Jones all those years ago).

One man certainly not calling out "The Executioner" is Kelly Pavlik. Though after the bout Pavlik was quick to point out that it wasn't that Hopkins was so good, just that he, Pavlik, couldn't do anything in there for some mysterious reason, "The Ghost" hasn't been haunting the Golden Boy offices for a rematch, and seemed more than content to return to the drawing board against a less skilled contender for his next bout.

So in the end there are few viable options for Bernard Hopkins. Ultimately, above all else, he wants Calzaghe. Wisely, Calzaghe, who was embarrassed by his own performance in their fight, doesn't fancy a second go around.

Chad Dawson remains a possibility should he spectacularly dispatch Tarver in the unnecessary rematch. In such a case perhaps enough buzz would build for Hopkins to consider going to war with yet another young lion, though it remains doubtful. What's left are two distinct paths; one leads off into the sunset. Off to a quiet life in Delaware, with wife and daughter to enjoy the spoils of an awe inspiring career. The other path leads to yet another challenge, in a division twenty five pounds north. Another champion to face down. Another chapter in an outstanding story. And then, finally perhaps, he could retire.

But would he? What if David Haye upset a Klitschko, would the undersized Heavyweight be targeted for execution? If Hopkins is still considering a life in boxing, then he has surely thought about where every move may take him and where he steps out.

Eight years is a long time. A man who fights on, eight or more years after his prime, who faces the best fighters in the world, time after time, has also faced the question of retirement after each ensuing bout. He asks himself if he should continue, and each of those internal conflicts has likely gotten harder and harder as the years have rolled on.

Bernard Hopkins could have retired anytime within the last eight years. Anytime within the last twelve fights. Yet so far he has beaten back every one of those thoughts of retirement. And so it is, as it has been for nearly a decade after each of his fights... If he retires after obliterating Pavlik, no one would have a qualm, his legacy would last, as is. His greatness lying not just in how he performed within the ring, against the best fighters in the world, but in how his mind demanded more of himself, all of himself... the best of himself.

Eight is enough? Only one man knows the answer.


Lee Payton said...

Absolutely fantastic stuff, Jeff. I don't really have a preference when it comes to Hops' next move. He could retire and I would consider him one of the best who ever did it. I'd love to see an Adamek fight though, and I think he'd win it. That fight probably makes the most sense out of all the options out there. Bernard Hopkins is the most complete fighter I have ever seen. I think he'd be right at home against all timers like Robinson, Monzon, Charles and Moore.