Perhaps it is because my grandfather, Grandpa Roto, was a New York Golden Gloves fighter, or maybe it is because I grew up knowing former world middleweight champion Iran “Blade” Barkley, but I have always found myself drawn to Professional Boxing.
In fact, years ago I appeared on ESPN’s “Two Minute Drill” and my secret category was the career of Sugar Ray Leonard. I am a faithful viewer of F/X ‘s show “Lights Out” and have been known to overspend on pay per-views just to watch two dynamic pugilists duke it out for one title or another. However, nothing I have seen in the past few years can match what I saw this past Saturday night on HBO when 46 year old Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins won the light-heavyweight championship.
To put it into perspective: In 1965, Martin Luther King demonstrated in Selma, Alabama, the Braves were still in Milwaukee, “You Lost that Lovin Feeling” hit #1 on the pop charts, and the 1st large-scale U.S. Army ground units arrived in South Vietnam. It was also the year that Bernard Hopkins was born.
Many of you know that Hopkins served five years in jail until he was released in 1988. He is proud to be from the projects and often can be found quipping with others (most recently QB Donovan McNabb) about what it takes to come from the mean streets. However, to get caught up in Hopkins’ quips and self-promotion would take away from his true majesty–his artistry in the ring.
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This past weekend, Hopkins at 46 fought a man almost 18 years his junior in Canada’s Jean Pascal. Pascal, a chiseled bulldozer of a fighter, could not solve Hopkins for most of the fight. The rounds were close, but for the most part, Hopkins out worked him and looked like the better man. For extra measure, Hopkins did pushups in the ring before rounds to prove he was in top shape. Hopkins won the fight by unanimous decision. He was a clear winner in the punch stats for the fight (Pascal landed half as many blows as did Hopkins) as well as the eyes of people watching at the arena and at home.
The bigger question is: How does Hopkins do it? HBO announcer Jim Lampley often refers to Hopkins’ training regimen as monastic. Well, Hopkins is no monk, but he does stay in shape all year round, avoids booze and other such vices, and works his butt off with his trainer (the brilliant Nazim Richardson). Most of all, he stays active, ready, and takes pride in himself and his condition. Hopkins claimed on Saturday night that he wanted to fight until he was 50. After watching him, there is no doubt that I think he can do it.
Isaiah Mustafa (better known as the Old Spice Guy) jokes to Americans when he says, “Look at me, look at you” Well, all you guys in your 40′s, look at yourselves. Are you in shape? Are you happy with the way you look? Could you run a mile right now? Could you win the light-heavyweight championship of the world?
I don’t know about you, but Hopkins inspired me to take a long look at myself this weekend. I’m not saying that I will be fighting for any world titles in the next few years, but he showed me that getting older doesn’t mean I can’t be in great shape. Thanks, B-Hop–You are an inspiration to geezers everywhere.