Bernard Hopkins Keeps Fighting

By Nigel Clarke Courtesy of Boxing
Updated: November 19, 2005

From afar the Bernard Hopkins story isn’t necessarily unique. It is the story of an ex-convict who leaves jail and becomes a fighter. I’m sure we have heard that story somewhere before.

However, when you take time to analyze the story, what makes Bernard truly unique and what makes him stand out is his person and what he represents.

Bernard has, and will continue to fight the establishment or the system that tries to defeat men with a will of their own. He refuses to be taken advantage of, he has always been a tough negotiator and he always works hard to get his point across. In a sport where many athletes are exploited and taken advantage of, Hopkins has always done things his way.

Name an entity in boxing and Bernard has fought them. Promoters like Don King and Lou Dibella, the sanctioning bodies, commentators and athletic commissions. He has even taken his fight to the government. He is a member of the committee who’ve petitioned to have former heavy weight Jack Johnson pardoned for a charge he received, which was racially motivated.

When Bernard lost his controversial decision to Jermain Taylor on July 16th, 2005 it was a direct slap in the face. It was the opportunity that the “system” had been looking for. The opportunity, to insult him by diminishing his legacy.

Jermain Taylor represents everything Bernard Hopkins is not. Jermain is a clean cut African American who smiles for the camera, an athlete who represented the United States in the Olympics, someone who is presentable and says “Yes Sir”, way too often.

Bernard Hopkins is the complete opposite. He doesn’t speak very eloquently, he is stubborn, paranoid, truculent with the media, he is an ex convict and a thug from the ghettos of Philadelphia. A thug who has reformed his life and represents the struggle of many African Americans in this country.

It seems as though Bernard has always fought the establishment or fighters who have been embraced by the system. One loss was to another Olympian, named Roy Jones Jr. Roy, like Taylor is the antitheses of Hopkins. Bernard and Roy have been enemies for years, not because of a natural hatred for one another, but they are from a different cloth. There is resentment by Hopkins, when he sees the big purses and favoritism shown toward fighters who are embraced by the system. A system, which he has always fought alone.

The same system that has attempted to thwart the will of fighters who choose to live by their own code, instead of seeking acceptance by the establishment. Fighters like Muhammad Ali whose belts were taken away from him and his boxing license suspended. Jack Johnson who was falsely charged and later imprisoned and Marvelous Marvin Hagler who lost his belts in a controversial decision to “Sugar” Ray Leonard in 1987.

When Bernard Hopkins visited Puerto Rico to promote his fight with Felix Trinidad in 2001, there was a memorable incident were Bernard threw the Puerto Rican flag on the floor. This was a terrible display of sportsmanship and professionalism.

Hopkins’s act of disrespect was not directed toward the country of Puerto Rico. Bernard expressed the frustration that many African American men have. Displaced from their native culture and tongue, these men have no flag to wave, except that of a country which has shown them hostility and the utmost disrespect. In a sense, they have no flag of their own.

After his victory over Trinidad at Madison Square Garden in 2001, Bernard stood on the ring turnbuckle and loudly chanted “U-S-A, U-S-A”. In doing so, Bernard hoped to be embraced by the crowd and receive the respect and adulation that he deserved. His chant fell on deaf ears and was repeated by very few who were in attendance. Bernard Hopkins isn’t the kind of person that is acceptable to the establishment. He isn’t the champion that American wants to see on television.

Hopkins may have learned from Hagler’s mistake of not having a clause in the contract for a rematch when he lost to Leonard. As a result, when he agreed to fight Taylor earlier this year, he negotiated a rematch option in contract, in the event that he lost. Bernard’s paranoia paid off. He lost a controversial decision to Taylor in July.

Hopkins is scheduled to meet up with Jermain Taylor for a rematch in December. In his rematch with Jermain Taylor, Hopkins will be in a fight to keep his legacy in tact. He will not only be fighting Taylor, but he will be fighting the establishment. He will be fighting everyone that wanted to see him go out as a loser. For all of those who never wanted him to have any of the belts and for all of those who wished he was still locked up.

Bernard Hopkins keeps fighting.