Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Executioner's Song

Bernard Hopkins is now the light heavyweight champion of the world, having beaten Canada’s Jean Pascal in a rematch Saturday night in Montreal. George Foreman knocked out Michael Moorer when he was 45, but Hopkins at 46 seems to thrive on the challenges of aging with singular relish. He’s beaten the likes Oscar de la Hoya, Roy Jones, Jr., Antonio Tarver, Winky Wright and the hard punching Felix Trinidad. But booking these fights hasn’t always come easy. At first, he was the brash punk. Later, after he’d become “The Executioner,” coming into the ring with his face covered in a black mask, no one wanted to fight him, and rightly so. Upon his release from prison, where Hopkins began his boxing career, a skeptical warden sneered that he would be waiting to welcome him back. Hopkins has overcome any number of obstacles, indicating that he requires such resistance to get his blood running. Interestingly, the fighter who is perhaps the most feared is also the most defensive. In the Pascal fight, when he let his emotions get the best of him and deviated from his trademark style, starting to mix it up with the younger fighter, he was humbled. That’s when the discipline kicked back in and he started to box, slipping and ducking, working his combinations and staying out of harm’s way, with the noteworthy exception that he seemed to be leading with his right, uncharacteristically brawling right up until the end. Hopkins’s style of ferocious defensiveness should be developed into an iPhone app for ambitious young executives, or better yet for heavyweights like the U.S., China, and Russia as they compete for hegemony in international affairs. 

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