'Call Em Out Fridays': Jones/Hopkins - Questions Raised, Questions Answered
By Vivek Wallace - On May 22, 1993, the world of boxing sat and watched as two rising stars entertained on the big stage. One of the names that rolled across the scrolling marquee that night was very familiar; the other quickly becoming more so by the day, supported strongly by a gritty determination and a take-no-shit attitude that made him an enigmatic force known to inwardly question all answers, despite a talent that clearly answered all questions. At the time, despite the promise they displayed, few truly knew whether or not the final script for these two men would leave a print on the sport. Fast-forward the hands of time and despite a ton of well placed memories, suddenly, that very same question continues to be analyzed. Seems pretty odd that such a question could even surface, but more and more, whispers from deep in the back of the crowd maintain that some how, some way, the offerings rendered by these two men don't quite place them in that top echelon of great names in history that never seem to be forgotten. When you hear Leonard, Hagler, Hearns, or Duran, most with even a modest recollection of their respective careers can remember the countless wars and battles that each of these men took part in. Through victory they earned their legendary status, but it was through defeat that they probably solidified it, as each of those lost battles paved the way for them to win the eventual war, gaining respect in the minds of fight fans world wide because of their true warrior spirits. A glimpse at the resumes of Hopkins and Jones in comparison offers a different slant. Some feel those resumes contain a lot, others feel they contain a lot to be desired. In their prime years, both men practically bobbed and weaved through competitive traffic like a Maserati past midnight which ultimately gave them this reputation. A pretty fitting concept, as only a near empty gas tank could ever be enough to slow, and perhaps even one day stop the motion of these two 'fast cars'..
But in theory....As a rhetorical question.....How is it possible that such a question can even still exist? In Bernard Hopkins, this perspective comes a little easier, perhaps. Despite his amazing talent, coupled with the fact that few have ever seen him down, let alone hurt or battered, many view him as little more than a defensive wizard. Pretty funny, considering his 'execution' of notable fighters like Trinidad and Pavlik which included not only sound defense, but very timely offense which can be directly attributed to literally breaking the once iron-clad wills of these men. In Jones, the questions get a little tougher. Despite showdowns with the likes of Toney and others, and despite his historical feat accomplished against Ruiz, some would argue his resume contained ever fewer challenges before the likes of Antonio Tarver. Be it true or false, there's no question his total package was one for the ages. To include the soundly proficient Floyd Mayweather jr., the sport has failed to produce a more talented fighter on the offensive side in recent decades, maybe even history. The speed, the reflexes, the showmanship.....a total presentation, equipped with everything but the popcorn and soda. When you think of the great offense on one-side (Jones) and the formidable defense from the other (Hopkins), that truth parallels one other point that seems to remain hidden in the midst of the questions now surrounding them. That truth is that just as offense and defense go hand in hand and need one another for balance and greatness, in an odd way, so do these two men who history has shown us have had few other true test to bring out the best in them. There were a few other potential candidates along the way who may have made things interesting, but no one can deny that the greatness they embody could never have been pulled out any more from any other man than the one they will stand across from on the evening of April 3rd in Las Vegas.
Yes, this fight is nearly two decades in the making, and it may not be what it was then, but the reality here is that these two men have given the sport far more than any one around them knew they would when this journey first began. From a field of fighting roosters to the prison yard, neither Jones or Hopkins could have ever imagined that they'd have such an illustrious career staring back in their rear-view mirror. Both peaks and valleys fill that picture, and beyond all the joyous moments is the painful reality that this will definitely be the final time that one of them experience the euphoria behind a pre-fight walk to the ring to do what they love. The road to reach this destination was long and narrow, containing just enough space for them to walk alone, which is quite fitting when you consider that their dominant natures would never allow them to walk follow someone elses blueprint to begin with. For those who question whether they belong in that pantheon of greatness, I offer the following response: A resume can prove greatness, but a perceived lack of one can't quite remove greatness. Whether pundits think these two men were thoroughly tested or not, individually and collectively, their skill levels can never be denied. When they enter the ring on April 3rd, it will be an occasion for all comers. The foul will say they're no longer spring chickens.....leading the wicked to view them as two (dead) ducks....but in an effort to glorify their beauty I'll simply refer to them both as swans....because whether you realize it or not, this is in fact for one, if not both, a swan-song affair. As they perform, I urge each of you to put the ignorance aside and sing along....They won't be here forever.....(As Roy would say)....'Yall Musta Forgot'!
As a prelude to their April 3rd encounter, Eastside Boxing would like to thank these living legends for the memories!
(Vivek Wallace can be reached at [email protected], 954-292-7346, YouTube (VIVEK1251), Twitter (VIVEK747), Facebook, and Myspace).
Article posted on 12.02.2010