An Open Letter to Bernard Hopkins
03.11.03 - By Carl M. Rice, Jr.: Dear Bernard Hopkins (since that is the way you consistently refer to yourself),
Article posted on 02.12.2003
First, let me start of by saying congratulations for rekindling your relationship with Bouie Fisher. It shows true class that you two sat down like men and discussed what seemed to be petty differences. Secondly, let me tell you that Bernard Hopkins is the man! Bernard Hopkins has been the one constant in the middleweight division, as you have been champion for over 8 years and 16 title defenses. You are certainly cut from the mold of past great middleweight champions like Harry Grib, Tony Zale, Carlos Monzon, and Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Your record of 42 wins against 2 losses and 1 draw is impressive when looking at some of the difficult fighters you have faced, such as Glencoffe Johnson, Antwun Echols (twice), Simon Brown, Robert Allen (twice), Keith Holmes, Felix Trinidad, and, of course, Roy Jones Jr. You have earned all the props, success and accolades that you now receive. But that is partially the problem: you have also earned a reputation of being difficult to deal with and that is the purpose of why I am writing this letter to you.
I completely recognize that Bernard Hopkins does not want to be pimped by the boxing industry. I also acknowledge that you do not want to fight for less than you feel you are worth, as you have sacrificed a great deal and struggled valiantly to become the undisputed middleweight king. But at the same time I, as well as millions of other boxing fans, love to watch you go to work. The way you handle yourself in the ring, breaking down the strength and will of men is a thing of beauty. We just want to see more of Bernard Hopkins. I know that in Philly, people that earn much less than Bernard Hopkins come up to you saying that you should not settle for anything less than your worth. But you still have to realize that you make more in one fight than many people do in their lifetime. You are truly blessed with talent and you should put that on display more often.
Personally, I do not blame you for not taking the fight against Roy Jones, although many would try to point the finger at Bernard Hopkins. There was a great deal of cash on the table, and even though you would have received the more you ever had for one fight, it was clearly not a fair deal for Bernard Hopkins. And although $6 million is nothing to sneeze at, thatís not even 40 percent of what the Pay-Per-View would make. The way Jones treated you was completely disrespectful and Iím not sure that I would have gone for it, either. I also do not hold Bernard Hopkins responsible for the bout with James Toney falling through. This situation is even more understandable because Don King was trying to get over on Bernard Hopkins; if you have it in your contract that you are to receive ďEXĒ (pun intended) amount of dollars then you should get it, case closed. But in Donís defense, the PPV numbers on that fight could not have been for more that 200,000 buys. I would have bought it, but at that time no one outside of the boxing world really knew what Toney was about, and even though it would have been a great fight, only diehard boxing fans like myself would have paid for the fight, regardless of how good the undercard was.
Therefore, I have come up with a plan to not only help you to make more money than you have during the entire span of your career, but to retire on top and solidify Bernard Hopkinsí name as one of the greatest boxers to ever lace up the gloves. On December 13, you will have your 17th title defense against William Joppy. Joppyís my man and all, but this will be the biggest fight of his career, and your style will prove to be too much for him. Furthermore, you have been saying publicly that you are ďon paroleĒ as of January 24th. Well, that is the perfect time to get Bernard Hopkins some major fights and some major loot. Of course, this is all contingent on the fact that you beat Joppy, but as tough as he is, I personally believe that he has no real chance to beating a champion like Bernard Hopkins. Hereís the plan:
Objective #1-Fight Winky Wright (Defense #18)
This first objective is sort of personal for me. I like Winky, but I get tired of hearing that no one wants to fight him, heís the best in the division, yakkity yak yak. He has stated that he would like to fight you since you are the only one to step up to his challenge. I say you give him what he wants. You can fight Winky in February or March and since you are always in shape, you could even drop down and put his belts on the line or you could fight for all of your titles. In any case I see Bernard Hopkins walking away the winner.
I do not believe that Winky can handle your style, power, or your experience in the ring. Iím not saying that it would be easy, as Wright is pretty crafty and skillful himself, but he has not come close to facing the level of competition that you have and no one he has fought would prepare him for fighting Bernard Hopkins. This fight would not be on PPV, as Winky is not a huge draw, but the ratings on HBO would be relatively high. With the way that Wright fights, it may not be a pretty night for Bernard Hopkins. I see the fight going one of two ways: You will take the fight to Wright, and will probably miss a few punches, which will make people think that you are starting to show your age. But you would still have the strength advantage and would overwhelm him. Or you could get into a counter-punching battle with him, which you are more than capable of winning, but will be pretty boring to watch. Either way equates to a Bernard Hopkins victory. But before Bernard Hopkins can move on to defense number 19, you have bigger fish to fry.
Objective #2-Fight Joe Calzaghe
Now this would be a good fight for Bernard Hopkins. Calzaghe is a tough, aggressive fighter, more difficult than Winky Wright because of the size difference, hand speed, and, letís face it; youíre no spring chicken anymore. Calzaghe is pretty confident as well, and has everything to gain by beating Bernard Hopkins, much more than Bernard Hopkins has to gain by beating him. However, I think it would be a good idea to fight him in Wales sometime in the summer, perhaps July. I know, I know, this puts you at a huge disadvantage as you would be fighting in his country, but this isnít Germany or Las Vegas. The same judges that would be there would also be anywhere in the US simply because this is a huge championship fight. The reason the fight should be in Wales is because it would make much more cash overseas than it would in the US in terms of the live gate and in PPV numbers. That means youíd pull in a sizable chunk of cheddar.
I have no doubt in my mind that if you could deal with the speed of Jones, then you should be able to handle the speed of Calzaghe. Besides, he doesnít really punch with power because he throws from his arms more than his hips. This is a very winnable fight for Bernard Hopkins, probably by KO. Now itís time for Bernard Hopkins to get a little revenge!
Objective #3-Fight Jermain Taylor (Defense #19)
I know Bernard Hopkins can feel it. The breathing down your neck. You know youíre being watched. You know that someday Jermain Taylor is going to get tired of waiting for Bernard Hopkins to retire and will eventually challenge you for one or all of those belts. Heís been pretty active, and this fight could take place one year from now in December. That would give him time to fight about six more times to get prepared for what would be the toughest fight of his young career. I know that you would love nothing more than to give a little something extra to Lou DeBella in addition to the $610,000 that you have to pay because of the lawsuit (I know that itís under appeal, but Iím just simplifying, so sue meÖwait, Iím just kidding!). I just KNOW that you would love to stop the Taylor express. There are people in boxing that actually think that this kid has a chance to beat you, like Emmanuel Stewart. Not only does he believe that Taylor is the future of the division, Manny thinks the future is now, and you know heís not alone in his thinking.
I respect Taylor a great deal, and I donít want to see him end up like David Reid. But at the same time you can see in his eyes that he wants to take on the real champ in order to become the REAL man. To be the man you have to beat the man, and Taylor is a true fighter. He knows what a victory over Bernard Hopkins would do for his stature. This would be a tough fight; you recall how you felt as a young prospect and how you had the hunger to win your first title. This time, Taylor is that hungry young man and youíre the veteran champ. Iím sure that he completely believes that he can defeat Bernard Hopkins, but he cannot. He has not been properly prepared to fight Bernard Hopkins. As formidable as Taylor is, he will inevitably succumb to Bernard Hopkinsí will. This will lead you to the most lucrative fight of your career.
Objective #3-Fight Oscar De La Hoya (Defense #20)
If you got by those other guys and defended your middleweight titles, this would be defense #20, the mark that you set for yourself to reach before you hung up the gloves. De La Hoya, at some point in the not-so-distant future, is going to have to make a decision. After losing to Sugar Shane Mosely, he doesnít have many more places to go. He doesnít seem to want to give Mosely the cash that heís worth, especially seeing how Oscar lost twice, and beating Vargas again doesnít really prove anything (although Vargas could beat him in a rematch, but thatís not part of the plan for Bernard Hopkins). He could either stop being unfair to Mosely and pay him his due, fight Vargas again, fight a bunch of bums, or decide to take a crack another title in the middleweight division sometime in Spring 2005. This would be a fight of supersonic proportions, just look at all the storylines: Oscar trying to get another title, Bernard Hopkins is too old, Mayweather Sr. talking all kinds of smack. Donít forget that the sanctioning bodies bend over backwards for Oscar, so he may even have a title at 154 (or some ridiculous fringe title at 160) to make this fight even more prestigious in the eyes of casual fans.
I personally feel that of the four fights that I have mentioned, this would be the easiest fight for Bernard Hopkins. Not that Oscarís a pushover; heís still younger than you, courageous, has a huge heart, and is looking to get out of the fight game soon to focus on the promoting game. He knows that with a victory this fight would most definitely push him into boxingís stratosphere, historically speaking. But he will face the same problems that most other guys have when facing Bernard Hopkins: he has never fought someone with your size, physical straight, cunning, chin, and experience. Plus, you have faced better boxers than him, better power (yes, both of you faced Trinidad, but you have faced more punchers), and better speed. Bernard Hopkins would no doubt be the favorite, and it goes without saying but Iíll say it anyway: Bernard Hopkins will earn more in this fight than in any other fight of his career. Winning this fight would be the perfect time for Bernard Hopkins to call it a day.
I know that Bernard Hopkins is a smart man, and Iím sure that you have your own plans for 2004. But you have repeatedly said that 2004 would be Bernard Hopkinsí biggest year in boxing, and although I have no reservations that youíre telling the truth, this is a plan that will earn you millions of dollars and millions of fans. No one could again say that Bernard Hopkins did not make things happen or that Bernard Hopkins is a terrible manager of his career or any of that other gibberish. The only thing that they could say about Bernard Hopkins is the same thing that I say about Bernard Hopkins, that he is a man of principle and he stuck by your guns whether it helped or harmed him. I have always been a supporter of Bernard Hopkins and I will continue to do so, even if you donít follow my advice. But please, Bernard Hopkins, do the right thing for yourself and your fans!
Carl M. Rice, Jr.
PS, Iím serious, Bernard, donít sue me!
Questions? Comments? Think I should jump in a lake of fire? Please e-mail me at email@example.com
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