by Danny Howard
It really couldn’t have ended any other way for Bernard Hopkins.
Ahead of what was billed as his retirement fight with Light Heavyweight contender Joe Smith Jr., Hopkins had shown a side of him that had not been seen at any other time in his career. He was dismissive of his opponent from top to bottom, labeling Smith as a “common” fighter going up against a “special” fighter like himself. He promised a spanking, a dominant performance and all but ensured that at the age of 51, he was going to go out on top.
Hopkins was convinced that he was going to turn back the clock just as he did so many times before, this time against a lesser opponent than Smith. The pomp and cockiness went from the moment the fight was announced to his ring walk as the former two-division champion was crooned to the ring.
This wasn’t the gritty and rugged Hopkins who was fighting with a forever chip on his shoulder. Instead, this was a fighter who was purely caught up in the circumstances of the event and made the mistake of underestimating his opponent and overestimating himself; a tactical error that was unbecoming of someone like him.
From the onset, Joe Smith Jr had the looks of a fighter that was going to give Hopkins all he could handle. He was stronger, faster and fresher with no significant mileage on him, similar to Hopkins’ last bout against Sergey Kovalev where Hopkins took a lopsided beating for 12 rounds. Though Hopkins performed better overall against Smith, the outcome was pure calamity.
A series of shots stunned Hopkins with the money shot blasting him out of the ring and nearly right on his head. Hopkins, unable to continue, suffered the first loss of his nearly 30 year career against a man he derided as “common.”
Following the bizarre exit, Hopkins was perhaps in denial that the bout ended the way it did by claiming Smith pushed him (he didn’t) and he would have won the second half of the fight had he been able to continue (he wouldn’t). It was an ending unbecoming of a man who had defied conventional wisdom for as long as he did, but not one uncommon to the sport.
Joe Louis suffered the same fate being knocked out of the ring by Rocky Marciano. Sugar Ray Leonard was battered at the hands of a much smaller Hector Camacho after being enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Even the late Aaron Pryor suffered the only loss of his professional career in the one fight that was one fight too many.
Hopkins came into the ring with the mindset that despite the fact he was in his 50s, out of the ring for nearly two years and facing off against a top fighter arguably in his prime, that he was still the man. There might not have been any other time where Smith could have beaten Hopkins, but on the night that it mattered, he ended his career.
Though his career ends in calamity, it will undoubtedly be set aside when compared to the vast accomplishments of his legendary career as just an old fighter trying to get one last shot at glory. He failed to heed the examples from the past and even his own contemporaries who themselves hoped against hope for a special kind of ending, only to find one all too common.
Hopkins should have known better and left well enough alone, but even for an old master, there was still one lesson left to be learned.
Danny Howard has been all over the place, writing for FightHype, the Yahoo Contributor Network and the Examiner. He also became a legend in his own mind by writing “And Stay Down! Boxing’s Worst Comebacks, which you can either buy on Amazon or email him for a free copy. Howard can be found on Facebook or Twitter @dbbox625 or let him have it directly at Daniel.Howard6@att.net