The Execution of Bernard Hopkins II: Smith Happens



The Execution of Bernard Hopkins II: Smith Happens

“Sinatra lifestyle I'm just being Frank wit cha… That's why I'm headed to the bank nigga!”

Drake, B-Hop-esque in a double entendre of “My Way”

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I don't know what was going on in Toronto, but at 5am in Los Angeles, I found out Bernard Hopkins (55-8-2, 32KOs) got bodied by Joe Smith (22-1, 19KOs) courtesy of USA Today reporter Mike Coppinger.

More interested in the .45 that the Golden State Warriors aimed and fired on the Portland Trailblazers, Bernard Hopkins vs. Joe Smith Jr. seemed a bootleg Joe Louis vs. Rocky Marciano without a title on the line. There were better things to do with a Saturday night than attending a sports funeral– live, or on HBO.

Following the most brutal 12th round of his fistic life against Sergey Kovalev in November 2014, Hopkins, 51, essentially sauntered out for a long ago banned 13th; with a Joe Smith, 27, who now – at the very least, becomes a trivia question.

His great wizard of a trainer through thick n thin, Naazim Richardson, decided the water was too wet to swim in and passed. This was Ali vs. Berbick– without Angelo Dundee in the corner, because of what he'd seen “The Greatest” endure against Larry Holmes.

Personally, Hopkins had already begun to exhibit signs of punch-drunk syndrome before Smith happened, and literally getting knocked out of the ring – forever – may exacerbate his condition.

And for what? History will give him a pass for this, choosing instead, to remember his Spartan-like dedication and iron will, as perhaps the greatest middleweight champion ever. We'll remember his feats. What we do not want, is for him to forget them.

Life is a game of cruel irony. Though neither penitentiary or a career opening defeat could break this man, the mind of Hopkins will always be imprisoned by the fact that he was broken by ‘a whiteboy'.

Hopkins became, nearly simultaneously, the Malcolm X and Brett Favre of boxing; and is without a doubt, one of the very greatest fighters of all-time, something even his most ardent critics would have to submit. What he accomplished as a world champion and fighter in his mid to late 40's is right up there with Joe DiMaggio's 56 game hitting streak. We're unlikely to ever see it again.

“There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on – shame on you (followed by the most pregnant pause in history)… Fool me you can't get fooled again!”


Don't be fooled by Smith in victory. He never bought into any of B-Hop's gamesmanship, and trained and fought the legend as if he were facing a modern Andre Ward.

The headlines today have nothing to do with just how good he might actually be, and that is unfair. Because he beat an old man, he's not getting the same credit Hopkins would for beating a young man as he was favored to. Someone would've even voted him “Fighter of The Year”– which Smith now deserves a vote for. His trainer, Jerry Capobianco (doesn't that sound like a hitman from “The Sopranos”?) definitely deserves “Trainer of The Year” consideration.

It was probably easy to dismiss Smith (a strapping laborer union's worker from Long Island, NY) after he flattened Andrzej Fonfara in the 1st round, but now, he cannot be.

When taken into account he did to Hopkins what Kovalev did not two years ago (while factoring Bernard was two years worse) and seeing what Ward just barely did to Kovalev, Smith would certainly give Ward a much more difficult fight than Paul Smith.

Think about it… If boxing were Dana White and the UFC on Sunday, a Ward/Smith fight would be in negotiations right now.

Smith happens in 2017.

Senior correspondent for NY Fights and author of upcoming book, "The Fist Club." Conscious indie recording artist "T@z" and humanist advocate for the Green Party.