By Trigo Egbegi
WHETHER we desire it or not, we can’t always have things our way as far as boxing is concerned. Or – putting it in simpler form — we live for the sport, as opposed to the reverse perception that pro boxing is there at our beck and call.
I’ve lost count the number of times I have had to substitute issues of the heart with those of the head. Naturally, when the former establishes what looks an overwhelming lead at this point in time, it becomes a matter of deep concern.
The point here is that those characters and institutions from whom so much is expected fail to deliver, and thus, surrender all the ink to those characters/institutions considered spent and no longer of relevance. Yes, the ones that, in the unwritten rule book, should go away.
One fine example of the dilemma I’m facing is the non-performance of our own domestic fight front that has long chosen to kayo our burning expectations. In the process I’m constrained to continue to peddle to some of the same ring heroes of two decades past who refuse to quit the scene.
I love and live for the boxing scene in my country, with all my heart. I still look forward to the day I’d find the opportunity to chronicle the sport in the way I have dreamt all these many years running.
Unfortunately, those dreams may never be downloaded simply because the supervising Nigerian Boxing Board of Control is an establishment of very little ambition and zero creativity. That is enough to stifle the dreams of any son of the soil. It is the reason boxing is unable to recover from the coma it has been in these two decades running.
Evander Holyfield and Bernard Hopkins are names that continue to attract headlines today, even long after they first occupied the top of their respective divisions over two decades ago. By the demands of the unwritten rulebook, these are characters who should have gone away since they ceased to dominate the game in the same way that brought them titles, money, fame and all the glory being at the top can bring.
These are characters high on my embargo list, largely because it is the consensus that both Holyfield and Hopkins – at ages 48 and 46, respectively – are a great health risk that stand to tarnish the image of the sport. I still uphold the view, though, and I was never too interested when Hopkins went in for yet another world title contest.
Well, despite my strong conviction about who should – and who shouldn’t — be boxing, Yours Truly had to settle for the humble pie last weekend when Hopkins captured the world light heavyweight title.
So, while I’m here pre-occupied with mulling and finger-biting, it’s fun time for a man who has become a toast of sorts – 22 years into a career, with no end in sight.
Indeed, Bernard Hopkins has to be considered one of the sport’s living legends. And that is far less on account of the weekend title acquisition which clearly pales in comparison with his world middleweight title accomplishment of ten years ago.
On the night of September 29, 2001 in New York Madison Square Garden, with the whole world still on the throes of the infamous terrorist bombing of the nearby World Trade Centre, Bernard Hopkins annihilated Puerto Rican Idol, Felix Trinidad in a virtuoso performance that unified the 160-pound division.
It marked a significant step in a glorified title reign that saw him establish a record 20 defenses, and lifted Hopkins to the elite ranks that include Sugar Ray Robinson, Carlos Monzon and Marvelous Marvn Hagler.
No, Saturday’s triumph over defending titlist Pascal is significant more in the sense that Hopkins has written his name boldly into the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest active fighter ever to win a major world title. By the weekend success, he replaces Big George Foreman who first set the mark in 1994, aged 45.
Putting Hopkins victory in perspective, it is easy to predict that his Guinness title will be darn tough to take away, considering the lean queue of contenders available. In any case, losing the title will not necessarily be subject to a ring loss – and the ‘Executioner’ could well squeeze in a defense or two over the next 12 months.
Hopkins can only be threatened in his Guinness Empire should a fighter of championship pedigree 46 years-and-above emerge in any of the 17 weight classifications and challenge for a major title.
That brings to mind Holyfield, Vitaly (39) and Wladimir Klitschko as the most recognizable names available in boxing today. While Holyfield has only as good a rank outsider’s chance with the presence of the seemingly unbeatable Klitschko twosome, it is doubtful that the Soviet menace can last into the next 10 years.
Even then, the ex-Real Deal has the commonsense to limit his crazy title ambitions to the spurious varieties outside the better rated WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO banners.
Which finally, brings us home to Bash Alli. Remember him?
Well, Nigeria’s own Bash Alli has been underground and quiet for much of the period compatriot Samuel Peter enjoyed his brief world heavyweight title reign that was aborted in the last quarter of 2008. Even then, Alli’s major focus has been this same Guinness title Hopkins has just taken.
I wonder if this focus is still as intense as it first was some six years ago, on account of which Alli has courted many a renowned public office holder, and clashed with others. I’m quite certain our son is well above 50 years – no matter the calculations and manipulations.
Above all, I’m very certain the entire length and breadth of Nigeria will go for broke the night it is announced that Bash Alli has succeeded Bernard Hopkins in the Guinness Book of Records.
By Trigo H. Egbegi (0803-478-6832; [email protected])