x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Bernard Hopkins as champion is absurd comedy best left to Rocky

I'm all for nonsensical movies like Rocky but it's not funny when a 46 year old wins a boxing fight in reality.

Our columnist reckons he can take on Bernard Hopkins, the world's oldest boxing champion, with a little bit of preparation.
Our columnist reckons he can take on Bernard Hopkins, the world's oldest boxing champion, with a little bit of preparation.

Did you catch the last Rocky film when it came out a few years ago? If not, don't worry. It's rubbish.

Now, I like a good nonsensical sporting movie as much as the next guy. The sillier, the better.

Take Escape to Victory, for example. A group of Allied POWs get a chance to play the Germans in a football match at the height of World War 2. Guess who wins. Complete drivel, yet great fun.

But you have to draw the line at Sylvester Stallone's most famous character getting one last crack at a world heavyweight belt when he should have been drawing a pension.

The idea of some codger putting on the gloves for one final fight is just ridiculous.

Then at the weekend, an American named Bernard Hopkins became the oldest boxing world champion, at the age of 46.

What does it say about the state of supposedly the hardest game in the world when one of its best is a middle-aged bloke? Not a lot, as it happens.

Please don't think I'm being ageist. If Tom Watson, at 64, had won the British Open two years ago, it would have been arguably the greatest sporting achievement of them all.

But that's golf. It's not out of the realms of reality that a veteran such as Watson would still have four good rounds in him. A boxer at 46 shouldn't be allowed to have four average rounds in him before he was knocked cold to the canvas.

Yet Hopkins, six months older than George Foreman when he became heavyweight champion of the world in 1994, beat Canada's Jean Pascal at the weekend to win the WBC and IBO light-heavyweight titles. He won by a unanimous decision after 12 less-than-engrossing rounds.

Pascal, 28, was the reigning four-time champion, no less, and was well beaten. The guy is clearly a clown and while boxing has always had its paper champions, surely at this level there should not be room for someone who loses to a supposed has-been 18 years older than him.

Oh, and did I mention that before the bell sounded for Round 7, Hopkins goaded his young opponent by doing press-ups in the middle of the ring? That's not boxing, that's a scene cut from that last Rocky film because even Sly thought it a bit much.

Said Hopkins: "I knew it was going to be tough, but I wasn't going to be denied. You're meant to win titles in your 20s, not 46."

And that is the point.

There is nothing wrong with fairy-tale endings, but the pugilist art form is struggling when this can happen.

Hopkins, who comes across as a nice man, has enjoyed a decent career and fought, among others, Roy Jones Jr, Felix Trinidad, Oscar de la Hoya and Joe Calzaghe. Most of these guys have since retired, incidentally.

Nothing personal, Bernard, it's just that with a bit of training I reckon I could give you a fight. There's probably a decent film in that idea.


European club rugby has never been stronger. Saturday's Heineken Cup Final was the best in the competition's history. It had a bit of everything; the players of both champions Leinster and gallant losers Northampton should take a bow - if they have the energy.

The English side were 22-6 ahead at half-time after a thrilling, 40-minute display of superb rugby union that culminated in three tries.

But in what will surely go down as the game's greatest comeback, the men from Dublin racked up 26 unanswered points after half time with three tries of their own. They won 33-22. It was amazing stuff.

And why was this such a classic? Because both teams played quick passing and attacking rugby in an attempt to get over the game line.

Neither was content to take the ball to ground in the hope of winning a penalty, which has been the tactic of far too many international teams. This year's Six Nations was full of such negative play.

Rugby is at its best when the ball is moved around the backs, players try to run past opponents and dummies are sold all over the place. Rugby was at its best at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

If Manchester United and Barcelona can come close to reaching these heights in the football equivalent this Saturday, then we are in for a treat.