Bernard Hopkins, Juan Manuel Marquez and Shane Mosley are 2020 Hall of Fame inductees
PHILADELPHIA—He had his doubts that he wouldn’t receive the call. He really did. Everyone else around him knew it was coming. When it came, he smiled. He does that more often these days, smiles. His sharp edges are still there. And something else: He’s having a tough time accepting this, because he’s never really been accepted, in his mind. He’s always taken great pride in being the outlier, the contrarian, the interloper from the Germantown Section of Philadelphia who was told in his formative years that he would never amount to anything, that he would never be accepted, that he would be dead by 20.
So, he found a place where he would fit perfectly, along with the rest of the underserved and discarded—boxing.
Early this week, Bernard Hopkins received a call everyone knew he would get—with the possible exception of himself—from the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
On Wednesday, it was official.
Bernard Hopkins can finally say it, Hall of Famer.
He was actually a hall of famer about 18 years ago, the night he confounded Felix Trinidad and the world by winning a fight no one thought he could win. He built a career and legacy on those triumphs and then laughed when others scoffed.
A former two-division champ, Hopkins (55-8-2, 32 KOs) headlines a distinguished 2020 class that includes Juan Manuel Marquez (56-7-1, 40 KOs) and Shane Mosley (49-10-1, 41 KOs) of the 41 that were on the 2020 modern ballot. All are first-ballot Hall of Famers and all are multi-divisional champions.
Joining that trio will be Barbara Buttrick in the women’s Trailblazer category and “The Coal Miner’s Daughter” Christy Martin and “The Dutch Destroyer” Lucia Rijker in the women’s Modern category. Non-participants and observers to be inducted include promoters Lou DiBella, Kathy Duva and Dan Goossen and journalists Bernard Fernandez and Thomas Hauser.
Lightweight champion Frank Erne in the Old Timer category and Paddy Ryan in the Pioneer category will also be honored. Inductees were voted in by members of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a panel of international boxing historians.
The enshrinement ceremonies will take place the weekend of June 11-14, in Canastota, New York. Because the IBHOF recently reduced the waiting period for eligibility from five years to three, Hopkins won’t have to wait until 2022 for induction—which was a foregone conclusion.
Despite the accomplishments and the accolades, Hopkins’ inner outlier still exists.
“It is a great honor, but it makes me think about the past, too,” Hopkins said. “In every travel, of every successful man I know, and the ones I don’t know I read about, there is no success without struggle. My story is no different than Satchel Paige, no different than the great Muhammad Ali, no different than any great man. You have to face that adversity to get to your path, and that’s what I think of when it comes to being inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“Anyone who knows the boxing world knows for a fact that Bernard Hopkins put his career on the line to stay behind his decisions as a man, as a person, to risk it all politically. I wasn’t the favorite son. You know it. I know it. Everyone knows it. This is a cozy, happy feeling, but you act like the pain never happened. It happened. It happened to me.
“Some things you can’t let go. I kept a small circle in boxing. The most important thing in my life is walking off of nine years of parole. I knew I was going into the Hall of Fame. It would have been a big story if I wasn’t going into the Hall of Fame. I was happier when I got my parole slip after walking off nine years of parole, and these are things white America doesn’t understand, and black fools don’t understand, either.
“When someone asks how happy I am about being in the Hall of Fame, they should have asked me how happy I was walking out of Graterford (prison) with a box in my hand with my socks, draws and underwear with nine years of parole to walk off, while trying to get a job in white America? Should I be happier to be going in the Hall of Fame, than being a productive American citizen? Or should I be happier more for what I did in boxing, or more what I did in life?
“It’s about more for what I did in life. There would be no Hall of Fame if I didn’t overcome and succeed in life. My first hall of fame was when I got out of Graterford and never went back. That got lost. Unless you go back, it’s not a story. But let me hit someone on Broad Street, and I’m on Channels 3, 6 and 10 in Philly. Look at all of the things I navigated through, like the Vegas traveling, groupie guys coming at you, these women, these tramps, people putting their hands in my pocket and the traps coming at me.
“I survived it.
“People miss my past, because of my career. They were locked into my career, my career, my career. There are so many twists and turns. Watch what people tell you about Bernard Hopkins being in the Hall of Fame. I’ve been a Hall of Famer 10-plus years ago. People need to base things on F-A-C-T-S. Those facts say I was a hall of famer 10 years ago.
“I’m always going to be Y4145. That will never change.”
“The Executioner” also stated something else, “Not everyone there (during induction weekend) is going to be happy for me. There are going to be people there not happy that Bernard Hopkins is standing up there not looking like Iran Barkley, not talking like Meldrick Taylor—but the opposite.”
Hopkins said he believes many in the boxing community and media alike appreciate his accomplishments and his work. He admits, reluctantly, that he has evolved into a beloved figure in the sport. Many that spurned him through the years have become ardent fans. He’s still getting used to the fact that he has fans. That people actually like him, and those things are still hard for him to hear. Even for the years he was on top, Hopkins had a tendency to contrive something in his mind that was negative, create his own chip on his shoulder to barrel through. If there wasn’t an obstacle there, B-Hop would produce one.
People see the good in Hopkins—and there is a lot of good. He doesn’t want to hear that. He once helped pay for the funeral of someone that he wants to remain anonymous about. So he refuses to talk about it. He once helped a lost sportswriter in Louisville, Kentucky, one sweltering Friday afternoon, June 10, 2016, at the Muhammad Ali funeral. He won’t acknowledge that—even to the very person who he served as their guide. He’s paid for the college tuition of 20 kids, and he doesn’t want that known, either. He donated $100,000 to the family and six children of former sparring partner Steve Little, who died of colon cancer in 2000. He won’t talk about it.
“I also heard my man Bernie Fernandez got in, so he’s going in with me,” Hopkins said. “That’s great the two of us are going in at the same time. Bernie covered my entire career. He’s a good man and a friend. I have to thank guys like Bernie, and Nigel Collins, and a lot of guys in the media who respected me, even though a lot of times they might not have always agreed with me during my career, for this honor.
In June of next year, Hopkins’ stone face may crack a little from emotion during his induction speech.
He doesn’t want to hear that, either. He said he’s armed himself through the years against feelings, that he does have them, but doesn’t expose them.
“I see the way people react to me today,” Hopkins said. “I get called a grumpy old man a lot of times, and that’s because I act like one. I warned them that they better make me last when I am inducted. Ed Brophy is going to keep telling me to keep it to five minutes. I’m going to tell half the people there I dislike them (he laughs). Everyone better bring their pillows when I talk. They can take a nap. I don’t care. I’ll still be talking.
“This whole thing just reminds me that I came from J Block. I know my prison number backwards and frontwards, but I don’t know my social security number. You won’t see any emotion from me. I’m grateful and appreciative, but that’s not the story. The journey and how I got here, to be in the Hall of Fame, that’s what I’m happy about.
“That’s the story. I don’t want to get a pat on the back.”
Too bad, he’ll have to accept more than a few on June 14, 2020.
What the Class of 2020 had to say:
“I’m glad I’m entering the house of greatness past and present. Thanks to boxing I became a greater inspiration to the world.”
Juan Manuel Marquez
“This is great. I feel very happy and excited to receive this news. I am looking forward to being in Canastota for my induction. I am so happy.”
“I’m so happy and honored. I’ve worked my whole life for this. Even when I started as a kid at 8 years old I knew this is what I wanted to do and what I wanted to be. I have accomplished my goals to be one of the greats and go into the Hall of Fame, so this is a great honor.”
“I just wanted to be a fighter and fit into the world of boxing and this is a dream come true. I’m always excited to come back to Canastota but to come back this year will be very special.”
“This is very moving. It makes me feel emotional. As I entered normal life after boxing there is a memory of boxing that is in my heart and soul. There is really a strong connection I have to that era and I am really honored to be reminded of that time because sometimes there is a time in your life where everything comes together – mind, body and spirit – and definitely my boxing career aligned all three of them to be the best I could be on all levels. I’m very grateful for that and grateful to be recognized.”
“This is wonderful news. It means a lot to me. After I started out with everybody against me back in the 1940s, it is nice to be recognized. I’m looking forward to being in Canastota in June.”
“It’s such an honor to be joining my husband, father-in-law, and many of the boxers Main Events has developed and worked with over the years, including Pernell Whitaker, Arturo Gatti, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, Hector Camacho and Mike McCallum, in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Over forty years ago, when I started working in boxing, this was unfathomable. We had to threaten lawsuits more than once just to get me admitted into weigh ins. And now, to follow in the footsteps of my idols, Aileen Eaton and Lorraine Chargin, as the third woman to be inducted as a non-participant and with the first class of female boxers, will never stop amazing me. Thank you so much to the IBHOF and the voters who made this possible!”
“When I was a kid, watching Nino Benvenuti on the tube with my grandfathers and my dad, and following Ali fights with a transistor radio under my pillow, I wanted to be a part of it. Boxing thrilled me like nothing else. But I never dreamed that I would one day be in the IBHOF with my heroes, the greatest fighters who ever lived, and so many storied men and women who would become colleagues and friends. I’m humbled and I’m truly grateful for this recognition, an affirmation that I gave my best to a sport I love.”
Tom Brown, President of TGB Promotions / brother in law of Dan Goossen
“My wife Sandi and I want to say on behalf of our family, we thank everyone that voted for him for this honor. For over 40 years, I watched Dan give everything he had to this sport because he loved it. He loved our fighters and loved seeing them in the ring…and win. He is missed, but now he is immortalized as a Hall of Famer and it is so well deserved.”
Joe Goossen, boxing trainer / brother of Dan Goossen
“This is the best news I’ve had in years. Aside from being very, very, very emotional right now upon hearing the news, I am just so happy for Dan getting this recognition. Anybody with big aspirations in the boxing game that has worked for decades in it, the ultimate compliment and payoff is not money or fame, it is the recognition you get for your work and I’m thankful that he is getting recognized for that. I’m very thankful and proud of my brother and very thankful for the International Boxing Hall of Fame and the recognition because it really is the pinnacle of being recognized by your peers.”
“Boxing is about fights and fighters and to a lesser extent about fights and writers. People like Jerry Izenberg and Dave Anderson are people I have admired at the highest level of my profession and I guess this honor is saying I move into their company and it is very humbling.”
“There were times when I fantasized about this happening. But I really didn’t think it would. Right now, all the clichés ring true for me. I’m thrilled, gratified, and very moved by this honor.”