The end of 2016 brought with it cataclysmic repercussions for the world of sports and politics.
The highest seat of power in the world saw its second actor turned politician gain the Iron Throne, the first was Reagan, and the combat sporting worlds saw its heroes go out in the worst ways possible.
No one will ever be able to say anything bad about Bernard Hopkins…until he met Joe Smith, Jr.
The series of lefts and rights that culminated in Hopkins exiting the ring abusively and meeting the not so friendly concrete with his 51 year-old body was true fodder for this meme-frenzied generation.
“The Alien” led a career that saw him defy the odds that the 13th Amendment cast on young black men in the form of the penal pipeline. After leaving State Correctional Institution Graterford, just outside of Philadelphia, in 1988, Hopkins jumped right into the professional ranks, losing his first pro fight in nearby Atlantic City.
It's futile to go into each fight because when you look at the overarching successes that Hopkins has achieved, his place is cemented as an all-time great and future Hall of Famer. Holder of multiple world titles at middleweight and light heavyweight, middleweight champion from 1994 to 2005, compiling a record of 20 title defenses during that period.
He also became the first male boxer to simultaneously hold world titles by all four major boxing sanctioning bodies, solidifying him as an icon in the sport. However, after fighting Sergey Kovalev in November 2014, the Golden Boy Promotions partner should have let that part of his life go. The chase for one more challenge and one more belt bit Hopkins as it does many in the game.
Fast forward to the last major fight of any combat discipline in 2016, Ronda Rousey vs. Amanda Nunes. The world waited with baited breath for the return of the first woman to truly catapult not only the women’s MMA platform but also the sport itself into the mainstream.
Moms told their daughters to emulate her take-no-prisoners, confidence. Her miniscule time in the cage yielded results and classic finishes that made MMA’s biggest critic of women’s competition, UFC President Dana White, change his opinion and make her his biggest star.
However, like Hopkins, Rousey should have given up the game when she realized she was more pop star and less fighter. The reason why successful fighters wait for movie roles and television appearances on a consistent basis until after they have retired is because you don’t play fighting; you live it. When you stop following the mundane droll routine of running before daybreak, two-a –day training, regular healthy meals and plenty of rest, your weaknesses begin to set in a little more each day.
For Rousey, it was always the hands so she modified her approach and used her hands more for limb contortion and less for pummeling. But when poor coaching and the world tell you that you can do what you’ve never done and spend less time doing what you’ve always done, then the result is her Holly Holm fight and subsequent loss to Amanda Nunes.
Both Rousey and Hopkins returned from a year or more of time off to face hungry champions primed to expose non-believers. The hype played a good trick on those who believed their heroes would win, but I knew that going into each battle the two stars would dim on their respective nights.
It’s just sad that they had to go out with a surreal and ugly bang.