Commentary: Don King's one-ring circus
Wednesday October 3, 2001
Being patriotic is one thing. Being an idiot is another thing altogether.
Saturday night, Madison Square Garden - the "Boxing Mecca of the World," as New Yorkers call it - played host to one of the biggest boxing matches of the year.
If you didn't see the fight, I can hardly blame you.
But this fight held the potential to be special. Boxing promoter/sleazebag Don King conceived this match last spring to determine the first unified middleweight champion since the mid-1980s.
But the most intriguing story lines had little to do with the tactical maneuvers in the ring.
Puerto Rican native and MSG favorite Felix Trinidad, undefeated and considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, came into the fight a heavy favorite.
Trinidad's opponent, Philadelphia native Bernard Hopkins, whose pre-fight ceremonies often run much longer than the actual fight, threw a Puerto Rican flag on the canvas of the ring. This was an attempt to demean Trinidad's homeland and show Hopkins' patriotism.
Before we extol the praises of Hopkins and his professed love for his country, let's examine his true character.
We will start with his less-than-stellar criminal record. Hopkins spent seven years in jail in the 1980s for drug trafficking - a regular Uncle Sam, this guy.
Last week, during the pre-fight weigh-in, Hopkins continued his outlandish antics. The Philly native threw rice and beans at Trinidad, offering him his "last meal." A smart move in a state where 15 percent of the population is Hispanic, and that percentage is even higher in New York City.
Once Hopkins entered the ring, his "love" for America and capitalism were rather prevalent. Walking into the ring in his trademark leather mask and executioner gear - after all, his nickname is "The Executioner" - he carried himself with all the grace of a true patriot.
After pulling his mask off to reveal his skullcap with "WAR" written across the front and an American flag on the back, it might have been easy to confuse Hopkins with your average NRA member. Afterward, he proceeded to toss the Puerto Rican flag around the ring. Am I supposed to interpret this as support for a war against Puerto Rico?
Mercifully, the bout began. As Hopkins began to fight, it appeared there was something written on his back. Is this going to be another political statement?
Apparently an online gambling site paid Hopkins $100,000 to be a walking advertisement. On his back, in black letters, he bore the URL for the site. No need to elaborate on that one.
The "Executioner" pulled off the upset by knocking out Trinidad in the 12th round to become the middleweight champion.
Then he proceeded to climb the ropes and chant "U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A." to the pro-Trinidad crowd.
Is Bernard Hopkins - ex-con, racist and puppet for the gambling industry - an American hero?
I don't think so.
What ever happened to boxing patriots like Apollo Creed and Rocky Balboa?
Oh, that's right, they didn't exist either.