When Mike Tyson was at his best in the late '80s, blowing out the likes of Michael Spinks and Carl "The Truth" Williams in half a round apiece, the prevailing thought was that many of his opponents were beaten before they even stepped into the ring.
Bernard Hopkins doesn't blow out anybody in half a round -- in fact, he hasn't scored a knockout since 2004 and hasn't finished off anyone in the first round since 1996 -- but he too carries a reputation for beating opponents prior to the ringing of the opening bell.
On most counts, Hopkins' head trainer, Naazim Richardson, believes the legendary "Executioner" doesn't get enough credit. However, on this particular count, he thinks the reigning light heavyweight champion of the world, who will defend against top contender Chad Dawson on Oct. 15, gets too much credit. Speaking with ESPN.com during a workout for the media at the Joe Hand Boxing Gym in the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia on Tuesday, Richardson refuted the commonly held belief that the 46-year-old Hopkins is taking kids half his age to school because he gets inside their heads.
"This thing about Bernard getting in people's heads, it's not really true," Richardson said. "What I've seen is Bernard get upside people's heads, with that hook and that right hand of his. People place such an emphasis on the fact that he's in their heads, it's almost like he's not fighting. Well, he is fighting. He is punching these guys in the mouth, and that's why he's winning these fights and looking the way he's looking.
"When people say he got in someone's head, that just creates an excuse. It just sets up the next fight for these young guys, so they can say, 'It won't happen again, because this next opponent is not going to get in my head.'"
If you ask us, Hopkins is equally masterful at beating opponents with his mind and his body. But one thing is for sure: No boxer has ever been knocked out by an intimidating glare or a verbal promise of destruction. Those things might start the job, but it always takes a punch to finish it.