In 2008, Bernard Hopkins defied the odds and staved off the retirement most boxing fans felt he should be enjoying. He fought twice during the year and both were major events. In April, he dropped a decision to Joe Calzaghe and lost his Ring Magazine light-heavyweight championship. Some felt Hopkins did enough to earn that decision, but the official result seemed to infer that this great champion had come to the end of the line professionally. Everyone prepared for a big and deserved retirement party. However, Bernard Hopkins wasn't yet ready to call it a day.

In October, Hopkins faced middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik in an over-the-weight, non-title bout. Most boxing fans strongly favored the younger, bigger, and very popular Pavlik. Many even felt that Pavlik would become the first man to stop the aging ex-champ. But Hopkins has made a career of schooling opponents and fans on the subject of just how great he is.

For 12 rounds, Hopkins took Pavlik to school and scored a one-sided unanimous decision to shock everyone watching. It was such a complete and unexpected victory that it has to rank only behind the Trinidad fight as Hopkins most satisfying win. The performance further gilded his already solid gold legacy, and raised his stock from a "future hall of famer" to one of boxing's all-time best.

The best part of Bernard's win was his reaction after the fight. Of course he surprised Pavlik and the entire boxing world. But in scoring such a perfect and unexpected victory, Bernard Hopkins clearly surprised even himself. The normally stoic Hopkins was obviously overwhelmed by his own accomplishments.

On the strength of this "win for the ages", Philly Boxing History proudly names Bernard Hopkins as the "2008 Philly Fighter of the Year". Hopkins has made Philadelphia proud for many years and appears to be ready for more. No one should ever call for his retirement again. Hopkins clearly knows what he is doing.

Bernard Hopkins will be presented with his Briscoe Award on October 12, 2009 at the Veteran Boxers Association Club in Philadelphia. (PHOTOS)__________________________________________________________________

The other nominees for 2008 Philly Fighter of the Year:
1)  Mike Jones (welterweight)
2)  Rogers Mtagwa (jr. featherweight)
3)  Gabriel Rosado (jr. middleweight)



On September 12, 2008, North Philly's Blue Horizon was the site for the Philly Fight of the Year for the second consecutive year. Although 2008's standout bout was not the main event of the evening, the 8-round co-feature between Gee Edward Cullmer and Jameel Wilson was not only the fight of the night, it proved to be Philadelphia's best fight of the year. It was a match between two local boxers, both very familiar to the city's fight scene.  

Cullmer entered the bout at 14-1 with 3 KOs and 1 No Contest. All but two of his pro bouts had taken place in Philadelphia. Wilson came in with a lumpy 13-14-3 (8 KO) record, but he had been in with many good fighters and had the gritty experience that the younger Cullmer lacked. More than half of Wilson's fights had taken place locally, and the fans knew that he was better than his sub-500 record indicated. In fact, this veteran of numerous crowd-pleasing fights had been on the short side of several close ones that should have gone his way.

Cullmer opened the fight with a clinic of jabs and boxing ability. He took the first three rounds and appeared to be in for a comfortable night. But Wilson rarely makes it easy for his opponents, which was the case on this night too.

Jameel's alarm clock went off in round four. And once he was awake, he somehow began to lure Cullmer away from his boxing ways and into the trenches along the ropes. Wilson stepped on the gas and used his brawling-savvy to win many of these exchanges, and take back some rounds. But it wasn't one-sided. Cullmer held his own and made it close. But the boxer wasn't fighting to his strengths. 

The experience of the war-horse Wilson really paid off in rounds six and seven. He was really cooking by then and clearly was turning the tide.

However Cullmer got smart and returned to his game plan in round eight. It seemed that when Gee was boxing and not brawling, he was the better fighter, and could control the action. He won the round but had to withstand one more rally by Wilson. They traded punches until the final bell.

The decision went to Cullmer by majority verdict (76-76, 77-75 & 78-74), but honestly could have gone either way. For every observer who agreed with the judges, there was another who felt Wilson had been robbed. It was just one of those fights. The truth is, the fight should have been a 10-rounder.

Both fighters have plied their fistic trade earnestly over the years and deserve some recognition for their hard work. Perhaps this Briscoe Award for 2008's Fight of the Year can serve that purpose. Their bout was typical of the grinding fight club scene that represents the Philly boxing of this era.

Gee Cullmer and Jameel Wilson, both of the Shuler Gym, will receive their Briscoe Awards on October 12, 2009 at the Veteran Boxers Association Club in Philadelphia.  (PHOTOS)__________________________________________________________________

The other nominees for 2008 Philly Fight of the Year:
1)  Lenny DeVictoria W8 Derrick Moon,  February 8, 2008 at the Blue Horizon, promoted by Blue Horizon Boxing Promotions.

2)  Jose Hernandez TKO12 Rasheem Jefferson, April 18, 2008 at the National Guard Armory, promoted by Power Productions.

3)  Teon Kennedy KO2 Thomas Snow, July 18, 2008 at the New Alhambra, promoted by Peltz Boxing Promotions & Joe Hand Promotions.