Posted 12:00 AM | Feb 23, 2012
|Weight Class:||Light Heavyweight|
53 Wins | 6 Losses | 32 KOs
|Birthdate:||January 15, 1965|
Age-defying. Record-breaking. Inspirational. All of these words describe Bernard Hopkins, who at 47 years old is the WBC and Ring Magazine Light Heavyweight World Champion and the oldest fighter in boxing history to win a significant world title.
"I am so happy I won [the titles] and showed the world that if you are disciplined and maintain your physical and mental health, anything is possible at any age," said Hopkins. "I just hope my victory inspired people watching the fight to take a good look at their own lifestyle and to never stop believing that they can be physically fit and emotionally happy throughout their entire lives."
With his unanimous decision victory over 28-year-old Jean Pascal in Montreal, Canada on May 21, 2011, Hopkins broke George Foreman's record as the oldest boxer to win a world title which was set almost 17 years ago.
"If my record goes down, you want to see it go down that way," said George Foreman. "If it was the Olympics, Bernard gets the Gold Medal. This was the best I've seen Bernard take charge of a fight with a young strong champion like Pascal. Long live the king."
While Hopkins has reached yet another extraordinary chapter in his remarkable career, his story, which began 46 years ago in North Philadelphia, has not always been happy one. He was a young man who did what he felt he needed to do to survive in the face of daily life in the rough neighborhood. Unfortunately, the decisions the young Hopkins made led him to Graterford State Penitentiary at the age of 17. Determined to not let this setback define him, Hopkins boxed while in prison, hoping to get a second chance to turn his life around. That chance came in 1988, when Hopkins, then 23, was released after 56 months of incarceration.
He turned pro later that year, but lost a four round decision to Clinton Mitchell on October 11, 1988. Discouraged, Hopkins went back to his day job working at a local hotel and didn't fight again until February 22, 1990 when he scored his first professional win, a four round decision against Greg Paige. In his corner that night was a new trainer, Bouie Fisher, a man who would play a pivotal role in the career of this young fighter.
From 1990 to 1992, Bernard Hopkins put his heart and soul into his work with Fisher in the gym, and the results were visible when he stepped into the ring, with Hopkins scoring 19 consecutive victories over that period.
With the boxing world starting to take notice of this hard-nosed warrior from Philly, Hopkins got his chance at a big fight when he signed to fight veteran Wayne Powell for the USBA middleweight title on December 4, 1992. Powell didn't stay around long, with Hopkins knocking him out in a mere 21 seconds.
Hopkins would defend his USBA title once, with a decision win over Gilbert Baptist, before a world title shot presented itself on May 22, 1993, when Hopkins squared off against Roy Jones Jr. for the vacant IBF middleweight crown. At the time of the HBO televised co-feature bout to the Riddick Bowe vs. Jesse Ferguson heavyweight title fight, Jones was undefeated and Hopkins had one loss to his 22 wins. After 12 hard fought rounds, Jones won a unanimous decision over Hopkins, who suffered the second loss of his career. He didn't lose again for over 12 years.
"I made a vow to myself which I've held up for 11 years now, that I'll never lose on my feet again," Hopkins told a reporter in 2004. "I train that way, I think that way, and it's been 11 years. Some people don't think that's important. I think it's very important to make a statement and to work hard to live by it."
Disappointed but not discouraged, Hopkins immediately went back into the gym and four months after losing to Jones, he defended his USBA crown with a TKO win over then-unbeaten Roy Ritchie. Two more defenses followed, and on December 17, 1994, Hopkins got a second shot at a world title against Segundo Mercado. Fighting in oppressive conditions in Ecuador, Hopkins was knocked down twice by Mercado but still was able to battle his way to a draw.
Five months later, on April 29, 1995, there would be no questions as Hopkins dispatched of Mercado in seven rounds. Finally, the dream had come true and Bernard Hopkins was a world champion.
For him, the real work was just beginning - not only in the ring, but also outside of it.
Becoming an outspoken advocate for fighters' rights, Hopkins took every opportunity to try to right the wrongs committed against boxers, or at least make people aware of them. He even testified before Congress in support of the Muhammad Ali Act, making many enemies within the boxing industry in the process. But as long as Hopkins kept winning, no one could stop him from achieving his goals or speaking his mind on a world stage.
So he kept winning, and through the late 1990s and early 2000s, quality contender after quality contender fell at the hands of "The Executioner". His list of vanquished foes is a who's who of middleweight boxing in this era - John David Jackson, Glen Johnson, Simon Brown, Andrew Council, Robert Allen, Antwun Echols and Syd Vanderpool.
It wasn't until 2001 though, that the mainstream sports fan started to really take notice of Bernard Hopkins. It was during this year that Hopkins threw his hat in the ring to compete in a four-man tournament to determine an undisputed middleweight world champion. Hopkins easily decisioned Keith Holmes in his opening match up on April 14, 2001 and would face Puerto Rican star Felix "Tito" Trinidad (who defeated William Joppy) on September 29 of that year.
What many expected to be a coronation for Trinidad that night at Madison Square Garden instead saw the ‘execution' of an icon, as Hopkins systematically broke down Tito before stopping him in the 12th and final round. It was the defining moment of Hopkins' career to that point and one no boxing fan would ever forget.
There were greater mountains to climb though, and after four more defenses of his crown, the super fight to end all super fights was announced, with Hopkins to face De La Hoya for all the middleweight marbles on September 18, 2004. It was a record-setting event and the talk of the entire sports world as "The Executioner" established himself as one of the greatest 160-pound champions of all-time. It was a win that not only brought the outspoken Philadelphian into the mainstream spotlight, but one that enabled him to notch his 19th successful title defense - an all-time record.
Ironically enough, a few months after their battle, Hopkins and De La Hoya would meet again - this time as businessmen - and the two superstars would ink a historic agreement that would place Hopkins as a partner in Golden Boy Promotions and place him at the helm of Golden Boy Promotions East.
With work still to be done inside the ring, and Hopkins aging like a fine wine, the then 40-year old continued to show that he was one of the best boxers in the game, something he owed to his Spartan work ethic and clean living philosophy. To prove his point, Hopkins unfalteringly decisioned hard-hitting British contender Howard Eastman before a packed house at Los Angeles' STAPLES Center on February 19, 2005 to successfully defend his title for the twentieth time.
Hopkins' middleweight reign came to a controversial end on July 16, 2005, when he was upset via a 12-round split decision against unbeaten former U.S. Olympian Jermain Taylor at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. With many the fans and much of the media believing he won the fight, ‘The Executioner' became even more popular in defeat.
But to a great champion, a loss never sits easy, and on December 3, 2005, at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Hopkins looked to gain his revenge, only to drop another disputed decision to Taylor.
Never one to give up or be discouraged, Hopkins turned his attention to a new weight and told the world that he was ready to emulate his boxing hero Sugar Ray Robinson and move up two weight classes to challenge then World Champion Antonio Tarver for the light heavyweight crown. Although Robinson was unable to accomplish such a feat, Hopkins was not deterred and the fight was set for June 10, 2006 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
On fight night, Hopkins looked comfortable at the new weight and immediately established a clear advantage in movement and ring generalship. Working his game plan and methodically picking apart the bigger Tarver, it was clear by the sixth round of the fight that Hopkins would deliver another masterful performance. After one knockdown, a supreme domination and unanimous decision win, Hopkins again was the victor in the ring and put another exclamation point on his illustrious career.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Hopkins was back at it on July 21, 2007 in Las Vegas, when he went up against another "best of his era" candidate in Winky Wright. They fought for Hopkins' Ring Magazine Light Heavyweight World Championship and once again, Hopkins delivered a dominate performance in defense of his crown, notching win 48 of his illustrious career.
Hopkins would fall short in his next bout on April 19, 2008, losing a controversial 12-round split decision to Joe Calzaghe, but there is no keeping ‘The Executioner' down, and he shocked the world once again when he scored a lopsided 12 round decision win over then undefeated middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik on October 18, 2008, showing that if anything, Hopkins was better than ever.
Hopkins returned to the ring on December 2, 2009 when he faced another young gun in Enrique Ornelas in front of a hometown Philadelphia crowd, putting on yet another dominant performance on his way to victory.
In April, 2010, Hopkins avenged his 17-year long rivalry with Roy Jones Jr. when he went 12 hard fought rounds against his longtime nemesis. "The Executioner" accomplished what he set out to do, become victorious and settle the score against Jones.
December 18, 2010 marked Hopkins' first meeting with Jean Pascal. The exciting matchup, which took place in Quebec City, seemed to have put Hopkins in the winner's circle, but Hopkins' dream of becoming the oldest fighter to win a world title was not realized when the judges ruled the fight a majority draw (the third judge ruled in favor of Hopkins). Following the controversial bout, the WBC mandated an immediate rematch between the two, once again positioning Hopkins to fight for the light heavyweight crown.
With the boxing world on his side, Hopkins decided to return to Canada and fight Pascal in his hometown of Montreal to put extra pressure on the young champion, and it paid off. Hopkins displayed excellent conditioning and his still razor-sharp boxing acumen throughout the fight and hammered the former point home at the beginning of the seventh round, when while waiting for Pascal to leave his corner, Hopkins dropped to the canvas and started doing push-ups. According to the scorecards, that round went to Hopkins too. It was a great night of boxing with a spectacular performance by the ageless wonder Bernard Hopkins.
On October 15 2011, Hopkins continued his unprecedented ring journey and took on former World Champion "Bad" Chad Dawson at Staples Center, in Los Angeles. A little over two minutes into the second round, "Bad" Chad honored his ring name by tackling Hopkins to the canvas causing the Philadelphian to dislocate his shoulder. Dawson was initially declared the winner by a technical knockout capturing Hopkins' championship belts. There were immediate cries from boxing fans and experts alike that the fight should have been ruled a no contest or no decision as a result of it ending the way it had. In December, the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) held a hearing on the matter and decided to overturn the decision by changing the technical knockout to a no decision, which gave Hopkins back his light heavyweight world champion titles.
- This Time Around, Dawson Leaves No Room for Controversy
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