Bernard “The Executioner Hopkins” began his career in near by Atlantic City all the way back in 1988 with a loss to unknown Clinton Mitchell. Mitchell was also making his pro-debut. Hopkins earned $350 bucks and lost a majority decision probably a hotly disputed one based on Hopkins career. These two careers went in far different directions. Mitchell had a draw in his next fight which was 7 years later and a loss in ’98 and calling it a career.
Hopkins career went in a slightly different direction little did he know, Clinton Mitchell, or anyone watching that fight knew that Hopkins was going to go on to be the greatest Middleweight Champion in boxing history. After the loss to Mitchell Hopkins said he had to make a decision if he wanted “eat,sleep and live boxing” after a year layoff he made the decision that he did. The Executioner ran off 22 straight victories that landed him a shot at Pound 4-pound king Roy Jones JR. and lost a resounding UD. Hopkins got back at it and earned another title shot in Ecuador. The home country of IBF titleholder Seguando Mercado, and Hopkins received a controversial draw, in the champ’s hometown. A mandatory rematch was announced and Hopkins destroyed Mercado in earning a 7th round knockout. Hopkins then went on to run off a middleweight record of 20 straight successful title defenses. Including victories over De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad, and everyone and anyone else who was somebody in the middleweight division. This streak ended kind of, when, as lyricist and boxing aficionado RA the Rugged Man said “Stole his titles and gave em to Jermaine.” Then robbed him again even worse in the rematch. Leaving the division as the greatest fighter the division ever period!
Moving up to Light Heavyweight and skipping right over the Super Middleweight division. In his first fight he took apart long time Lt. heavy champ Antonio Tarver, pitching a near shut -out against the great champ. One thing was glaringly obvious, the jump in weight classes proved not much had changed and Hopkins was going to be a great Light Heavyweight. He took apart Winky Wright, Roy Jones Jr., Kelly Pavlik, who was considered the future of boxing by many at the time, took a tough defeat/robbery at the hands of Joe Calzaghe. He became the oldest man to win a world title at the age of 46 when outclassing and taking the much younger Pascal to school and embarrassing him at times. After yes being robbed again by the judges and having to settle for a draw. Then broke that record again at the age of 48 with another near shot out of undefeated champ Tavoris Cloud to regain the IBF title.
Having grown up in NY in the midst of the NY-Philly rivalry, it made no difference everyone loved B-Hop. He fought everyone didn’t care if you would step up he’d take you out. In September in 2001 Hopkins took on Tito Trinidad, it was an emotional moment is was the first sporting event in NYC following the terror attacks. I was a freshman at Hofstra University at the time and one of my college suitemates asked me, the boxing expert who was going to win. I said I like Hopkins, but he’s 36, that’s too old take, Trinidad.Little did I know this was really where the legend was going to be born and a dozen years later he would win yet another world title in the Light Heavyweight division. Fighters often hang on way too long Ali being destroyed by Trevor Berbick. Joe Louis being knocked through the ropes by Tthe Rock which was eerily similar to what happened to Hopkins against Joe Smith Jr, the other night. Louis and Hopkins are the only two fighters in history to run off 20 or more consecutive title defenses.
Both fighters were knocked through the ropes by a big puncher who rarely threw straight punches who would have gotten their heads boxed in a few years earlier.
I choose not to remember that Bernard Hopkins. I’ll remember the one that was one of the greatest fighters of this or any era. The Hopkins that did things at ages that have never been seen before.Hopkins suffered through at least 5 bad decisions and each time came back and won world titles. It’s been a pleasure watching every moment of your incredible 28-year career. Thanks for the memories.