His name is Bernard Hopkins and he was born in a miserable neighborhood in north Philadelphia on January 15, 1965. Full name registered as Bernard Humprey Hopkins Jr., a member of a family of 8 siblings. In the boxing world he was more known by his aliases, which he won by what he did with his fists such as “The Executor”, “The Executioner” and “The Alien”. On December 16, 2016 he decided to untie his gloves for good after a career of 28 years and 2 months. He quit after a dazzling record of 55 victories, 32 by K0, 8 defeats, 1 before the limit and only a couple of draws.
Those 28 years of stunning activity are only below those 34 years of the mythical Jack Johnson, between 1897-1931 and the “cholo” Roberto (Mano é Piedra) Durán, Hands of Stone, the legendary Panamanian fighter that fought from 1968 until 2001 (33 years).
Archie Moore (28, from ’35 til ’63) and Evander Holyfield, with 27 between 1984-2011, are also two of the very few venerable Methuselahs of the ring.
Two very opposite stages converged in his almost randomly chosen profession; during his first years he was a steamroller machine that crushed his opponents without mercy, brutally, relentlessly until he saw his enemy fall to his feet.
In his last years he turned into a wise man, patient, skilled to the point of boredom and yawning, with ties and strings of the gloves on one shoulder, one eye, one arm, one way of stepping from one side to the other, full of tricks and satisfied with his methodic point accumulation. He used his experience to his advantage or to even out the disadvantages (depending on how you see it). In summary, a scientist in the ring.
From felony to glory
Hopkins led a hectic life in the beginning and an exemplary one later. The fact that he went from turbulent teenager, violent and rebellious, in and out of jail constantly to an adult of irreproachable conduct, made him a “rara avis”, a role model worthy of imitation by the youth around the world. A felon by the age of 13, with many assaults, he was sentenced at 17 to 18 years to be served at the Gaterford prison in Philadelphia for attempted murder and serious injuries. After serving 5 years, prisoner Y4145 got out with the utmost determination to walk along the right path, leaving behind alcohol and drugs. He converted to Islam and sought in boxing the road to goodness and peace.
He made it to the top and with the passing of the years, he found his place alongside other immortals that live in the museum, who like him, made history. A history that will remember him as one of the greatest boxers who ever lived and by him being a monarch of the most prolonged hegemony, with 10 years on the throne and also the oldest at 49, (above George Foreman who achieved it at 45) to ever win a universal title.
His career on the ring started the same way as it ended, with a defeat by points against Clinton Mitchell, on October 11th, 1988 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Nobody could stop him in his next battles between February 1990 and May 1993, until Roy Jones Jr. beat him by points for the middleweight IBF belt.
He won the International Boxing Federation (IBF) crown against Segundo Mercado from Ecuador and the one from the World Boxing Council (WBC) in front of Keith Holmes in April 2001. He later left Felix Trinidad and Oscar de La Hoya on the side of the road to get the IBF, WBA and WBC championships, which would be taken from him by Jermain Taylor in his 20th defense. An unparalleled success, until Gennady Golovkin, from Kazakhstan snatched his record. Taylor repeated his victory at the rematch, he has been the only one to defeat him twice in a row.
However, Hopkins came back for his glory and like a phoenix on February 18, 2010 at 45 years and one month of age, he disposed of Jean Pascal from Haiti in Québec, Canada, to own the light heavyweight and the Diamond titles from the WBC and the IBF, after a void fight, again with Pascal. Months later he would take revenge on Jones by decision in 10 rounds.
Without abandoning his attempts, in spite of his defeat by Chad Dawson (prior to a void decision with him) and the loss of the light heavyweight title on October 15, 2011, he would make history on March 9, 2013, when at 49 he won the IBF light cruiserweight title with a clear decision over the undefeated Floridian Tavoris Cloud (who had 19 KO´s in 22 fights and was 18 years his junior).
A physical wonder of 1,85m, with a reach of almost 2m, Hopkins with Taylor are the only ones who have flaunted 4 simultaneous titles, recognized by several ruling entities.
Good and bad times…. and a sad goodbye
It would be necessary tenths of thousands of words to duly relate his transit across of almost 30 years through those 16 ropes. We will do our best to summarize it and round it up after what has been noted above.
Let´s reiterate, that since the beginning, after his debut with Mitchell, the Philadelphian knitted a string of 21 consecutive victories, among which we saw that in December of ´92 he captured the middleweight division title before Wayne Powell by KO in the first round. The title was granted by the USBA, a little known entity beyond the US. He made a successful defense one more time.
In May of the following year, the “Alien” sought the IBF throne, at the time when Roy Jones Jr, who was considered the best boxer in the world, stopped him in his tracks in 12 rounds.
In spite of such frustration, Hopkins did not stop on the road and after defending his USBA Crown 3 more times, he went again after the IBF belt, left vacant by Jones Jr. He defeated Segundo Mercado by points in December ´94 in Quito, Ecuador and repeated against the same rival a year later.
After another 13 defenses, which included a draw against Robert Allen in ´98, he took the middleweight crown of both the IBF and the WBC in a battle with Keith Holmes.
On the 29th of September, 2001 the Puerto Rican Felix Trinidad, who enjoyed worldwide popularity, would serve as a showcase for Hopkins´s well deserved recognition in the eyes of the fans of the globe, at the so called Boxing Mecca, Madison Square Garden in New York, where the belt of the 3 most known organizations (WBA, WBC, IBF) was in dispute.
Hopkins smashed the Puerto Rican in the last round and later he proceeded to crush Carl Daniels, Morrade Hakkar, Willliam Joppy and Robert Allen. After confronting famous Oscar de la Hoya (currently a successful promoter and partner in this business with “The Executioner” himself), he went to gring him in 9 episodes on September 19, 2004 in Las Vegas, Nevada. They fought for the WBA; WBC, IBF and the newly created WBO and then came another defense where Jeremy Taylor was in charge of dethroning him in July, 2005, and win again in December of the same year.
However, this ring warrior, whose durability and persistency seemed endless and limitless, came back with a vengeance and half a year later he became again the Light heavyweight champion with a new triumph over Antonio Tarver.
From 2006 and 8 later, with several victories and a couple of unexpected losses against Joe Calzaghe and Chad Dawson, already 49, Bernard Hopkins, the “Grandpa of the 21st century boxing”, would confirm his standing as the best light heavyweight on the planet and proved that “the boy doesn´t beat the man” with an effortless victory in 12 rounds against the Euro-Asian Beibut Shumenov, 19 years his junior, humiliated and knocked down in the 11th by someone who could have easily been his father.
Since his professional debut until his imposition over, Shumenov from Kazakhstan, Bernard compiled a record of 32 anesthetized, 23 decisions, half a dozen defeats and a couple of draws.
With almost 52 springs on his shoulders, “The Alien”, a modern legend of the ring, climbed the stairs two years ago on December 16, to his corner at The Forum, in Inglewood, California, to exchange punches with a rival 24 years his junior. He fought Joe Smith Jr. for the international light heavyweight of the World Boxing Council.
The outcome was expected and predicted by the experts, but a little sadder than thought: a discolored Hopkins, totally dimmed, lethargic arms all set, he received an avalanche of punches that threw him out of the ring. He climbed back precariously, but the referee Jack Reiss, mercifully and wisely decreed the end at the mark of the 58 seconds in the 8th round. The only time during his extensive trajectory of 65 professional combats in which he did not hear the last stroke of the bell.
C´est fini. It´s over. Last bell stroke.