Bernard Hopkins, nicknamed The Executioner and The Alien, figures in the books of singular records in boxing as the second-to-last of the four “old men” to be crowned world champions at the age of 40 or older; an age at which few athletes remain active in such a demanding activity (swimming is, it is said, the one that puts their stars out of circulation the earliest. Boxing must be the second one, we suppose).
In that particular and short list, the legendary Archie Moore and George Foreman preceded Hopkins, who has been out of the ring for four years. After Hopkins comes Manny Pacquiao from the Philippines, who won a title at his 40-years, 7 months, and 3 days on July 20, 2019 (PacMan will turn 41 on December 17) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas; he defeated Keith Thurman, who is 8 years and 11 months younger, by split decision.
Moore did it at 42 years and 11 months, while Foreman won his last heavyweight title at the age of 45 years and 10 months. Hopkins passed them both by winning a title at the age of 46 years and 4 months, becoming world champion again, defending at 48 years, and finally winning the WBA and IBF belts at 49 years and 3 months, an unparalleled age.
We can assure that Hopkins, whose alias of The Alien fits him because he looked like an alien in the ring, a fighter from another planet, is one of the most extraordinary and admirable cases of the sport particularly in old boxing history, the discipline that brought him out of the abyss, as it has done with thousands of young people throughout time ever since boxing started -supposedly in Egypt or Abyssinia about 7. 000 years ago- and that was duly regulated with the so-called 12 rules of the Marquis of Queensberry in England at the end of the 19th century.
BOXING REDEEMED HIM
Born on January 15, 1965, in Philadelphia, Hopkins had already been arrested at age 13 for a string of misdemeanors. At 17, he was sentenced to prison in his hometown of Graterfor for robbery, armed robberies and attempted murder, which earned him 18 years behind bars. In prison, he converted to Islam and five years later, he was released for good behavior, driven by the desire to straighten out his life and with boxing, which he learned in prison, as a profession for the future and for his vindication as a citizen.
On October 11, 1988, he made his debut against Clinton Mitchell and it couldn’t have been worse: he lost by split decision. But since then he added a long string of victories, most of them by KO, before failing in his attempt to dethrone Roy Jones Jr. for the IBF middleweight championship in May ’93. In December ’94, however, he Split Drew with Ecuadorian Segundo Mercado for the IBF middleweight championship and in April ’95 he defeated him in the rematch to win his first world crown. That triumph was the starting point. From then on he exercised a dictatorship in the division that lasted for 10 years with 20 successful defenses, a record broken a couple of years ago by Kazakhstan’s Gennady Golovkin with 22 fights.
Among that chain of victories and defenses, Hopkins included the 12-round TKO over the renowned Puerto Rican Felix “Tito” Trinidad in the battle for the WBA, WBC and IBF titles, a victory to which he added those he obtained in succession against Carl Daniels (WKO 10), Morrade Hackard (WTKO 8), Williams Juppy (WUD 12), Robert Allen (WSD 12), the famous Oscar de la Hoya (WTKO 9) and Howard Eastman. Then Jermain Taylor dethroned him by points and defeated him again the same way in the rematch.
With ups and downs, on November 21, 2011 the inextinguishable fighter returned to a throne at the age of 46 years and 10 months (a maximum age for the moment) with a decision against Canadian Jean Pascal for the light heavyweight titles of the WBC and the IBF. After a No Decision against Chad Dawson on October 15, 2011, The Executioner lost by decision against Dawson again, who snatched his WBC title.
Back in action, he beat Tavoris Cloud in a light heavyweight IBF title fight at 48 years and 2 months, Armenian Karo Murat (29 years and 11 months) at 48 years and 9 months (26/10/2013), and at 49 years and 3 months, an age unmatched in longevity on a ring, he beat Kazakhstan’s Beibut Shumenov, 30 years and 8 months, on April 19th, 2014, for the WBA and IBF Light Heavyweight Crowns.
On November 8, 2014, he lost to Russian Sergei “Krusher” Kovalev by decision; and his first and only fall before the limit to his countryman Joe Smith Jr, 24 years younger (Hopkins was already 51 years and a few months old), in which he was humiliated in 8 rounds on 17/12/16 by a much inferior opponent, which forced the venerable fighter to stop the pace definitively with a record of 55 wins (32 knockouts), 8 losses, and 2 draws, and with a secure niche in the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York.