COMMENTARY | Three of boxing's best fighters of the past 25 years are winding down their careers. Bernard Hopkins, the ageless wonder still going strong and setting records at 48 years old; Manny Pacquiao, embarking on a final tour at the age of 34 before departing for a full-time gig in Filipino politics; and Juan Manuel Marquez, who like Hopkins, is enjoying a late-career star turn at the age of 40.
They've taken long and winding paths to get to where they are today, but yet, remarkably, they share nearly identical records. Take a look at these stunningly similar statistics, excluding fights ruled as No Contests:
Hopkins has fought 62 times professionally, building a 54-6-2 mark with 32 knockouts. Pacquiao has also fought 62 times professionally, tallying a 55-5-2 ledger with 38 knockouts. Marquez has fought 63 times professionally, earning a 55-7-1 record with 40 knockouts.
The elder statesman of the group, and the entire sport, Hopkins began his professional career in 1988 as an ex-con looking to make his way in the world. He lost his first fight to another fighter making his debut, a man by the name of Clinton Mitchell. Mitchell fought four more times in his career, spaced out over a decade, and gets to say he pinned an 'L' on the great Bernard Hopkins.
Hopkins lost his first big fight and title challenge, against a young, undefeated Roy Jones, in 1993, before beginning his decade-long Middleweight title reign in 1995. He toiled away in relative obscurity before trouncing Felix Trinidad, one of the men who had stolen his limelight for so many years, in their title unification fight in 2001, and then stopped Oscar De La Hoya in 2004 with that notorious body punch.
When Jermain Taylor dethroned him in two razor-thin decision victories, Hopkins, who had sworn he would never fight past the age of 40, looked to be at the end of the road. Instead, he began the all-time great late-career renaissance, moving up to Light Heavyweight and earning wins over Winky Wright, Kelly Pavlik, old rival Jones Jr., Jean Pascal and Tavoris Cloud, while also mixing it up with Joe Calzaghe and Chad Dawson.
He's the oldest fighter in boxing history to win, and also to defend, a championship belt. His late career wins have turned him from an unappreciated craftsman to a revered figure.
Marquez's journey was nearly in lockstep with Hopkins'. Like Hopkins, he lost his first professional fight. This was in 1993, and he lost via disqualification. Like Hopkins, he lost his first big fight, a title challenge against the undefeated Freddie Norwood in 1999.
Like Hopkins, he toiled away in obscurity for much of his career, in this case overshadowed by contemporaries such as Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera, and then future rival, Pacquiao. After Marquez and Pacquiao fought to a draw in 2004, his team infamously turned down a rematch, only to travel across the world for short money and lose to Chris John.
Like Hopkins, he finally got the chance to face one of the men who overshadowed him, Barrera, defeating him with ease. Despite coming up short against Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, he picked up more titles and wins until finally, finally, breaking through against Pacquiao in their fourth showdown with that stunning one-punch KO victory.
And yes, like Hopkins, he is finally appreciated and finally has the center stage spot in the sport he always yearned for and chased.
Oh, and by the way -- Hopkins has fought 482 professional rounds. Marquez 474.
Pacquiao actually won his first professional fight in 1995. However, he would go on to stumble early in his career, being knocked out in his 12th fight. He would win his first title shot, unlike Marquez and Hopkins, but he was knocked out in his very next fight, against the undefeated Medgoen Singsurat in 1999.
Pacquiao, though, made his stateside debut in 2001 against Lehlo Ledwaba, and was a near-instant sensation, drawing huge attention for his unique, aggressive style, with those stunningly quick hands and big shot power. Took out Barrera in 2003 in his first big win, breaking out as a true star. "Manny Pacquiao is a storm!" Jim Lampley famously exclaimed.
Fought Erik Morales three times, going 2-1, Marquez four times, going 2-1-1, and Barrera twice, both wins. Piled up huge victories over De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto before his recent back-to-back defeats against Timothy Bradley and Marquez.
And here we are. The paths they have taken have been in some ways exceedingly different, and in others, amazingly reminiscent of one another. The career records are staggeringly similar.
One is the oldest champion in history. Another is the only eight-division titlist in history. Another is right near the top of his boxing-mad country's all-time best and most accomplished fighters.
Three men, three legends of the sport. From humble beginnings across the world in Philadelphia, Mexico City and General Santos City, to the bright lights of Las Vegas, and the record books of The Sweet Science as three of their generation's, and three of history's, very best.
- Sports & Recreation
- Manny Pacquiao
- Bernard Hopkins
- Juan Manuel Marquez
- Marco Antonio Barrera