COMMENTARY | Bernard Hopkins' twenty-five years in boxing have been a testament to what one man can do with a hard-earned mastery of the sport's fundamentals and the will to win.
This Saturday the 48-year-old "Executioner" makes a bid for Tavoris Cloud's IBF world light heavyweight title in an attempt to break his own mark as oldest boxer to win a world title. Win, lose, or draw, Hopkins has earned his spot among the very best in the history of the sport and has achieved a legacy defined by the importance of mind over matter at the highest levels of the game.
Here's a look at Bernard Hopkins' Twenty Feats of Greatness (in chronological order):
Greg Paige (2/22/90)
This was Hopkins' second pro fight. Paige was just a 1-1 pug and would never have another bout after this loss, but, for Hopkins, the win represented the first step in a long journey to greatness. After having lost his first professional fight following a five-year prison stint, it would've been easy for Hopkins to walk away from boxing after the failed pro debut. However, after a seventeen-month hiatus, Hopkins would come back, score the decisive win over Paige, and never look back at failure again.
Segundo Mercado I (12/17/94)
Just four fights after losing to rising superstar, Roy Jones Jr., Hopkins was flown out to Ecuador to compete with local hero, Segundo Mercado, for the vacant IBF middleweight title. Despite two knockdowns at the hands of the underrated Mercado, Hopkins battled back to register a draw, although a good number of people still feel that Hopkins did enough to take the win.
Segundo Mercado II (4/29/95)
Four months after their controversial draw, Mercado and Hopkins would do it again, this time at the US Air Arena in Landover, Maryland. Hopkins would leave no room for doubt this time and stop his opponent in seven rounds to win the IBF middleweight title.
John David Jackson (4/19/97)
Hopkins' fourth defense of the IBF title would come against the vastly underrated John David Jackson. Despite an outstanding skill set and high-end ring smarts, Jackson was no match for Hopkins and would be stopped in seven rounds.
Glen Johnson TKO (7/20/97)
At the time, Johnson was merely an undefeated prospect and defense no. 5 for Hopkins. Johnson, though, would go on to become the feared "Road Warrior" and register countless quality rounds against the sport's very best. His eleventh-round TKO loss to Hopkins was the first and only stoppage of his long and storied career.
The Antwun Echols War (12/1/2000)
This ugly and hotly-contested title defense against the heavy-handed Echols would add one of the most memorable moments to Hopkins' growing legend. Slammed to the canvas in the sixth round and suffering a dislocated shoulder, Hopkins would opt to continue with the bout, overcoming the painful handicap to score a tenth-round TKO.
Keith Holmes and the WBC Title (4/4/01)
In the first round of Don King's middleweight tournament, Hopkins would thoroughly outbox reigning WBC middleweight champ, Holmes, and add the famous green belt to his IBF strap.
Felix Trinidad and the WBA title (9/29/01)
Trinidad had crushed WBA titlist William Joppy in the first round of Don King's middleweight tournament to take the title and move on to a finals showdown with Hopkins. A betting favorite of 2-1, Trinidad would be completely outclassed by Hopkins en route to a twelfth-round TKO loss. Hopkins would walk away from the middleweight tournament with three belts and recognition as the undisputed 160 lb. champ.
Carl Daniels (2/2/02)
Hopkins' win over the solid, but unspectacular Daniels would be his fifteenth title defense, officially passing Carlos Monzon's mark of fourteen consecutive middleweight defenses.
William Joppy (12/13/03)
Against the former world titlist, Hopkins would break the CompuBox Middleweight record for total landed power punches (375) en route to a one-sided unanimous decision victory.
Oscar De la Hoya and the WBO Title (9/18/04)
Hopkins' body punch knockout of defending WBO titlist, Oscar De la Hoya, would bring the WBO strap into "The Executioner's" collection. Hopkins would hold all four recognized world titles-- the first middleweight in history to accomplish that.
Howard Eastman (2/19/05)
A 40-year-old Hopkins would accomplish two things with his decision win over the veteran, Eastman: He would be the first and only middleweight to defend all four belts and he would also set the high-water mark for middleweight title defenses at twenty.
Jermain Taylor (7/16/05 & 12/3/05)
Although officially registered as two losses for Hopkins, there are plenty of people who, to this day, insist that Hopkins did enough to win both bouts. Still, the 40-year-old Hopkins held his own against the talented 27-year-old challenger and put in two solid performances in (questionable) defeats.
Antonio Tarver (6/10/06)
Rather than retire and wait for Hall of Fame induction, the 41-year-old Hopkins would move up in weight to challenge consensus light heavyweight champ, Antonio Tarver. In a shockingly dominant performance, Hopkins would almost completely shut Tarver out and begin another chapter in his legendary career.
Winky Wright (7/21/07)
This sloppy and ugly bout was, officially, Hopkins' first defense as lineal light heavyweight champ. Although not a classic by any stretch of the imagination, Hopkins beat the well-regarded Wright solidly and decisively.
Joe Calzaghe (4/19/08)
The long-reigning WBO super middleweight champ from Wales, Calzaghe, would finally make his way to the United States for a long-awaited showdown with Hopkins. The bout, itself, was nowhere near as entertaining as the lead-in promotion for the event. In the end, it was Calzaghe's edge in activity that won him a close split decision over the wily Hopkins in a bout both sides still dispute.
Kelly Pavlik (10/18/08)
Thought to have one foot out the door after the Calzaghe loss, Hopkins was next paired with heavy-hitting middleweight champ, Pavlik, in a catchweight 170 lb. bout. However, an expected KO loss slowly morphed into an embarrassingly one-sided boxing lesson as Hopkins schooled Pavlik for twelve rounds en route to an easy unanimous decision victory.
Roy Jones Jr. (4/3/10)
More for vanity than glory, Hopkins would revisit one of his highest-profile losses and take the one-sided unanimous decision from his badly-faded rival.
Jean Pascal I (12/18/10)
Thought to be a suicide mission and one last payday, Hopkins would travel up to Pascal's adopted hometown of Quebec City, Quebec, Canada for a shot at the Haitian fighter's WBC light heavyweight title. An ugly, bordering on sad performance in the first three rounds saw Hopkins sent to the canvas twice and well-behind on the scorecards coming into the fourth round. From that point forward, though, Hopkins would regroup and put on a virtual boxing clinic to salvage the draw.
Jean Pascal II (5/21/11)
Forced into a rematch with the wily American, the 29-year-old Pascal would come out without the confidence he carried to the ring in the first encounter. Hopkins would box beautifully throughout the contest, almost completely negating all of Pascal's offensive weapons while connecting with some solid counter-punches of his own. When all was said and done, Hopkins would score a unanimous decision win, take the WBC light heavyweight title, and, at 47 years of age, become the oldest boxer to ever win a world title.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.
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