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Bernard Hopkins, The Ageless Wonder
Bernard Hopkins was one of those fighters who dwelled in the basement of the sport, unknown and definitely underappreciated. In 1993, Roy Jones out boxed Hopkins to win a unanimous victory and Jones continued his rise to stardom while Hopkins, who used boxing to escape his own past including jail time, pretty much toil in ignominy. His loss to Jones did little to upgrade his status but while he fought far from the maddening crowd of boxing adulation, Hopkins started to pile up victories as he dominated much of the Middleweight division.
The first time Hopkins became noticed was his bout with Felix Trinidad in Madison Square Garden. Don King put together a “Middleweight” tournament in which Hopkins faced Keith Holmes and Trinidad faced William Joppy in the “semis” of the tournament. Hopkins won a decision whereas Trinidad slaughtered Joppy in over five rounds before stoppage. Trinidad was on the fast track to stardom including a close controversial decision over Oscar De La Hoya for the recognized Welterweight title. King was using this tournament to feature Trinidad entry into the Middleweight and his defeat of Joppy confirmed that the Puerto Rican power continued to flourish as he moved up in weight.
The Hopkins-Trinidad bout was the first big sporting event in New York post 9-11 and Hopkins was merely the prop for the coronation of Trinidad. Hopkins refused to accept his role and often badgered Trinidad in the pre fights press conference and in the ring, he gave Trinidad a boxing lesson. Hopkins used his wit and experience to hit Trinidad with shots while his defensive skills neutralized Trinidad power. Hopkins won the fight when Trinidad corner threw in the towel in the final round.
Hopkins next big moment came against Oscar De La Hoya as he fought in his first big PPV event. De La Hoya was hoping to crown his own career with a victory over Hopkins and in the early rounds, he boxed ring around Hopkins who merely waited for the moment to start wearing down the smaller De La Hoya. By the end of the eighth round, it was Hopkins who controlled the fight and it was De La Hoya, who was hoping to finish the fight. A Hopkins left hook to De La Hoya’s liver ended the fight and Hopkins started to win the recognition as one of boxing elite fighters. Much of career, he was criticized for being dominant In a weak Middleweight division in the much of the 1990’s and early part of the 21st century but against De La Hoya, they saw a solid boxer who knew his trade and this despite being nearly 40. Pundits accepted that a fighter who won 20 Middleweight championship fights plus must have something great about him.
Hopkins continued to have success as he had more notable victories including upsetting Antonio Tarver for the light heavyweight and then defeating Jean Pascal to become the oldest fighter ever to win a title; breaking George Foreman record. While he didn’t enjoy the domination of his youth, he did managed and still does manage to fight at a high level; reminding many of the career of Archie Moore; who also maintained excellence late in his 40’s. (The one thing that he did not have as he got older was Moore knockout power as Hopkins has failed to score a stoppage or knockout victory since his victory over De La Hoya.) He even got his revenge over Roy Jones when the two old warriors fought their second match but while time eroded Jones’ skills, Hopkins wile allowed him to be competitive with the elites of Middleweight and light heavy weight.
Hopkins final act is still to be performed as he joined Golden Boys promotion as a partner of Oscar De La Hoya and Hopkins evolved into a businessman who boxed. While it is uncertain when Hopkins will officially retire, Hopkins still has a second act as a promoter. His cleaning living and constant training in between fights allowed him to continue at a top level and unlike De La Hoya, who had his own troubles with drugs in his post-fight career, Hopkins clean living has allowed not just triumph as a fighter but allowed him to enjoy the fruit of his promotion skills.
Hopkins longevity can be traced to three things; one being a genetic freak of nature whose skills never eroded as quickly as other fighters. The second thing is his clean living and finally his defensive skills allowed him to control most fights while keeping him out of wars.