Bernard Hopkins - by Pete Moscardi
Almost 23 years ago - on 11 October 1988 to be precise - a 23 year-old fighter named Bernard Hopkins made an inauspicious debut into the world of boxing when he lost a four round decision to one Clinton Mitchell in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Hopkins weighed in at 177 lbs, two pounds over the light-heavyweight limit. Bernard did not fight again for 16 months, and when he came back to the ring in February 1990 he weighed 166 lbs when outpointing Greg Paige over four rounds at the famous Blue Horizon fight club in Philadelphia. Although no one could have known this at that time, this was where and when the unbelievable career of this multi world champion took off.
But the story is jumping ahead of itself. Bernard was born on 15 January 1965 and was raised in the bleak Raymond Rosen projects in Philadelphia. The mean streets of this hard and unforgiving city were his playgrounds and at age 13 the young Bernard was into crime, mugging people to get money He had, at this tender age, been stabbed three times.
His life looked doomed when, at 17, he was handed down an 18 year jail sentence for committing nine felonies. Bernard was imprisoned in the tough Grateford Prison where only the strongest survived. It was here that Bernard developed a passion for boxing – as much for self-preservation than anything else.
He was released in 1988 – and vowed never to return.
Returning to Bernard’s boxing career, he went on to notch up 22 wins and no losses over the following three years before dropping a points decision to Roy Jones in May 1993 in a fight for the vacant IBF middleweight title.
Fast forward the clock to May 2011 – a whole 18 years after his loss to Roy Jones. Bernard has now reached the incredible age (for boxing) of 46 and is about to challenge Jean Pascal for the Canadian’s WBC and IBO lightheavyweight titles.
The venue is the Bell Centre in Pascal’s adopted home town of Montreal. It is the same venue where Hopkins received a highly controversial draw against Pascal six months previously. It was a decision that would re-define the meaning of the expression “home town decision” as it blatantly favoured the home boy. Pride and a burning desire to put the record straight saw Bernard campaign for a return. This time he left nothing to the judges, handing out a comprehensive beating to Pascal and winning by the unanimous scores of 116-112, 115-114 and 115-113.
In a display of hubris – and to show that he was 46-years-young and not 46- years-old, Hopkins did six push-ups prior to the start of the seventh round! But controversy is something that is never far from Bernard Hopkins, and the IBO refused to allow him to claim its title as Bernard had refused to pay this body the sanction fee.
This unbelievable feat went one better than that of the amazing George Foreman, who won the WBA and IBF heavyweight titles at the age of 45 years when he scored a KO over Michael Moorer in November 1994 in their fight in Las Vegas Today Hopkins sits on his throne with a 52-5-2 (1 NC) record. Who knows what further heights he will scale.