Alan Dawson – London
Bernard Hopkins continues to roll out performances that belie his birth certificate. His recent points victory over Jean Pascal gave him three honours: the WBC belt at light heavyweight, the status of oldest champion of a major world title and now, surely, a top five – potentially even top three – pound-for-pound ranking. On The Beak details some of B-Hop’s greatest fights below…
Scribes love comparing athletes to wine… with that in mind, if Roy Jones Jr’s performances have long been heading the way of plonk, then Hopkins’ vintage has been aging smoothly. The 46-year-old, who now holds one major and one minor world title together with The Ring belt due to his convincing victory over Pascal on Saturday, May 21, is regarded to have been performing at his best in his late 30′s and 40′s. After victory over Pascal, he said he has no intention of retiring until he’s 50 and won’t be taking any soft touches as he is keen on returning to Canada to take on Lucian Bute. Whatever one’s opinion of B-Hop, there is no denying the man has bottle.
- Vs Segundo Mercado; December 1994 & April 1994
Mercado provided Hopkins his second shot at a world title following his unsuccessful attempt against Roy Jones Jr the previous year. In the first bout, in 1994, Hopkins took the bout on short-notice in the home fighters backyard – Ecuador – and only arrived in Quito four days before fight night. Hopkins rallied after two knockdowns to force a draw decision and retrospectively heralded the contest as the making of him. He is quoted to have said by AOL: “[That] fight showed that [I have] heart and I believe that that’s where I showed what [I am] made of within a very hostile situation.” Five months later, in the rematch, Hopkins knocked Mercado out in four rounds and won the IBF World Middleweight championship.
- Vs Glen Johnson; July 1997
Hopkins made his fifth defence of his IBF belt against the previously undefeated Johnson (who had won 21 of his 32 fights by way of knockout). It was an impressive display from Hopkins, winning every round on each of the judges’ scorecards due to his constant pressure. Hopkins waged a good fight from mid-range and also on the inside and generally bullied Johnson with strong jabs, left hands and tortuous uppercuts. Hopkins finally scored a technical knockout victory in the eleventh. To this day, Hopkins remains the only man to have stopped Johnson.
- Vs Felix Trinidad; September 2001
Hopkins, as has almost been customary with his big fights, was tagged the underdog against Trinidad – just like how he was deemed underdog against Antonio Tarver, Kelly Pavlik and Jean Pascal, only to shock the bookmakers and get the win. Trinidad was in peak condition and, like Johnson did against Hopkins, entered the ring undefeated with a spectacular knockout record (40-0-0, 33ko). His notable victories at that point consisted of wins over Fernando Vargas, Oscar de la Hoya, Pernell Whitaker and Hector Camacho. Trinidad had an extremely aggressive fan-friendly boxing style yet, against Hopkins, he was dominated. Hopkins used his jab well in the early stages, had his chin tested by Trinidad’s power shots, but overall proved to be an elusive target. Trinidad was exhausted from punch exertion by the championship rounds and Hopkins fired at will, stopping the Puerto Rican in the final round.
- Vs Oscar de la Hoya; September 2004
De la Hoya’s resume was a who’s who of boxing’s superstar fighters. He twice beat Julio Cesar Chavez, as well as Arturo Gatti, Whitaker and Camacho. Hopkins, a master of psychological warfare, did not goad de la Hoya into a slanging match pre-fight and this perturbed the Golden Boy who retrospectively admitted self-doubt kicked in as he thought he was not worthy of Hopkins’ trashing. Ultimately he lost the fight before he got in the ring. Hopkins became the first to knockout de la Hoya due to a punishing liver shot (see video below, credit – Youtube, DocRob361).
- Vs Antonio Tarver; June 2006
Critics believed Hopkins’ career may well have been finished following successive defeats to Jermain Taylor and regarded the move up two weight classes to light heavyweight would have been too much for the aging American. Hopkins defied his doubters by defeating Tarver with relative ease and it was this victory that paved the way for his future successes at 175lbs. Hopkins canvassed Tarver, won three verdicts of 118-109 and won Tarver’s lightly regarded IBO world strap. “That fight would have to be [one of my greatest achievements],” Hopkins said. “With me being the second guy to attempt to go up from middleweight straight to light heavyweight [Sugar Ray Robinson was the first], and the first guy to be successful going straight to light heavyweight from middleweight and to win a light heavyweight title.”