"I am the American Dream." - Bernard Hopkins, Sept. 29, 2001
On September 29, 2001 Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins stepped into the ring with one of the most devastating fighters in boxing, Felix Trinidad. Hopkins was just a stepping stone for Trinidad on his way to a super-fight with Roy Jones, Jr. But, after 12 rounds of complete domination, it was Felix Trinidad who was the one on the mat, and Bernard Hopkins was suddenly considered one of the greatest middleweight fighters of all time.
Bernard Hopkins was born in a poor neighborhood in Philadelphia. Hopkins now admits that he didn't live the most honorable life in the past, and starting in 1984 he spent 4 years in a maximum-security prison. Like many in this situation, Boxing changed Bernard Hopkin's life.
Hopkins had a rough start, losing his first professional fight in a four round decision in 1988. After recovering from this, Hopkins moved up the ranks, finally getting a chance at the IBF Middleweight championship. Unfortunately, it was against rising star Roy Jones, Jr. Hopkins lost his second professional bout, in a 12 round decision. He still did not give up and in 1994 got another shot at the title, but drew against the titleholder, Segundo Mercado. Finally, in the rematch, Bernard Hopkins defeated Mercado on points to become the middleweight champion of the world. Hopkins followed this up with 13 successful title defenses, 9 of which by way of knockout and also picked up the WBC belt.
After all of this, Hopkins was still relatively unknown, and never received a purse over $1 million. Hopkins rough attitude and refusal to sign with Don King didn't help matters. It also didn't help that fellow boxers realized how dangerous Hopkins was. Various big name boxers dodged fighting Hopkins.
During all this, Bernard Hopkins has been patient, and surprisingly intelligent. Unlike many other boxers, or athletes for that matter, Hopkins has managed his money on his own and stayed married to the same woman. Hopkins has recently said that he puts family before boxing. Hopkins patience paid off, and in 2001, without compromising his values, Hopkins was finally given a "big money" fight against Felix Trinidad.
Boxing pundits and commentators praised Hopkins performance up to this fight but still felt that Trinidad's tremendous left hook would finish him off. Casual boxing fans hadn't even heard of Hopkins, and tuned in to watch Trinidad KO another champion. Trinidad, a champion at two lower weight classes, held the WBC Middleweight belt, taken from William Joppy. That gave the winner the ability to become the first undisputed Middleweight champion since Marvelous Marvin Hagler in 1986. Hopkins was also fighting to tie Carlos Monzon's record of most consecutive middleweight title defenses, 14.
After a close 1st round, Trinidad was able to land a left hook on Hopkins in the 2nd. It didn't seem to effect Hopkins and it would be the last one that Trinidad really landed. As round after round went by, Bernard Hopkins took control of the fight. Trinidad, relying on his powerful punch, landed very few of the small number of punches he threw. And when he did land, it was followed up by a Hopkins' combination. Going into the 7th and 8th rounds it was becoming obvious that if the judges were scoring fairly, Trinidad couldn't win on points. At the end of the 10th Felix was rocked with an uppercut and saved by the bell before going down. Halfway through the final round, Hopkins landed a right hook that sent Trinidad to the floor. Trinidad rose on shaky legs at the count of 9, when his father and trainer stepped into the ring to stop the fight. Hopkins had developed a plan for fighting Trinidad based on Oscar De La Hoya's very close match with him. By denying Tito's left hook, keeping on his toes, using a very effective jab and landing calculated telling blows Hopkins slowly broke down Felix. Unlike other surprising upsets, like Buster Douglas over Mike Tyson or Hasim Rahman over Lennox Lewis, in this fight Hopkins completely dominated his opponent, winning at least 10 of the 12 rounds. There was no "lucky punch" here, just a better boxer.
Bernard Hopkins is now the undisputed Middleweight Champion of the World, with a record of 40-2-1. It should exciting to see whom he will fight next. Possibilities are Oscar De La Hoya, Roy Jones, Jr or Shawn Mosley. A win against any of these fighters, especially Jones, would cement Hopkins as the greatest pound for pound boxer in the world today, and high on the list of greatest boxers ever.
Hopkins successfully defended his undisputed middleweight title on February 2, 2002 against mandatory IBF
challenger Carl Daniels. This gave Hopkins the record for most consecutive defenses of a middlewieght belt.
The fight appeared as the "undercard" (it was actually at a different venue) to Roy Jones, Jr. vs. Glen Kelly. During the interview after the Hopkin's fight he argued with Jones about the conditions of a possible fight between them. With the defeat of "Sugar" Shane Mosley by Vernon Forrest, Hopkins and Jones are considered the two best fighters in the world today. Jones has been a star longer and is demanding more money, while Hopkins is calling for an even split. This fight will almost certainly happen within a year. HBO has contracts on both men, it's the biggest fight possible, Jones is in dire need of a real challenge and both men will make much, much more than they have ever before regardless of how the money's split.