Bernard Hopkins - What Are His Five Best Performances?
23.10.08 - by James Slater - The tributes are still rolling in for 43-year-old marvel Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins. And rightly so. What he did on October 18th in his fight with the previously all-conquering and murderous punching Kelly Pavlik deserves as many accolades as the Philly legend is getting. Here, in this article, this writer gives his own tribute to B-Hop by way of a piece listing his five best career performances.
Article posted on 23.10.2008
Here, in reverse order, are my choices for Hopkins' five finest ring results; occasions on which he executed his game-plan to near, if not total, perfection.
5: Vs. Glen Johnson. July 20th, 1997.
Making the fifth defence of his IBF middleweight title, a 32-year-old Hopkins met the unbeaten, 32-0, Johnson. The future "Road Warrior" was receiving his very first title shot. Not yet known as the teak-tough battler he is today, Johnson failed to win a single round on any of the three judges' scorecards. Beaten out of sight for ten rounds, before being stopped at 1 min and 23-seconds of the 11th round, Johnson was never in the fight. At the time the win earned Hopkins few raves, but in hindsight he mastered a fine fighter. To this day, no-one else has ever handled Johnson with such ease and no-one else has come close to stopping him.
4: Vs. Antonio Tarver. June 10th, 2006.
Coming off two back-to-back losses to Jermain Taylor at middleweight, the former, long-reigning 160-pound king appeared to have done pretty much all he was going to do at top level. Or so we thought. Coming back to prove he was no way close to being finished for the first of who knows how many times, B-Hop, then aged 41, took light-heavyweight ruler Tarver to school over 12 near shut-out rounds. Having his first bout as a light-heavyweight since his pro-debut some eighteen years earlier (famously a loss), Hopkins knocked Tarver down on the way to a wide and one-sided UD. As is the case with Johnson, no-one else has ever dominated Tarver so fully.
3: Vs. Kelly Pavlik. October 18th, 2008.
Miracle comeback number two. Coming off a close but criticised split decision loss to Joe Calzaghe, Hopkins, by now aged 43, had surely grown old this time. Proving the experts to be utterly wrong yet again, the Philly great put on a showing that he himself later said was his best ever. The commanding win over Pavlik, at a catch-weight of 170-pounds, was indeed a sensational one, and a display indicative of how under-rated and occasionally disrespected Hopkins is. Looking as good as ever, or damn close to it, B-Hop fought more aggressively than he had against Calzaghe and showed how costly it can be to write him off. It remains to be seen how the drubbing he received at the hands of "The Executioner" will affect Pavlik.
2: Vs. Oscar De La Hoya. September 18th, 2004.
Engaging in the biggest money fight of his career, Hopkins, then approaching his 40th birthday, scored one of the most important KO's of his career. No-one had ever stopped De La Hoya before, and even though "The Golden Boy" had audaciously moved up to 160-pounds, a far from natural weight for him, this takes nothing from Hopkins' win. It was cagey in the early rounds, before Hopkins began to force the fight in the middle rounds, imposing himself on De La Hoya. Closing the show with a well placed body shot in the 9th round, B-Hop left De La Hoya gasping for breath on the canvas. It's very possible Oscar De La Hoya will never suffer a stoppage loss ever again.
1: Vs. Felix Trinidad. September 29th, 2001.
Hopkins' masterpiece. Once again a heavy underdog, a 36-year-old "Executioner" spoilt a very big party. Trinidad, then unbeaten at 40-0, was on his way to becoming the unified WBC, IBF and WBA 160-pound king. Or so most people thought. Never before had "Tito" faced a fighter possessing a blend of the toughness, the cuteness and the boxing brain the kind of which Hopkins holds. Taking Trinidad's key weapon, his left hook, away from him, B-Hop gave the Puerto Rican superstar a steady beating. Amazing us all with an elegantly applied game-plan, limitless stamina and sheer boxing brilliance, Hopkins put on his career best performance.
Without a doubt, the thorough dismantling and eventual stopping of Felix Trinidad in the 12th and final round marked the finest showing of a modern day master's fistic greatness.
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