Pride of Philadelphia
Undisputed Middleweight Champion
Bernard Hopkins is regarded to be among the ten best pound for pound fighters in the world today. Upon his defeat of Oscar de la Hoya in September 2004, he can claim to be the undisputed middleweight champion, simultaneously holding the IBF, WBC, WBA, and WBO versions of the title. He holds the world record for successfully defending his middleweight title 20 consecutive times. But life was not always so rosy for the man known as “The Executioner”.
Born in Philadelphia on January 15 1965, he quickly got involved in crime and gang activity. Late in 1982, when he was in the 11th grade, he was convicted for armed robbery and sentenced to 18 years in the state penitentiary. While incarcerated, he decided to turn his life around. Hopkins earned a high school diploma and again began to box, which he had done sporadically as a youth. During four years and eight months in prison, Hopkins won the national penitentiary middleweight championship three times.
Upon his 1988 parole, Hopkins immediately joined the light heavyweight professional ranks. Despite losing his first professional bout later that year, he caught the eye of respected trainer Bouie Fisher, who took him under his wing. Following a 16 month layoff, he made the move from light heavyweight to middleweight. It turned out to be a wise career move.
Between February 1990 and September 1992, Hopkins won 20 straight bouts against mostly journeymen middleweights. On December 4 1992, he moved onto the list of top ten middleweight contenders by winning the USBA regional middleweight belt.
Hopkins’ first chance at a world title came in 1993 when he squared off with Roy Jones, Jr. for the vacant IBF middleweight title. A decided underdog against the more seasoned Jones, Hopkins held his own and went the distance before losing a unanimous decision. Despite the loss, he retained his world ranking and defended his USBA belt three additional times while waiting for another world title shot. His next shot at a world title came in December of 1994. Jones decided to change weight class and the IBF middleweight title was up for grabs. Hopkins would face Segundo Mercado of Ecuador in a fight to be held in Mercado’s hometown. Despite being knocked down twice and falling way behind on the judges’ scorecards, Hopkins never gave up, came back strong, and earned a draw.
Less than six months later – April 29, 1995 – Hopkins won the first of what would be many world titles by scoring TKO over Mercado in the rematch. Over the next five years, Hopkins took on the best fighters in the world. By the end of 2000, he had defended his IIBF title twelve times.
The biggest fight of Hopkins’ career, however, was the unification title with de la Hoya on September 18, 2004. By besting the then six division titleholder, Hopkins left no doubt as to who is the undisputed middleweight champion of the world. This self described “thug” as a youth has certainly turned his life around as a man.