This year, the Shadow League Awards recognizes one of the greatest boxers of all time, Bernard Hopkins. The Executioner is showing us all how to retire gracefully and gainfully as a true combat sports boss.
Bernard Humphrey Hopkins, Jr. was born on January 15, 1965, in the gritty streets of North Philadelphia in the Raymond Rosen Housing projects. Hopkins was surrounded by the blue-collar wonder of the famed town during the notorious era of the Junior Black Mafia. However, in 1982, at the age of 17, Hopkins was sent to Graterford Prison where he would later go on to discover the art of boxing.
What Hopkins has accomplished over the course of his career is akin to Andy Dufresne’s unpleasant journey through a football field of bile to free himself in the movie Shawshank Redemption. Hopkins was imprisoned as a young adult and hailing from North Philly, his options might have seemed extremely limited at the time. However, he studied the sweet science during his incarceration and chased boxing with the fervor of a man possessed.
Hopkins excelled in the sport from the inside, winning State titles against other prisons before his release after five years. The warden famously said, “You’ll be back”, to which Hopkins replied, “No, I’m never coming back here again.” Hopkins converted to Islam swearing off drugs, alcohol, and even junk food beginning his reputation as a man that is always in shape.
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Out the gate, Hopkins lost his first fight to a journeyman in Clinton Mitchell (3-1-1) at light heavyweight. Hopkins reversed the trajectory of his own pugilistic legacy when he became a middleweight and then proceeded to break records held by George Foreman, Carlos Monzon, Sugar Ray Robinson and Archie Moore.
Hopkins competed from 1988 to 2016 becoming one of the most successful boxers of the past three decades; having held multiple world championships in two weight classes, including the undisputed middleweight title from 2004 to 2005, and the lineal light heavyweight title from 2011 to 2012. Hopkins first became a world champion by winning the IBF middleweight title in 1995. He would go on to compile 20 defenses, which remained a record for the weight class until 2018.
In 2001 he successfully unified the middleweight division by defeating Félix Trinidad to win the WBA (Super), WBC, Ring magazine, and lineal titles. A victory over Oscar De La Hoya for the WBO title in 2004 cemented Hopkins’ status as undisputed champion, while also making him the first male boxer to simultaneously hold world titles by all four major boxing sanctioning bodies. No one thinks “duck” when saying “B Hop” and as one of the kings of the defensive style, Hopkins secured wins over greats like Winky Wright, Antonio Tarver, Kelly Pavlik, Taverns Cloud, Jean Pascal, and Felix Trinidad.
The true middleweight juggernaut is still boxing’s defensive, age-defying star, Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins. At 10 years, 2 months and 18 days, “B Hop Da Alien” is the longest reigning middleweight champion. With 20 successful title defenses, Gennady “GGG” Golovkin was tied with the Philadelphia legend until he lost his titles this year against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
Hopkin’s achieved his greatness without the huge amateur record Golovkin, Lomachenko, or many of the other Eastern European fighters have. He understood the game of life and transferred it into the squared circle.
Whether you call him by his many nicknames: “The Executioner”, “The Alien” or simply “B Hop”, Hopkins, is a boxer from a rare cloth becoming the oldest boxer in history to win a world championship. Now a co-owner and promoter with Golden Boy Promotions, Hopkins is still steering the course of boxing history from the owner’s box to the world.