Even a hardened veteran like Bernard Hopkins was caught in the magnitude of the moment. At 43-years young, the Executioner had accomplished the unthinkable; a dominating shutout victory, over heavily favored and undefeated, Kelly Pavlik. As his eyes welled up with tears, Hopkins looked to the ringside media and mouthed, “I’m tired of having to prove myself…”
At this point in his career, Hopkins shouldn't have to. Despite amassing an incredible record, monumental upset victories and a string of 20 title defenses, Hopkins is continually over looked as one of the best fighters of all-time.
For over ten years now, critics have deemed Hopkins too slow, too weak, overmatched, or as of his 40th birthday, too old. Yet, regardless of the naysayers, Hopkins continues to prove his detractors wrong.
His latest triumph may have been his most impressive. Virtually nobody had predicted Hopkins to win. In fact, many analysts believed Pavlik had the potential to win via knock out. But, in what has become the staple of his career, Hopkins defied the odds.
Pavlik, 17 years Hopkins junior, was outclassed from the opening bell. Scrutinized in his last fight for slowing as the rounds wore on, Hopkins never relented this time. He through more punches than Pavlik in nine rounds and out landed him in ten. It was a virtuoso performance for boxings’ elder statesman.
The remarkable career of the Executioner has been paved by his boxing prowess. Arguably the most technical fighter of his era, Hopkins out boxed opponents en route to 49 victories. He’d establish a game plan and execute it with precision.
In 2006, against the light heavyweight champ Antonio Tarver, the performance was vintage Hopkins. He was to get his punches off first, land combinations and then clinch to avoid damage.
When he fought Winky Wright in his next fight, he displayed his innate ability to turn his opponent’s best weapons against them. The defensive minded Wright wasn’t able to mount an offense.
The future hall of famer cemented his legacy long ago. Wins over Pavlik simply add to it. But, this wasn’t always the case. It took a huge knock out upset over heavily favored Felix Trinidad. And then Hopkins needed to meticulously pick apart crowd favorite, Oscar de la Hoya and finish him with a body shot, before his greatness was recognized. These two fights accentuated Hopkins capacity to surgically dissect most challengers.
Hopkins was never the biggest puncher or fastest moving, which may have contributed to his obscurity. But, he was one of the most cerebral fighters ever to grace the ring.
His mind games and dirty tactics are stuff of legend. He beat opponents mentally before the bout had begun. Hopkins trash talking and fight propaganda allowed him to goad opponents into fighting his type of chess match scrap. This provided Hopkins the opportunity to dictate the pace of the bout and let his pure boxing skills take over.
At the conclusion of the Pavlik fight, Hopkins indicated he’d still like to fight. Though there are few viable options. Hopkins was last defeated by Calzaghe, in a closely disputed split-decision. But, fans and media have been clamoring for a Roy Jones/Hopkins 2 for a decade. A win over Jones would be a fitting end to Hopkins storied career, except Jones lost to Calzaghe ruling out the potential rematch and future options.
Although the master technician’s career is winding down, his achievements will never be forgotten. He is one of the greatest 40-plus fighters in boxing history and a top fighter of all-time.