Bernard Hopkins is a man who knew opponents better than they knew him.
In 2001, Hopkins faced Puerto-Rico-born Felix Trinidad. Just days earlier, Hopkins got under Trinidad’s skin by throwing the Puerto Rican flag to the ground during a press conference.
Hopkins ended up bullying and brutally beating Trinidad, who had never lost a bout in his career.
Trinidad’s corner threw in the towel after 12 rounds of total destruction by Hopkins. Hopkins ended up with the WBO middleweight title.
Occurring just weeks after the World Trade Center terrorist attacks, it was good to see the 32-minute boxing match which took away the harsh reality of the battles that our country faced.
Hopkins went on to successfully defend his belt against a few more opponents like William Joppy, and geared up for a big match against the great Oscar De La Hoya.
Hopkins ended up knocking out De La Hoya for the first time in his career, with a perfect body shot.
I don't know how a man cements his legacy with losses, but Hopkins does. Two decisions lost to Jermain Taylor were not a tell tale sign that Taylor’s skills were better than Hopkins’.
In my opinion, Taylor and Hopkins just had two different boxing styles, and the judges preferred Taylor's "acts" of being busy over a methodical, slow paced fight by Hopkins.
However, Hopkins did lay a beating on Taylor from rounds nine to 11 in the first fight between the two. Hopkins dished out many damaging blows. I still can't believe Taylor won.
Hopkins also left the ring during that first encounter looking the same as he came to the ring in opposition to a beaten-up Taylor.
Enter Antonio Tarver, Hopkins’ opponent who knocked out the only guy who ever gave Hopkins a legitimate beating—Roy Jones. Hopkins took on Tarver and knocked him on the canvas, receiving a one-sided decision over the Roy Jones killer.
His next opponent was Winky Wright, who fought Taylor in a previous fight, and beat “Sugar” Shane Mosley twice.
Hopkins crushed Wright in an easy decision.
Hopkins then took on Joe Calzaghe in April 2008. In my eyes, Calzaghe is very overrated. His fight with Hopkins reminded me of the first Taylor fight, in which his style was just more favored by the judges because of his output.
Once again, as in his first fight against Taylor, Hopkins put him on the canvas, but lost in a split decision. Even a washed up Roy Jones put Calzaghe on the mat. But, que sera, sera.
Kelly Pavlik was next on Hopkins’ plate.
One who didn't know any better might have thought Bernard would be overmatched by “The Great White Hope.” However, Hopkins, a wily veteran, kept up his left guard to eliminate any chance of Pavlik scoring, en route to an extremely easy victory for “The Executioner.”
Hopkins, who is 44, has never received a brutal beating. Taylor and Calzaghe were products of overhyped flurries and a game plan to stay clear of Hopkins.
They weren't fooling any real fight fans with that display.
Calzaghe needs to come back out of retirement and fight Hopkins again, but he probably won't because he knows he dodged a bullet the first time. The greatest fighter of the 21st century is Bernard Hopkins, and notice the word “fighter."
Yes, it is true his punch output isn't as high as the younger boxers, but when he wins fights, it is in dominating fashion.
Hopkins may have lost the Calzaghe fight because of biases and stating that he would "never lose to a white man.” Although Bernard was undoubtedly out of line with his verbal tirade, he still showed a passion for the sport that young guys don't. He will fight anybody, even at his “senior” age.
Even in defeat, Hopkins seems victorious.
My vote for the best fighter of the 21st century is Bernard Hopkins.