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Bernard Hopkins and the 9 Best Fighters to Ever Serve Prison Time

Alex FrenchCorrespondent IJune 22, 2011

Bernard Hopkins and the 9 Best Fighters to Ever Serve Prison Time

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    The fierce intensity in the sport of boxing doesn't always directly translate to a fighter's personality outside the ring, but that's not to say it hasn't before.

    For whatever reason—which is a different argument in itself—boxing has seen more of its athletes serve prison sentences than most any other sports.

    Not to discredit any of the fighters who have served prison time, though, considering a handful of them are the best athletes the sport has seen in its long existence.

    Step inside the ring and witness the best fighters to ever serve prison time...

9. Rubin Carter

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    "Here comes the story of the Hurricane

    The man the authorities came to blame

    For something that he never done

    Put him in a prison cell but one time he-coulda-been

    The champion of the world"

    Even if you aren't a Bob Dylan fan, the song "Hurricane" has to sound familiar.

    Rubin "Hurricane" Carter was a professional boxer in the 1960s and won 27 of 40 total fights during his career.

    His first few years as a professional saw him jump in the middleweight ranks after defeating big-name fighters like Holley Mims and George Benton. Soon after Carter was considered a middleweight contender and a force to be reckoned with.

    During the latter stages of his fighting days, though, Carter suffered a number of defeats and began to decline the boxing ranks.

    In 1966 Carter was wrongly tried and convicted of triple homicide in a New Jersey bar—a conviction that would later be overturned in 1985.

8. Sonny Liston

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    Sonny Liston may be most remembered for his second bout against Muhammad Ali, when he was sent to the canvas after what many considered to be a legitimate knockdown.

    Sure, he may be most famous for being "the guy" Ali is standing above in one of sports' all-time greatest photos, but Liston was quite the contender in his prime.

    Having only lost four times in his career in 54 fights, Liston's first-round KO of Floyd Patterson in 1962 won him the world heavyweight title.

    Having been sentenced as a teenager for robbery, he spent a number of his youth years behind bars until he turned professional in 1952.

7. Charles "Kid" McCoy

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    This guy was the Real McCoy.

    Charles "Kid" McCoy was a crafty fighter who recorded a then-record 81 fights in his career, including 55 wins by knockout.

    The Kid saw his sparkling career dim when he opted to partake in the booming movie industry and moved out to California.

    A short-lived on-screen career saw McCoy become an alcoholic, broke and surrounded by controversy.

    Having been involved in an affair with a wealthy married woman who unexpectedly died from a gunshot wound to the head, McCoy robbed and held captive 12 people at a local store the next day.

    McCoy was convicted of manslaughter and served prison time for nearly eight years until his parole in 1932.

6. Jack Johnson

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    The first African-American world heavyweight champion defied all odds during his rise to glory in the early 20th century, when segregation was at its peak.

    Posting a 73-13-10 record for his career, Jack Johnson battled opponents and social issues alike, both inside and outside the ring.

    In 1910, Johnson fought Jim Jeffries in a bout that was labeled "the Fight of the Century." Jeffries came out of retirement and said, "I feel obligated to the sporting public to at least make an effort to reclaim the heavyweight championship for the white race..." according to Barak Orbach, author of "The Johnson-Jeffries Fight and Censorship of Black Supremacy."

    After defeating Jeffries in 15 rounds, Johnson became a sporting icon amongst African-Americans. Two years later, "the Galveston Giant," as he was known, was controversially convicted of involvement in a prostitution ring and violation of the Mann Act by an all-white jury.

5. Pernell Whitaker

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    It's difficult to classify which weight class Pernell Whitaker fell under because he competed in four different divisions—and won world titles in all four.

    Six total belts, four weight classes: light middleweight, welterweight, light welterweight and lightweight.

    His illustrious career saw him fight past champions such as Oscar De La Hoya and Julio Cesar Chavez. The Ring magazine even named him fighter of the year in 1989.

    Posting a 40-4-1 all-time fight record, Whitaker took a turn for the worse after his time in the spotlight and was charged with possession of a controlled substance after cocaine was found in his car during a routine traffic stop.

    Although he only served four days in jail, Whitaker has been charged with five other traffic violations since 1998, in addition to drunk driving.

4. Carlos Monzon

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    Hailing from Argentina, Carlos Monzon was one of the most successful South American boxers of all time.

    He held the world middleweight title for seven straight years, defending his crown successfully 14 times.

    Monzon boasted a career record of 90-3-9 with 59 of his wins by knockout.

    Unfortunately for Monzon, most of his press coverage revolved around negativity. He was accused several times of domestic abuse by his two wives, in addition to beating up members of the press.

    The Argentine was then convicted of murdering his wife, with reports saying he pushed her off a balcony while the two were on vacation.

    During year six of his 11-year prison sentence, Monzon was given a weekend furlough to visit family and friends and upon return his vehicle rolled over and crashed, killing him instantly. 

3. Tony Ayala Jr.

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    The mustache alone on this champion defines glory.

    In the first two years of his career, Ayala Jr. compiled a record of 22-0-0, with 19 of those wins by KO. When it was all said and done, he finished with a 33-3-1 fight record, adding eight more knockouts.

    Ayala was known as a wild personality, having been accused of spitting on an opponent after knocking him to the ground. Moreover, he admitted to using heroin three different times before fights.

    Personal issues aside, Ayala was fighting his way to the top of boxing in the early 1980s. All was good for the rising star until he robbed and sexually assaulted his neighbor.

    He was 19 years old at the time but was on probation for two previous incidents involving sexual abuse.

    A jury ruled Ayala guilty, and he was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 1983. Sixteen years later he was paroled and continued his boxing career, winning a number of high-profile fights.

    His newfound success didn't last long, though, as he ran into trouble with the law a few times early in the decade and was sentenced to 10 more years in prison after he was caught speeding without a license and found in possession of heroin.

2. Mike Tyson

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    Mike Tyson reached the realms of boxing glory at a young age, becoming the youngest fighter ever to simultaneously hold all three world heavyweight titles at 20 years old.

    Even more impressive, Tyson won his first 19 professional bouts by KO, and 12 of them were in the first round.

    He held all three titles for some time until 1990, when he was beaten in the 10th round by knockout against James Douglas.

    Two years later Tyson's life would change forever.

    He too, like Ayala Jr., couldn't keep it in his pants.

    Tyson was convicted in 1992 for the rape of Desiree Washington and sentenced to six years in prison.

    After serving only three years, he returned to the ring and regained one belt until his career began its descent in 1997 after the Evander Holyfield fight.

    Tyson not only served prison time for rape but has also been charged with assault in addition to three separate incidents involving alleged sexual harassment and sexual abuse that he was not convicted for.

1. Bernard Hopkins

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    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    It's been one remarkable ride for Bernard Hopkins.

    According to a recent article in The New York Times, Hopkins started smoking pot at age 11, started robbing by age 13, had been stabbed by age 14 and by the time he was 17 had served time behind bars.

    He was convicted of strong-arm robbery and assault before he was old enough to buy a pack of cigarettes.

    During his sentence, he developed a strict eating regimen and diet—something that has contributed to his success today.

    On May 21st, 2011, at the age of 46, Hopkins became the oldest fighter to win a major world championship title, surpassing George Foreman's record of 45 years of age.

    It's not the 20 straight middleweight titles or the jump to light heavyweight glory that has gained Hopkins such notoriety. It's the matter of how he did it that propelled him to boxing glory.

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