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March 14, 2013

By Doveed Linder

In a way, Bernard Hopkins has had two careers.  There’s the Bernard Hopkins who was coming up in the middleweight ranks, determined to prove himself as a great fighter.  Then there’s the light heavyweight Bernard Hopkins who made a name for himself as a man in his forties who took the young lions to school (a stage of his career that still continues).  In my view, the dividing line was his two narrow losses to Jermain Taylor.  After defending his middleweight title twenty times, including big unification wins over Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya, he lost twice to Taylor in 2005 and then moved up to light heavyweight in 2006, where he was perceived as an underdog in practically all of his fights.  In several of these fights, he came out on top in lopsided affairs, making the younger fighters appear inept.  “B-Hop’s Top 10” was not easily compiled, as an argument can be made that some of these accomplishments were better than others.  My choices were based on historical significance, the quality of opposition, and the stage of Hopkins’ career when he faced the given opposition. See if you agree.
10. Hopkins vs. Glen Johnson (TKO 11, July 20, 1997) – Even though this victory took place before Glen Johnson came into his own as a top fighter, it was a very impressive performance from Hopkins.  He looked like a true middleweight champion and he is still the only man who has ever stopped Johnson inside the distance.
9. Hopkins vs. William Joppy (UD 12, December 13, 2003) – At one time, William Joppy was a very good fighter who only lost to the best around.  But against Hopkins, he lost every minute of every round, and he took a beating that arguably ended his prime.
8. Hopkins vs. Antwun Echols II (TKO 10, December 1, 2000) – Emanuel Steward, who was a commentator for this fight, called this the roughest middleweight fight he had ever seen.  This was a fight filled with dirty tactics from both fighters, where Hopkins got up from the canvas after a foul from Echols (who was a dangerous contender at the time) and scored a late round stoppage despite a shoulder injury.
7. Hopkins vs. Winky Wright (UD 12, July 21, 2007) – Unfortunately, Hopkins’ win over Winky Wright gets lost in the shadows of Trinidad, Pavlik, Pascal, etc.  But Winky was an avoided fighter who was riding high on victories over Felix Trinidad and Shane Mosley when Hopkins gave him his first loss since 1999, a loss that came against Fernando Vargas via controversial decision.
6. Hopkins vs. Tavoris Cloud (UD 12, March 9, 2013)
– The fact that Hopkins beat his own record by becoming the oldest man in history to win a world title at age 48 puts this accomplishment in the top five.  However, Cloud was a tough, but limited fighter and this is not a victory that would rank very high had the circumstances been different.
5. Hopkins vs. Oscar De La Hoya (KO 9, September 18, 2004) – Although De La Hoya did not belong at middleweight (as was demonstrated in his controversial win over Felix Sturm), this victory ranks high because of the magnitude of the event.  De La Hoya was a great fighter and Hopkins did was he was supposed to do, becoming the first boxer to simultaneously hold the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO championships.
4. Hopkins vs. Jean Pascal II (UD 12, May 21, 2011) – At the time of this fight, Hopkins became the oldest man in history at age 46 to win a world title.  Although this record was recently broken when Hopkins defeated Cloud, I view this as a more significant win than the Cloud fight because of the initial thrill of seeing a man over the age of 45 win a world title and because Pascal represents a higher level of competition than Cloud.
3. Hopkins vs. Antonio Tarver (UD 12, June 10, 2006) – Tarver was still riding high from victories over Roy Jones, Glen Johnson and Eric Harding and he was a heavy favorite to beat Hopkins, who at the time lost two straight to Jermain Taylor.  This was Hopkins’ light heavyweight debut and he completely dominated a man who was younger, and perceived as bigger and stronger. 
2. Hopkins vs. Kelly Pavlik (UD 12, October 18, 2008) – Having looked his age in his previous fight against Joe Calzaghe, many expected that Kelly Pavlik, who had twice cconquered Hopkins' nemesis Jarmain Taylor, would be the first fighter to stop Hopkins inside the distance.  Instead, B-Hop gave one of his best performances against a young, dangerous opponent at the top of his game.
1. Hopkins vs. Felix Trinidad (TKO 12, September 29, 2001) – Hopkins-Trinidad was the first major boxing event after 9/11, and at age 36, it was an emotional night in New York City's Madison Square Garden when Hopkins finally established himself as a great fighter and the undisputed middleweight world champion.  Trinidad was a 40-0 monster at the time and many believed that B-Hop was in over his head. As he has done his whole career, B-Hop proved his doubters wrong.

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