Photo: Lina Baker
Bernard the Executioner Hopkins’ illustrious career has come to an end at the hands of Joe Smith Jr. The ageless wonder had been as elusive to time as he’d been to his opponents in the ring but will now retire after a devastating eighth round knockout loss. Amazing crowds for almost three decades; Hopkins time and time again proved the skeptics and critics wrong as he faced and beat the absolute best for twenty-eight years.
In front of a patchy crowd of only 6,513 at the Forum in Inglewood California Joe Smith Jr. said this is the end of the road for the Executioner with a combination of punches that sent Hopkins through the ropes all the way down to the concrete on his head. Bernard Hopkins was stopped for the first time in his career, in the last fight of his career. Hopkins didn’t look smarter than his opponent tonight, he didn’t look sharper, and he didn’t look like he was going to win. He looked 51 and his opponent looked 27.
Hopkins landed few and far between but still landed in sneaky and spectacular fashion as he would use the ropes to spring forward and fire a lead right hand on the face of Smith. Smith was exactly what Hopkins said he was. Common, for the first time common was enough to catch up to the almost fifty-two-year-old American boxing icon.
Scores for the fight were 67-66 for Hopkins and 69-64 and 67-66 for Smith Jr. InstantBoxing.com’s unofficial scorecard at the time of the stoppage was 68-65 for Smith Jr.
Bernard Hopkins came into boxing in 1988 and lost his professional debut after serving a four year prison sentence for armed robbery. He would then go unbeaten until his first shot at the middleweight title against Roy Joes Jr. in 1993, before both boxing writers to my right and left had entered elementary school. Learning from the loss, Hopkins would go on an extraordinary run leading him to unify the middleweight championship in a middleweight tournament that culminated with a knockout win over previously unbeaten Felix Trinidad. Hopkins would rattle off 20 consecutive middleweight title defenses between 1996 to 2005 before losing a controversial split decision against Jermain Taylor.
In 2011 Hopkins broke the world record by defeating light heavyweight Jean Pascal to become the oldest champion in history at age 46, only to have his record broken a few years later when Hopkins would regain his title then defend it successfully at age 49.
If the Hopkins era truly has come to an end it was a joy to see him fight and jaw at the media. A few days ago, Hopkins had a media event and roasted the media including myself as only he could. “Look at you, your belly stickin out to here, you think you might have diabetes, you don’t feel healthy. But you want to ask me why I’m still fighting?” It was always in jest and Bernard winked at me and said “you’ll be alright”. I asked why Bernard because you are an icon, a modern renaissance man in a sport that isn’t kind to those who linger too long. I asked why would he keep fighting because I didn’t want to see the inevitable tragedy that befalls all fighters who stay in the hurt business for too long. And now unfortunately what will undoubtedly be one of the most prolific video shots in sports history will be of one of my heroes falling out of the ring.
Thank you Bernard Hopkins for your tremendous career and sacrifice to better yourself, your family, and for us. Its been amazing, truly amazing.