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Bernard Hopkins

Bernard Hopkins (born June 15, 1965) is a professional boxer. He has has held one or more titles in the middleweight division since 1992, and is regarded by experts to be amoong the ten best pound for pound fighter in the world. Hopkins is generally regarded as the legitimate middleweight champion, holding the IBF, WBC, and WBA versions of the title. Known by the nickname "The Executioner," Hopkins has successfully defended the middleweight title a record seventeen times.

Hopkins was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and grew up in a rough section of town, where he got involved in crime and gang activity at a young age. Today, he describes himself as a "thug" in his youth and regrets that it took a stint in prison for him to turn his life around.

Late in 1982, when Hopkins was in the 11th grade, he was convicted of multiple felonies and sentenced to up to 18 years in the state penitentiary. While incarcerated, he decided to turn his life around. Hopkins studied for and earned his high school diploma, and also began to take part in boxing again, which he had done off and on as a youth. During his four years and eight months in prison, Hopkins won the national middleweight penitentiary championship three times.

He was a model prisoner by all accounts, and was released on parole in 1988, as soon as he was eligible. He immediately joined the professional boxing ranks, but lost his debut on October 11, 1988 in Atlantic City, New Jersey to a journeyman named Clinton Mitchell. But he showed enough in the loss that respected trainer Bouie Fisher took him on. After a year-long layoff, Hopkins was ready to resume his career.

Between February 1990 and September 1992, Hopkins worked his way through the ranks of middleweight journeymen, scoring 20 wins without a loss. He won 11 of those fights by knockout in the first round.

That earned him an opportunity for his first title, the USBA regional middleweight belt. True to form, he knocked out fringe contender Wayne Powell in the first round on December 4, 1992 and moved into the list of top 10 contenders for a world title shot.

His first chance at a world title came on May 22, 1993 in Washington, DC, when he faced Roy Jones Jr for the vacant IBF middleweight belt. Hopkins, who was still relatively inexperienced against top fighters, nevertheless went the distance with Jones before losing on a unanimous decision. Hopkins retained his high world ranking and defended his USBA belt three times while waiting for another title shot.

Jones abandoned the middleweight ranks in 1994, and the IBF came knocking at Hopkins' door again on December 17 of that year, matching him with Segundo Mercado in Mercado's hometown of Quito, Ecuador. Mercado knocked Hopkins down twice and built a big lead on the scorecards before Hopkins rallied late and earned a draw. The IBF called for a rematch, and on April 29, 1995, Hopkins knocked out Mercado in the seventh round of a rematch in Landover, Maryland to become a world champion.

After winning the title, Hopkins followed the example of former world middleweight champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler and followed a strict training regimen to keep his weight at the middleweight limit of 160 pounds. Meanwhile, he fought the toughest available competition and soon began to be considered by many fans as the best of the world middleweight champions. By the end of 2000, he had defended the IBF title 12 times without a loss, while beating such standouts as Simon Brown, Glencoffe Johnson and Antwun Echols.

The next year, the arrival of multiple-division champion Felix Trinidad into the middleweight ranks set off a series of unification fights between the various titleholders. On April 14, 2001, Hopkins won a unanimous decision over WBC champion Keith Holmes in New York City. Then, on September 29, WBA champion Trinidad challenged Hopkins for all three belts in Madison Square Garden.

For the first time in many years, Hopkins was the underdog in the betting, but he had the advantage from the start, pounding the undefeated Trinidad with hard shots and forcing him onto the defensive. He was on his way to a lopsided decision when, in the 12th and final round, he floored Trinidad and referee Steve Smoger called a halt to the fight. It was the only loss of Trinidad's career, and made Hopkins the first undisputed world middleweight champion since Hagler in 1987.

He has defended the undisputed title three times since then, stopping Carl Daniels on February 2, 2002 by a tenth-round knockout; Morrade Hakkar on March 29, 2003 by an eighth-round knockout; and William Joppy on December 13, 2003 by unanimous decesion.

Hopkins has announced many times his willingness to fight all comers, even Roy Jones Jr. if Jones will drop to 170 pounds.

As of December 13, 2003, his career record stood at 43 wins, two losses and one draw, with 31 knockouts.